In a recent summer reading list, I mentioned John Swinton’s Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefulness, and Gentle Discipleship. It’s the subject of an online book discussion over at Syndicate Network.
I wrote the intro to the symposium, a discussion which includes a terrific lineup of thinkers and theologians, each of which offers personal connection to the discussion at hand.
Here’s the first bit of my intro:
Love has a speed—and it isn’t fast.
That’s what John Swinton argues in his thought-provoking book, Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship.
In western, capitalist culture, time is something to be overcome; conquered by techniques of efficiency, strategy, hard work and ingenuity. The quest for production is a race against time. Where we place in that race largely determines our stature in society. Our legacy is measured by how we stack up against the flow of time—relentless and menacing.
If only we had enough time to make another widget, to write another book, to meet the quota. The passage of time drives so many of us; society measures us by what we do with the time we have. The consequences of that can be destructive. We relegate relationships to secondary or tertiary status. And we often marginalize persons who do not effectively “use” time. We deem as lacking in value those who haven’t mastered the techniques for keeping up with time. They are “slow,” and in a society that measure us by the pace of production, “slow” doesn’t work.
In short: Western society’s marginalization of persons with disabilities can be explained in large part by the way we construe time.
These flawed economies of speed lead to the consequences that some persons are deemed unworthy of life, simply because they cannot keep up. Time is not on their side.
Swinton offers a profound diagnosis of this problem—this pathological idolatrizing of productivity and efficiency. He interweaves insights from theologians, philosophers, Scripture, and the sciences, and draws upon his own extensive experience in the medical profession, to argue that Christian discipleship is incompatible with how society often approaches time—and consequently, persons living with disabilities.
Go to Syndicate Network for the full discussion, and for Jean Vanier’s reflection on Swinton’s book.