Nestled among the shelves in my office is a photograph of one of my She-roes, Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw. She was a physician. She was a suffragist. She was one of the first women ordained in the Methodist Church in the United States. She was a woman I admire both personally and professionally (and NOT just because we share a palindromic first name).
When I was little, I have such vivid memories of being dragged into the voting booth with my mom before her school/work day started. Her bribe to her children was the promise of a donut from Tasty Pastry if we behaved, and that was enough for me to sit at her feet for the few minutes it took her to cast her ballot. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I realize not only how challenging but also how important it is to take my child along with me to vote. I want her to see what I knew to be true in my upbringing. My voice matters. Hers matters.
Yesterday, August 18th, marked the day that the 19th amendment was ratified by Tennessee, giving it the ¾ majority. On August 26, 1920, that ratification was certified giving women the right to vote. The work that Anna Howard Shaw engaged would be diminished if I chose to ignore the right that I have been given. There are many alive today who remember when they, because of their gender or race, were not extended their right to vote, and I want to use my vote to amplify theirs.
As we’ve been examining our baptismal call to resist evil, injustice, and oppression, I am reminded of the ways that our faith is, inherently, political. Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw knew it in the duality of her roles as both preacher and suffragist. I wonder why so many seek to separate their faith from their politics.
The words of Jesus are political in that they call us to not only be aware of but to care for those who are marginalized. The weak, the poor, the powerless, the oppressed: these are the ones who need voice. The widow and the orphan are not simply characters in the gospel story, they are people with names and with stories. Jesus is also clear about welcoming the immigrant and making space for all people to have dignity and resource.
Not only with the votes that we have but with the lives that we have, we are called to use our personhood to continue recognizing the personhood of others. Our voices matter.
There are also those within our church whose lives and whose callings are diminished and ignored, cast aside by the way we have chosen to structure the our church. Our politics are not just in the ballot booths, they also dwell among us in our pew and prayers. Their voices matter just as much as ours.
One of the saddest things as I reflect upon Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw’s life is that she died just month before the ratification of the 19th amendment.
It is my prayer that those who are working and longing for equality in our country and in our church get to live into the fruit of God’s labors within us, not only knowing for ourselves but having the recognition that every voice matters. Every person matters. Every person is beloved.