“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom…What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” – James 2:12-17
On this day a decades long struggle came to an end. In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified guaranteeing women the right to vote. Throughout the campaign for women’s suffrage, faith played a key role.
Some Christians saw this social reform as a testimony to their pursuit of holiness. Women’s suffrage was a reflection of divine justice and human rights. As it says in Genesis, “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Many of the faithful viewed the right to vote not only as a political and social issues but as a moral and spiritual issue.
Of course, some who opposed women’s suffrage also believed it to be a moral and spiritual issue.
Some Christian communities believed that if women had the right to vote the moral health of the nation would be in danger. They claimed this would upend Eve’s subservience to Adam in Genesis.
Women’s suffrage wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that the Christian church has taken opposing viewpoints on an issue affecting society and the lives of millions. Yet instead of getting lost in the sea of issues today perhaps we can pause long enough to do a couple of things:
- Give thanks to God for inspiring faithful people to push for women’s suffrage.
- Reflect on the current social issues that divide the country. How do we respond?
- Pray for insight on the broader, communal applications of our belief in a good, just, and loving God,
- Acknowledge and confess the sins of our past. On too many occasions, Christians have been on oppressive side of societal suffering,
- Consider how faith is being applied to issues of today and consider the Christian witness this proclaims to the world.
James’ epistle to the early church is passionately concerned about our witness. How does our faith feel, how does it look, how do the marginalized and the hungry, the powerless and the vulnerable experience the faith we proclaim?