In a rebuke of President Trump and the Republican party’s racism, attacks on health care, the separation immigrant children from their parents, and failure to confront sexual abuse, women turned out to vote for women in record numbers. The result is an election that will go down in history as the year of the woman in politics. Voters will send a historic 100-plus women to Congress, including at least 98 women to the House, and a dozen to the U.S. Senate. Women also won hundreds of critical races in state governments.
Many of these women are vocal about their faith. Record numbers of women of color and minority faiths — Muslims and Jews — will now hold office in the U.S. Congress and in state elected leadership. Regardless of their faith, these women all exemplify the widow who opposed the unjust judge in Luke, chapter 18. Jesus’ parable lifts up the example of the persistent widow who refused to accept an unjust judge’s ruling.
I witnessed the power of women in action on the Vote for Moral Revival tour I led with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber of Repairers of the Breach. Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, is an African-American Christian who championed voting rights, health care, and affordable housing. Abrams ran an impressive campaign that mobilized a record number of voters and has exposed the moral bankruptcy of voter suppression nationally. She is now in a recount and possible runoff with opponent Brian Kemp who abused his position as Secretary of State to suppress black and brown voters. Georgian Lucy McBath, a black woman who championed gun safety laws (her teenage son Jordan Davis was killed by gun violence) and health care (she herself is a breast cancer survivor) and a devout Christian, won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The parable of the widow illustrates the power of prayer and godly action. There are many ways to pray. Sometimes we pray kneeling. Sometimes we pray standing. The widow is an example of protest prayer — she prayed with her feet, challenging injustice, pounding on the unjust judges’ door.
The original Greek in this passage suggests she was like a boxer in the ring. I say she gave a left hook with her love for a God of justice. She gave a right hook and reached up in the voting booth and pulled the lever for change.
I have often wondered what made her so tough.
As a widow in Jesus’ day she would have had little power or protection. Women were valued based on their spouses’ power and their ability to bear children. Similarly, the women who ran for office and many of those who turned out to vote faced unique challenges and the odds were against them. Most were up against intense racial bias and misogyny. Voter suppression was rife. In Randolph County, Georgia, where we worked with churches to turn out voters, women of color challenged efforts to close down voting booths. Historically, anyone confronting racism in that county has been run out of town.
What kept them coming like that boxer in the ring? As women of faith, they know the God who demands justice. They know God, and because they know God they know love, and because they know love they cannot cease demanding and organizing until justice is done. For the faithful, there is only one way forward and that is walking alongside the God of love and justice. There’s no turning back.
The parable concludes, “Will the son of man find faith when he comes?” I say he will if we pray kneeling, pray marching, pray knocking on doors. The leadership of a record number of prayerful women challenged injustice and set records in 2018. If we keep praying as this parable teaches, this record breaking year faces only one threat — it will be broken again by women in 2020.