Rep. Emanuel Cleaver caused some confusion when he ended the opening prayer for the 117th Congress with “amen and awoman.” Cleaver said in a statement to Heavy the comment was misinterpreted by some online, and intended as a pun.
The Democratic lawmaker of Missouri drew some quick criticism from politicians on the other side of the aisle, who pointed out “amen” is not a gendered term. Cleaver, an ordained minister, was asked to lead the prayer to begin the new session Sunday, January 3. Listen to the full prayer here or below.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cleaver Said the Prayer Was Misconstrued, & Was Intended As a Pun to Recognize the Number of Women in Congress
Cleaver said in a statement provided to Heavy that the conclusion of his prayer was meant as a “light-hearted pun” which was intended to recognize the record number of women in Congress and its first female chaplain during his inaugural prayer. He further said he was disappointed that the misinterpretation stoked a narrative of division.
He said the prayer was intended to bring healing, and that he will continue to pray for the nation to come together.
The statement said in full:
I am deeply disappointed that my prayer has been misinterpreted and misconstrued by some to fit a narrative that stokes resentment and greater division among portions of our population. I believe prayers to be a personal conversation between El Shaddai and the invocator. With this conversation, in the presence of the 117th House of Representatives, I concluded with a light-hearted pun in recognition of the record number of women who will be representing the American people in Congress during this term as well as in recognition of the first female Chaplain of the House of Representatives whose service commenced this week. I personally find these historic occasions to be blessings from God for which I am grateful.
Rather than reflecting on my faithful requests for community healing and reversion from our increasingly tribal tendencies, it appears that some have latched on to the final word of this conversation in an attempt to twist my message to God and demean me personally. In doing so, they have proven one point of my greater message—that we are all ‘soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice and inveigled by ideology.’
Tonight, I will ask God yet again to give our nation the awareness of our fallible nature, the strength to overcome these terrifyingly tribal times, and the courage to come together in an effort to heal the nation.
Cleaver Was Criticized on Twitter for the ‘Amen and Awoman’ Prayer
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., was one of the first to take note of Cleaver’s addition to the traditional prayer closing. He shared a clip of the prayer on Twitter just before 6 p.m. January 3, 2021.
“The prayer to open the 117th Congress ended with ‘amen and a-women,’ Reschenthaler tweeted. “Amen is Latin for ‘so be it.’ It’s not a gendered word. Unfortunately, facts are irrelevant to progressives. Unbelievable.”
Cleaver also mentioned the Hindu god, Brahma, in the closing of his prayer.
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘god’ known by many names by many different faiths,” Cleaver prayed.
Cleaver Is a United Methodist Pastor & Said He Was Honored to Deliver the Opening Prayer
Cleaver is an ordained United Methodist pastor, according to Fox News. Cleaver shared the full video of his prayer on Twitter on the afternoon of January 3, saying he was honored he was asked to deliver it.
“I was honored to deliver the opening prayer for the 117th Congress,” he wrote. “May God bless each and every Representative with the courage and wisdom to defend our democracy and the liberties we all hold so dearly.”
While many of the comments on his post were supportive, some questioned his inclusion of multiple religions, and others simply asked whether he knew what “amen” means.
“Bruh you do know what Amen means right?” one person wrote in a comment.
Another person, who identified himself as a fellow UMC pastor, was stunned Cleaver did not seem to know the meaning of the word “amen.”
“Dear Representative, As a fellow UMC pastor I am shocked at your not knowing that amen is a Hebrew word meaning ‘so be it.’ It has nothing to do with gender or masculinity. I believe you made an honest mistake in ending your Invocation today but please correct it,” the comment said.
Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich also addressed the prayer, writing “the radical madness has begun.”
Cleaver is serving his seventh term representing Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, according to his website. He serves as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, the Chair of the subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy, a member of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security and a member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
His prayer, which was just over two minutes long, began with an acknowledgement of a new beginning, saying “we leave behind the politically and socially clamorous year of 2020.”
“God, at a moment when many believe that the bright light of democracy is beginning to dim, empower us with an extra dose of commitment to its principles,” he continued.