A Democratic representative’s prayer that ended with the phrase “amen and awoman” in the U.S. House of Representatives Sunday launched a debate about political correctness, gender and religion.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who also is a United Methodist minister, delivered the prayer before the House Sunday and capped it with a nontraditional phrase.
Typically, ministers end their prayers by saying “amen” – a Hebrew word that means “so be it” or “it is so.” Cleaver, though, made a statement about gender. He also delivered a pluralistic prayer that acknowledged other religions.
“Bless us, and keep us,” Cleaver prayed. “May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his continents upon us and give us peace – peace in our families, peace across this land, and there I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber. Now, and evermore.
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and God known by many names by many different things. Amen and awoman,” he concluded.
I was honored to deliver the opening prayer for the 117th Congress. May God bless each and every Representative with the courage and wisdom to defend our democracy and the liberties we all hold so dearly. https://t.co/z3vkWOk7lc— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) January 3, 2021
Cleaver formerly served as pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Mo.
The phrase sparked a debate on social media.
“‘Amen’ derives from the Hebrew אָמֵן, and it means something like ‘it’s true.’ It has nothing to do with gender,” tweeted Denny Burk, director of the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky.
“Amen” derives from the Hebrew אָמֵן, and it means something like “it’s true.” It has nothing to do with gender. pic.twitter.com/nb9oOnZlgC— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) January 3, 2021
“The opening prayer just ended with ‘amen and a woman.’ It has absolutely nothing to do with gender. It is Latin for so be it. This is Political Correctness gone way off the rails,” tweeted Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.).
The opening prayer just ended with “ amen and a woman”. It has absolutely nothing to do with gender. It is Latin for so be it. This is Political Correctness gone way off the rails. pic.twitter.com/xzlgXECHRO— Tim Burchett (@timburchett) January 4, 2021
“‘Amen and Awomen?’; Our country has gone crazy. This is NOT a gender-neutral issue. How dumb is this?” CBN’s David Brody tweeted.
“Amen and Awomen?” Our country has gone crazy. This is NOT a gender neutral issue. How dumb is this?— David Brody (@DavidBrodyCBN) January 4, 2021
What Does "Amen" Mean and Why Do We Say It?
Photo courtesy: C-Span Screenshot
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.