Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Amen and awoman

U. S. House Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, a Democrat from Missouri’s 5th Congressional District, lit up the internet world with his Opening Prayer for the 117th Congress – punctuated by the affirmation “Amen ... and awoman.”

The transcription below is that Opening Prayer for the 117th Congress.[i] Representative Emanuel Cleaver II is also an ordained United Methodist minister.

Let us pray.
Eternal God, [noiselessly] we bow before your throne of grace as we leave behind the politically and socially clamorous year of 2020. We gather now in this consequential chamber to inaugurate another chapter in our roller coaster representative government. The members of this august body acknowledge your sacred supremacy, and therefore confess that without your favor and forbearance, we enter this new year relying dangerously on our own fallible nature. 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. May we of the 117th Congress refuel the lamp of liberty so brimful that generations unborn will witness its undying flame. And may we model community healing, control our tribal tendencies, and quicken our spirits that we may feel thy priestly presence even in moments of heightened disagreement. May we so feel your presence that our service here may not be soiled by any utterances or acts unworthy of this high office. Insert in our spirit a light so bright that we can see ourselves and our politics as we really are, soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice, and [inveigled] by ideology. Now may the god who created the world and everything in it, bless us and keep us. May the lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. May the lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace; peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, O 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 faiths. Amen ... and awoman.

On the surface, this prayer may seem to be ecumenical, bipartisan, inclusive, and non-offensive. It is not. Anyone who wants to be offended should be able to find something offensive here!
  • This prayer is addressed to “Eternal god.” That should offend the atheists and agnostics.
  • This prayer twice speaks of a god addressed in the masculine gender – “his face” and “his countenance.” That should offend the feminists.
  • This prayer uses charged political terminology. That should be offensive to those with “tribal tendencies.”
  • This prayer mentions our “fallible nature.” This should offend those who reject the doctrine of a depraved sin nature.
  • This prayer acknowledges a “god who created the world and everything in it.” That should offend the evolutionists.
  • This prayer the god of many faiths. That should offend all Bible-believing Christians (as well as his not praying in Jesus’s name, and, and…).
  • This prayer genderizes “amen” (“so be it”) by adding “awoman.”[ii]  This should offend all who support Nancy Pelosi’s gender-inclusive House resolution, and all those who believe there are more than two genders.
Something here for (or not for) everybody. Probably much more.

[i] In the two places with brackets, I am not sure what is said. I think the rest of it is correct.
[ii] Representative Cleaver’s later explanation that he added “awoman” as some sort of joke (“I concluded with a light-hearted pun”) should offend all who believe in the sincerity and reality of prayer. [Note: “awoman” is used opposite “amen” – rather than awomen – because many of us, including Rep. Cleaver, pronounce “amen” closer to “aman.” That might offend someone as well.]

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