WASHINGTON D.C. – The new year rang in the 117th Congress of the United States and people are buzzing about the opening prayer, rather than the politics.
Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was given the honor to lead the tradition of opening the new legislative session with a prayer Sunday. The Methodist minister is receiving backlash, however, for concluding his prayer with “amen and awoman.”
Cleaver told the Kansas City Star the pun was a nod to the record number of women serving in the new Congress and to the first female chaplain of the House of Representatives.
There are now 144 women serving in the House and Senate, which breaks the 116th Congress’ record of 129.
Video of the moment quickly circulated on the internet. Lawmakers across the aisle criticized the move, calling it an unnecessary addition to a long-standing tradition.
Amen is commonly used after a prayer or formal statement to express ratification or agreement, according to dictionary.com. The word derives from Hebrew, meaning “certainty” or “truth,” but its modern meaning has evolved to mean “it is so.” People pointed to today’s definition and how it is not a gendered term.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., weighed in on the matter on Twitter, writing, in part, “It isn’t a gendered word but that didn’t stop them from being insane.”
The prayer to open the 117th congress ended with “amen and a-woman.”— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 4, 2021
Amen means “So Be It” in Latin.
It isn’t a gendered word but that didn’t stop them from being insane.
Is this what you voted for?
Florida congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz poked fun at the conversation, retweeting Trump Jr.’s statement, adding “Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz may now only be referred to as ‘Wasserperson-Schultz.”
On Monday, Cleaver stressed that the message of his prayer got lost in the criticism, saying his calls for peace, unity and an end to tribalism in Congress were largely ignored. He said the focus on his final word and the reactions to it is proof of his overall message -- that people are married to their ideology and struggle to see beyond it.