Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) blamed “orchestrated outrage” for the backlash he has faced since concluding the opening prayer to the 117th Congress on Sunday with the words, “Amen and a-woman.”
“I say that we we have a society now that participates in orchestrated outrage,” Cleaver, an ordained United Methodist minister, told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Tuesday.
Claiming that “99.999 percent of the people who are expressing outrage didn’t even hear the prayer” in which he invoked the name of a Hindu god, Cleaver said, “The prayer wasn’t for them. I’m talking to God on behalf of Congress, asking for unity, and so forth, asking God to give us that strength to do that. Then I ended the prayer by saying, ‘Amen.’ We have a record number of women in Congress, including the first chaplain in 240 years of the United States’ history, and it goes actually back to the colonial Congress, and we’ve just gotten a first female chaplain in the House and that’s—”
“All that’s well and good, congressman,” Cavuto interrupted. Urging Cleaver to address the fact that the word “amen” is a Hebrew word that translates “so be it,” and has nothing to do with gender, Cavuto asked, “Were you just making a point here, or were you saying something bigger? Because a lot of people took offense, they were saying, ‘Well, now he’s trying to gender-proof God.'”
Cleaver again deflected blame on to those who were offended, saying, “No, and that’s what I’m saying. People want to simply—in our society now, we look for opportunities to be outraged.” Conceding the historical definition of “amen,” Cleaver said his coining of the word “a-woman” was “intended to recognize the record number of women now in Congress” as well as the House’s new female chaplain.
Cleaver went on to claim that his prayer was well-received until it went viral on Twitter. He has elsewhere said that “a-woman” was intended as “a lighthearted pun,” according to The Guardian, and accused critics such as Donald Trump Jr. of proving “that that we are all ‘soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice and inveigled by ideology.'”
“Nations trip and fall over molehills, not mountains,” Cleaver told Cavuto. “And as we are arguing and fighting over democracy right now, we’re at a point where we’re ready to say, ‘Well, here’s something we can fight about. Somebody said a prayer that said ‘a-woman.’ Let’s go fight about it.'”
Evangelist Franklin Graham took Cleaver’s prayer more seriously than Cleaver seemingly did.
Graham said, who recently said the new gender-neutral House rules were “shaking a fist in the Creator’s face,” said of Cleaver: “I suppose he was trying to use this time of prayer to make a political statement about equality or gender issues that are on the table. Sadly, this is where we are today. Not a great start for 2021. The word ‘Amen’ simply means ‘So be it,’ and that’s why it is said at the end of prayers. It has nothing to do with gender.”
“Regrettably, even prayer is no longer sacred to some in our halls of Congress,” Graham added. “One thing is obvious—we need more of it. Amen!”