Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), who is an ordained United Methodist minister, opened the first session of the 117th Congress on Sunday by praying in the name of a Hindu god and twisting the word “amen” into a commentary on gender.
“Eternal God, noiselessly we bow before your throne of grace as we leave behind the politically and socially clamorous year of 2020,” began Cleaver, who served as the pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1972 to 2009.
“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,” he continued.
Cleaver went on to ask divine assistance during what he described as “a moment when many believe that the bright light of democracy is beginning to dim.” Imploring God to empower the 117th Congress to maintain liberty for future generations, he also asked God to maintain his presence even during times of “heightened disagreement.”
Quoting the benediction from Numbers 6:24-26, Cleaver closed, “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 on 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.”
Though his prayer was replete with explicitly Christian themes, terminology, and references, Cleaver closed it by appealing to the deities of “many different faiths,” implying they were all the same.
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘god’ known by many names by many different faiths,” said Cleaver.
“Amen and a-woman,” he closed, in an apparent attempt to render the word fair to both sexes.
Brahma is a four-faced Hindu deity who “was born from a golden egg and created the earth and all things on it,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He was later believed to have come out of a lotus that emerged from the navel of Vishnu, another Hindu deity.
The word “amen,” often translated “so be it,” finds its root in the Hebrew for “faithfulness” or “fidelity.” It has been used adverbially since antiquity to express affirmation of belief and agreement, and has nothing to do with gender.
Cleaver was involved with the House chaplain’s exorcism of the lower chamber in July 2019.
Cleaver was presiding over a contentious debate when shouting erupted on the floor over a resolution to condemn tweets from President Donald Trump that urged members of “the Squad” to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Claiming both sides “just want to fight,” an exasperated Cleaver threw down the gavel and abandoned the chair in a historic display of frustration.
“[House Chaplain] Father Patrick [Conroy] and I sat together earlier the day of all of the chaos and confusion during the resolution concerning President Trump,” Cleaver recalled to Fox News host Martha MacCallum. “And he said to me — leaned over and said, ‘You know, I feel a presence in here, an evil presence.’ He said it’s not a Democrat or a Republican. He said there’s something else going on here. He said, ‘I’m going to have to pray tomorrow to ask God to cleanse this place.’”