Normally, I avoid writing about the sordid world of politics. If I write anything about a “political” issue, it is only to point out what the Bible teaches about that issue. Those who know me best know that I don’t have confidence in any political party. I do vote, but that’s about as far as I delve into politics. Putting it bluntly, the day this blog becomes a political site is the day I’ll stop writing it.
While that said, I would like to devote a post to something I read today, something that comes out of the political realm. It seems that United States Representative Emanuel Cleaver recently delivered the opening prayer for the 117th United States Congress and closed his prayer by saying, “…amen, and a woman.” I don’t know if Cleaver was trying to be cute or simply bizarrely politically correct, but whatever his motives were, his words were at best sophomoric and at worst blasphemous.
For the record, the word “amen” is a Bible word. When you read it in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, what you are reading is a Hebrew word that has been left untranslated. Translators call an untranslated word that gets jammed straight into another language a transliteration as opposed to a translation. The point is, the word “amen” is one Hebrew word that we all know.
As for what the word literally means, that depends upon who is using it in scripture. When a human being uses it, it means “so be it.” That definition comes from Numbers 5:22, where we find the Bible’s first mention of the word. There, God says, “…Then the woman shall say, ‘Amen, so be it.'”
On the other hand, when God Himself uses the word, it means something along the lines of “it is and shall be so.” For example, the familiar K.J.V. word “Verily” that begins so many of Jesus’ teachings — “Verily, I say unto thee…” — is none other than an English translation of amen. You see, in those instances the translators did actually take the time to translate amen rather than just let it stand untranslated. Of course, modern translations abandon the obscure translation “Verily” and instead go with “For assuredly, “For I assure you,” “For truly,” or “I tell you the truth.” In all of these translations, you can hear that amen, when used by God, indicates truthfulness, trustworthiness, sureness, and reliability. It’s no wonder that Jesus actually called Himself, “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (Revelation 3:14).
But now let’s get back to Emanuel Cleaver, the Democrat who represents Missouri’s 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Why did he close his opening prayer in Congress by uttering the words, “amen, and a woman”? Doesn’t he know that “amen” has absolutely nothing to do with gender? Doesn’t he know what the word literally means?
Well, if he doesn’t, he should. I say that because Mr. Cleaver also just happens to be an ordained United Methodist pastor who received a Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology and served as the pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1972 until 2009. Considering this background, my guess is that, yes, he knows what amen means, and, yes, he knows the word has nothing to do with gender. If this is an accurate take on the man, he obviously chose to use the revered word in a very irreverent way by hijacking its spiritual aspect in an attempt to add weight to or draw attention to his secular beliefs.
Mind you that Representative Cleaver’s prayer came on the heels of a proposal by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to eliminate the use of gender-specific terms such as “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle,” and “aunt” in reference to the family members of the Representatives. Instead, Pelosi proposes that the House use gender-neutral terms such as “parent,” “child, “sibling,” and “parent’s sibling.” This means that if I ever get elected to the House of Representatives, I’ll have to start calling my mother “my parent” and my brother “my sibling” if I want to keep up with all the political correctness run amuck. There went my chances for getting elected.
All of this recent news makes me want to join in with the apostle John in exclaiming, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, N.K.J.V.). Just before John says that in that verse, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” And how does John respond to that statement from Jesus? He says, of all things, “Amen.” How’s that for a poetic coincidence?
I guess that John still thought “amen” meant “so be it,” and it never dawned on him that it could be used to advance a political agenda. All I can say is that if Representative Cleaver’s recent prayer and House Speaker Pelosi’s recent proposal are any indication of where America is as a nation, we are doomed. As God promises in Psalm 9:17, any nation that forgets Him will be turned into “hell” (Sheol, the grave, the realm of the dead). That, ladies and gentlemen, is the destiny toward which America is hurtling at breakneck speed, and if we don’t change our course and return to God, all of the silly word games we are playing with prayer and gender language won’t help us one bit.