Amen and A-woman?
Updated: Jan 15
On January 3, 2021, the opening day of 117th congress of U.S., Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri, gave the traditional opening prayer to ask for God’s blessing on the new congress. An invocation like this has been a part of the tradition of the United States Congress since the days of the Continental Congress before the U.S. Constitution was even written. This is so because contrary to some modern arguments today, the United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs about the natural rights of human beings in relation to government.
While the United States has never been a perfect country, nor can it be legitimately argued that the United States was ever intended to be a political-religious theocracy, it was primarily founded on the principles of Judeo-Christian monotheism. This is why many people believe that a great measure of the economic, military and geo-political success America has enjoyed in the last 244 years is a result of supernatural blessings from God. But regardless whether America is directly blessed by God or not, the Judeo-Christian principles of morality, individual work-ethic, and intrinsic human dignity have had great influence on our history. For example, slavery and racism have been a scourge on our national body since the Declaration of Independence was signed, but it was the belief that the Judeo-Christian God created human beings with intrinsic worth that fueled the abolitionist movement. These principles have been part of the fabric and the struggle of our culture.
Nevertheless, the struggle in our past to live up to Judeo-Christian tenets and our national failure to be as “Christian” as our national motto “In God we trust” suggests, has motivated liberal ideals today. There is a wave of thought in social circles today that seeks to de-throne the principles of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Key to this movement is a rejection of absolutes. In this view there are no absolutes, especially in terms of morality, because every culture has equal worth, cultures differ in attitudes toward things such as human sexuality, so there can be no absolute truth concerning morals. Of course, this view fails out of the gate – because if the belief there are no absolutes is, itself, an absolute belief. They are saying, in effect, “it is absolutely the case there are no absolutes.”
Today, anti-absolutist thought is being applied to marriage, family, the rule of law and…religion. After all, if there are no absolutes, then the Judeo-Christian concept of God must be rejected also because the God described in the Bible is, as biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins says “…arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Now – I completely disagree with Dr. Dawkins view of my God. I think he is mistaken, certainly guilty of the strawman logical fallacy and taking the Bible far beyond its context. Nevertheless, it is true the God revealed in the Bible demands absolute loyalty. It is true He has no room for other gods. In fact, God says very clearly in Isaiah 45:21b “there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Thus, it is true the Biblical God is a God of absolutes. It is His way – or no way! God does not honor the religious or moral beliefs of cultures that contradict His ways. He simply calls anything other than His revelation what it is – false!
The Bible teaches absolutes because truth is absolute by its very nature. Truth is that thing which corresponds to what is actual, to what is real. Truth is not whatever any one individual wants it to be - so, for example, the modern “progressive” idea of gender-identity does not fit with Judeo-Christian thought. This is yet another reason so many moderns seek to reject the God of the Bible too. Gender-identity seeks to elevate the desires of an individual over reality. Reality is what one’s DNA code reveals – you either have two X chromosomes or an X and a Y – regardless of how anyone feels about it. Truth is what is actual – you actually have this or that DNA code. Denying a genetic reality for preference is denying truth, denying absolutes and since Judeo-Christian thought prioritizes absolutes it is an enemy to liberalism.
Cue representative Emanuel Cleaver, democrat from Missouri, tasked with leading the invocation to the new American congress.
Clearly a new mandate (womandate?) for the future of America is in order since the wave rejecting absolutes has swept into Washington D.C. like an unholy flood. Clearly Representative Cleaver wanted to be inclusive, rejecting the absolutes of true monotheistic thought and the unpopular morality that thought supports because while he called upon God to bless the new congress he did so (and I quote) “In the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names, by many different faiths. Amen and a-woman.”
Cleaver claims his use of “a-woman” was merely a nod to the many women serving in Congress. He took a fair bit of heat for apparently misunderstanding that the traditional Hebrew phrase “Amen” is not a gendered word. Instead, it is a Latinized version of אָמֵן (pronounced A-main in Hebrew) and it means “verily, truly, amen, so be it.” But it seems clear to me that Cleaver knew this already. After all, he is the former pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri and the founder of the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He is also starting his 9th term in congress where he is certain to have heard many invocations, so it is unlikely in my mind he misunderstood “amen.”
No – I think he is pandering to the anti-absolutist liberal thought that rejects the God revealed in the Bible.
I think this is true because of his appeal to Brahma. Brahma is the creator god of Hinduism. There are many versions of Hinduism, but in short Brahma is a pantheistic concept of god for some and a polytheistic concept in the view of others. For example, Dr. Winfried Corduan (PhD in religious studies) notes that in the oldest Hindu mythology, Brahma gave the Vedic verses to holy men called the Rishis, primarily compiled by a man named Vyasa. In these verses, Brahma is creator but only one of many gods. In fact, Brahma is said to have lusted after his cousin Sarasvati but when she moved to avoid his gaze, he grew five different heads to keeping looking at her. The god Shiva disapproved of Brahma’s lust, so he opened his magical third eye and destroyed one of Brahma’s heads. This is why Brahma is often portrayed with four faces.
Clearly, Brahma is nothing like God as revealed in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. So why is a former pastor invoking him? I am by far less concerned about his use of “Amen and A-woman” as I am with him equalizing the Biblical God with Brahma. I am by far more concerned that a country founded on Judeo-Christian thought now has leaders in congress calling upon false gods to guide our political process. Even if the Biblical God has not been directly blessing this nation over the last two and a half centuries, honoring false gods is not the way to gain His blessing now.
The one true God is not a “god of many understandings, of many faiths” as the reverend Cleaver so cleverly interjects. God has revealed Himself through the Judeo-Christian Scriptures as He is, not as many people wish Him to be. Not everyone will believe that – not everyone HAS to believe that – but let us for a moment reflect on where rejecting the principles of Judeo-Christian thought may lead.
In a majority of Hindu thought, Brahmanism in its various forms supports the notion of a caste system because of the belief in karma. You are born into a situation because of the character of your past lives, a situation that is fixed. The idea of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” or “bettering your situation in life” is a Judeo-Christian concept. In traditional Hinduism, your situation is the fault of a past life, thus you cannot move up or down in social status in this life. As Dr. Corduan puts is it “In a given lifetime, the person is restrained by his varna and jati.” This system has perpetuated class superiority, racism, sexism and religious intolerance on a gargantuan scale for thousands of years.
Is this what Cleaver endorses?
Just something to think about…