People of various genders were laughing at a U.S. Congressman’s attempt to be inclusive on Sunday, when he wrapped up a prayer in the House of Representatives with the words: “Amen and Awomen.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, made the unusual addition while leading the House in a prayer during the swearing-in of the 117th Congress on Sunday.
Cleaver, who is an ordained minister, asked God to give the new Congress the strength to overcome selfishness, prejudice and ideology, and to heal the partisan divisions of 2020.
“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and (the) God known by many names, many different faiths,” he said. “Amen, and Awomen.”
The word “Amen” comes from the Hebrew language, in which it means “certainty,” truth” and “so be it,” according to the etymology explained in various dictionaries. The word filtered through Latin and Greek before it eventually became part of the English language.
Critics pounced on Cleaver’s final words during the opening session of Congress, with many conservative pundits slamming it on Twitter as inclusiveness gone too far.
Re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently introduced new rules requiring more inclusive language in House documents. The rules will change references to pronouns and familial relations so they are gender neutral, according to a statement from Pelosi.
The changes target words such as “daughter,” “man” and “ombudsman,” but make no mention of “Amen.”
Critics accused Cleaver of taking those new rules too far, in a 13-second clip that has been watched more than 6 million times.
“It’s not a gendered word,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Republican, tweeted along with the clip on Sunday.
Cleaver shared the full prayer video on his own Twitter account on Sunday, where thousands piled on to mock his closing words.
Cleaver’s use of “awomen” provoked plenty of responses, but few seemed to engage with the meatier parts of his prayer.
Cleaver’s full prayer hinted at the sharp divisions facing the United States in the immediate future, including a baseless attempt by Republicans to overturn U.S. President Donald Trump‘s election loss to Joe Biden.
“God, at a moment when many believe that the bright light of democracy is beginning to dim, empower us with an extra dose of commitment to its principles,” Cleaver said during his prayer.
“May we model community healing, control our tribal tendencies, and quicken our spirit that we may feel thy priestly presence, even in moments of heightened disagreement.”
More than 100 Republican members of the House and several GOP senators have already vowed to challenge certification of the election on Wednesday, amid Trump’s efforts to win a fair vote that he already lost.
Trump lost the popular vote by more than 7 million and the Electoral College map by 74 votes. His Republican Party gained several seats in the House of Representatives on the same night, and those new members of Congress were sworn in on Sunday.
Some, including new Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, have already disputed the legitimacy of an election they also won.
Trump has failed to acknowledge the reality of his loss over the last two months. Instead, his lawyers have fought a losing battle against the free and fair election results in court, where they’ve racked up dozens of losses and embarrassing headlines.
Trump has also tried in public and in private to discredit the election result. He has pressured GOP lawmakers and election officials to overturn the results in states he lost, and even urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” votes so he could win that state.
The president’s struggle to acknowledge reality has split the Republican Party. Some have embraced his unproven fantasies of widespread fraud, while others have condemned the movement as an attack on the foundations of democracy.
“The scheme by members of Congress to reject the certification of the presidential election makes a mockery of our system and who we are as Americans,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on Sunday.
“Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate,” former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement.
“The 2020 election is over,” said a statement Sunday from a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah. They pointed out that Trump has exhausted all legal challenges to the result, and that those efforts have come up with nothing.
“The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results,” they wrote.
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Jan. 20. That process includes reciting the presidential oath of office, which does not include the word “Amen” — or “Awomen.”
—With files from The Associated Press