For a reason I cannot explain (I only ever watched the film once), I vividly remember ardent Angels’ fan Roger Bomman gazing into the heavens and asking God for victory for his team on the baseball diamond. He concluded his prayer with the words: “Amen… (then with a shrug) or A-woman.” Watching as a middle school student in 1994 I took the phrase for how it was intended in the movie: a falling-flat stab at humor veiling the rather obvious reality that Hollywood would refuse to assign gender to a god that may or may not (most likely not) exist. Fast forward twenty-six years and a US Congressman opens the 117th Congress with the same benediction. Yet now, Christians are losing their minds.
There are two issues that must be quickly addressed – the stupidity of the statement and the carelessness of Christians. Don’t be offended. Hang with me.
To utter in prayerful conclusion “Amen and A-woman” as Representative Emanuel Cleaver did in Congress last weekend reveals a glaring and undeniable ignorance. Cleaver claims that the phrase was a pun – a kind of shout out to all the new ladies in Congress, which would offset the accusation of linguistic ignorance that has flooded his way over the past 72 hours (the designation “Amen” is from the Greek ἀμὴν meaning “this is truth” or “may it be so” and has no gender specification to it). Only a kid praying for his baseball team should be led to think that “Amen” means “a man.” But the linguistic ignorance is not what I am speaking of, after all Rep. Cleaver has multiple degrees, and despite the cries of my right-wing friends, he is not an imbecile. He is though, ignorant on a more significant level. Cleaver’s entire Congressional prayer (which many have missed) called for the death of tribalism and a restoration of unity and peace. The sentiments, however genuine or disingenuous from the orator, should be shared by true followers of Jesus. After this prayer for unity though, Cleaver concludes with a phrase, that had he been truly thinking of unity and peace, he would have known would disrupt and defeat the very message of his prayer. If harmony is something one desires, then prudent care and consideration should be shown to bring this about. The Congressman is now “shocked” that his prayer has received so much critical backlash and laments that Americans failed to hear the sum of his petition. This should come as no surprise to the politician. That level of ignorance is sad.
But the ignorance of politicians – even would be reverends – should not surprise the true church either; and this is what unsettles me most over the past 72 hours. From everything I have found on the faith and theology of Emanuel Cleaver, he certainly does not seem to be a man with a deep faith in the singular message of hope and unity – the Gospel of Jesus. Therefore, if he is not trusting and preaching Christ alone as Savior and Lord, then he is not a true Christian. It is that simple. And for far too long we have, as the true church, demanded that unbelievers behave and speak as believers are called to behave and speak. That, my friends, is careless and ignorant on our part. The Christian has the Spirit of God within, has fellowship with the risen Christ, and walks (or should) in submission to the Scriptures. The non-Christian has none of the above. Clearly, this does not mean that we shouldn’t preach the truth to the perishing – only that we should not assume righteousness from the depraved. The god of this world has blinded minds and we should not be shocked when we witness unintelligible or deplorable groping by those without eyes.
Many Christians are appalled by what is unfolding across our nation today but perhaps we should take the blame for a moment. We have stood as “conservatives” in our proclamation while we and our children have been swept up in most, if not all, cultural tides. We despise that prayer has been removed from various settings, but we forget our direct access to the Father and neglect the disciple of prayer regularly. We pine for religious liberty – for the right to gather and the right to speak uncensored truth – but then refuse to do either. We hear from the Word that we are not to place our faith in humanity, yet then worship at the feet of a President whose policies have, at least to some degree, been Christianesque, but whose behavior and personal confession has not. We are believers; yet if we are honest, we fail to live according to the very standard we erect for unbelievers.
I know we don’t like to hear it, but repentance is called for, friends. Revival is an antiquated term, I know, but we desperately need a revival within Christianity of prayer, truth, devotion to Jesus and to His church, Biblical unity, submission to authority, and evangelism. Be saddened by the blind depravity that swirls through our nation, but don’t be shocked by it. Instead, may we be shocked and repulsed by the sin of our own souls – repent and purpose to be the light of Christ in this miserably dark world.