Just like the previous one, the 117th Congress is predominantly Christian and strongly Protestant

(RNS) – The 117th congressional session started on Sunday (January 3) with an opening prayer by an ordained member whose pairing of “A-Woman” with the traditional “Amen” raises both problems and questions about the meaning of the word .

What is rarely questioned, however, is the religious makeup of Congress, as the House and Senate remained predominantly Christian (88%) and heavily Protestant (55%), according to the Pew Research Center.

A total of 294 members of the House and Senate are Protestant Christians out of a possible 535 – almost as many as at the last Congress.

Like the previous Congress, the 117th Congress differs from America as a whole when it comes to creeds.

“The Religious Composition of the 117th Congress” Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center

While about a quarter (26%) of adults in the United States are not religiously affiliated – they describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or have no particular religion – Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, was the only member of Congress to identify as religiously not identified. The Californian Democrat Jared Huffman describes himself as a humanist. Both Sinema and Huffman have said they do not consider themselves atheists.

Eighteen others declined to indicate religious affiliation.

“Is it disappointing that non-religious voices are so underrepresented in Congress?” asked Hemant Mehta, an atheist writer and podcaster. “Yes. It’s deeply depressing.”

He noted, however, that he was encouraged that four of the 18 people who refused to declare religious affiliation were part of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, a group formed in April 2018 to advance science and reason.

Pew noted that a growing number of members of Congress do not identify with a particular denomination, such as B. Methodists, Lutherans, or Presbyterians. There were 96 members of Congress who said they were simply Christian or Protestant. In contrast, only 39 members described themselves in this way during the 111th Congress in 2009.

The Pew analysis was based on CQ appeal data on the religious affiliations of Congressmen.

It found that several religious groups were over-represented in the new Congress. Jews make up 2% of the US population but 6% of the new Congress (or 33 members). Catholics, who make up about 20% of the US population, make up 30% of the new Congress (or 158 members). Presbyterians, bishops, and Methodists were also overrepresented.

Pentecostals were underrepresented. They make up 0.4% of Congress versus 5% of all adults in the United States.

Courtesy of the Pew Research Center

Amongst other things:

  • There are nine Mormons at the 117th Congress, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Like the old one, the new Congress has three Muslim representatives: MPs André Carson, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
  • It also has two Buddhists: Rep. Hank Johnson and Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, the same two who served in the previous Congress.
  • There are two Hindus in Congress – Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, both returning members. (Washington State Representative Pramila Jayapal was among those who refused to identify a religious affiliation.)

Almost all of the non-Christian representatives (with the exception of three: two Jews and one who refused to indicate his religious affiliation) were Democrats.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a Missouri Democrat, gave the opening prayer for the 117th Congress and reported on the priestly blessing from the Biblical Book of Numbers.

He caused a Twitter storm when he closed his prayer on behalf of “God known by many names from many different faiths – amen and a woman.”

This deal drew the ire of some conservative experts. The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that the use of “a-women” was “crazy”.

“Amen means ‘so be it’ in Latin. It’s not a gender word, but that didn’t stop them from being crazy, ”he tweeted.

(“Amen,” a word “used to express solemn ratification” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, comes from Hebrew into English. It has no etymological relationship with the English word “man.” It is most likely Hebrew connected word for faith, Emuna.)

Others have suggested that this type of pun is common in many religious traditions and that Cleaver, who earned a Master of Divinity at St. Paul’s School of Theology in Kansas City, likely knows the meaning of the word “amen.”

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