Despite the biblical command to pray for “all those in authority,” one prominent liberal pastor says doing so for President Donald Trump is “theological malpractice” that could be heretical.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, a member of the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, spoke out against those who prayed with Trump after a photo, which was circulated on social media, showed religious leaders meeting with the president last week.
During an appearance Saturday on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” Barber called the practice of praying for Trump “theological malpractice bordering on heresy.”
“When you can P-R-A-Y for a president and others while they are P-R-E-Y, preying on the most vulnerable, you’re violating the sacred principles of religion,” he told host Joy Reid.
Barber made his case by comparing the Trump administration to the dishonest and corrupt Israel outlined in the Old Testament. In Amos 2, Israel is reprimanded for taking advantage of righteous and needy people for material advantage, selling the poor into slavery for as little money as the cost of a pair of sandals.
“What leaders ought to be doing,” Barber instructed, “is challenging the president, challenging [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, and challenging [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, and challenging these senators and others and not trying to appease them.”
“Instead, they’re acting like priests of the empire rather than prophets of God,” he said.
Barber’s attack against evangelical leaders praying for Trump is hardly surprising, though, given he’s made quite a name for himself out of opposing the president and the conservative movement at large. He told The Washington Post last month that, in his view, Scripture hardly speaks to issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, and prayer in schools — three important issues for many conservative Christians.
Religious leaders and politicians should instead be focusing on the many Bible passages that deal with how people should treat “the least of these,” the reverend said.
As for the photo of Christian leaders praying with Trump last week, evangelical author and speaker Johnnie Moore, who first tweeted the image, described the meeting as “a very special moment but it was also not an unusual one.”
“Most evangelicals believe it’s a sacred responsibility to pray for the president, and this is very much in our tradition as Americans who once took — and sometimes still do take — this responsibility seriously,” Moore said in a statement shared with TheBlaze. “We believe we are a praying nation, and we begin by praying for our leaders.”
Moore pointed out that he and many of the other evangelical leaders in the Oval Office prayed similarly for former President Barack Obama, but said the relationship is markedly different with Trump.
“When we are praying for President Trump, we are praying within the context of a real relationship, of true friendship,” he said, adding that the White House visit was “casual and informal” and there “was no agenda.”