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Christian leader rebukes pastor who claimed praying over Trump was ‘theological malpractice’

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Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is pushing back against liberal Pastor William Barber for suggesting that praying with President Donald Trump is “theological malpractice.” (2016 file photo/Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

One well-known Christian leader is pushing back against the liberal pastor who suggested over the weekend that praying for President Donald Trump is “theological malpractice bordering on heresy.”

Tony Perkins, president of the right-leaning Family Research Council, wrote Wednesday in an op-ed for The Christian Post that he saw many believers who “pitched a fit” when a photo of Christian leaders praying for the president went viral. But he took particular issue with statements from the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina pastor and a national member of the NAACP.

“Obviously, Barber wasn’t nearly as upset about the prayer as he was about evangelicals’ access to the president they helped elect,” Perkins wrote. “Had a photo surfaced of Christians praying over [former President] Barack Obama, I guarantee the reverend’s response would have been far different.”

If nothing else, the FRC leader said, Christians should be united on the role of prayer.

All of this started when, over the weekend, Barber went on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” and lambasted the conservative Christian leaders who prayed over Trump in the Oval Office last week.

“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,” Barber told host Joy Reid.

Barber compared the Trump administration’s policies to the dishonest and corrupt Israel presented in the Old Testament. Israel is scolded in Amos 2 for taking advantage of righteous and needy people for material gain, even selling them into slavery for financial benefit.

By meeting with and publicly praying over Trump, Barber argued, these Christian leaders are endorsing policies that are — in his view — antithetical to biblical teaching. He asserted that the evangelical ministers are “acting like priests of the empire rather than prophets of God.”

And Barber is sticking with his claims. In an op-ed of his own for ThinkProgress, the liberal reverend urged evangelical leaders to use their influence with Trump to oppose his policies.

But Perkins has a very different perspective.

While the conservative leader made clear he cannot “speak to Donald Trump’s personal faith walk,” he said he is confident the president shares in “some of evangelicals’ deepest concerns.” And ultimately, Perkins wondered why exposing Trump to God would be a bad thing.

“Isn’t it good for him to be exposed to faith?” Perkins wrote. “Barber, and others on the Religious Left have one goal: Pushing Christians away from political engagement. But the truth is this: Our government is only as good as the character of the people managing it — and the people influencing them.”

Evangelical speaker and author Johnnie Moore, who first shared the viral photo, described the White House 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,” he said.

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