As debate over a photo of Christian pastors praying over President Donald Trump forges on, a well-known conservative activist and Christian voice is pushing back against critics and affirming that those who prayed for Trump were right to do so.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative organization, specifically took aim at claims by the Rev. William Barber, head of North Carolina’s state branch of the NAACP, that the photo was an example of “theological malpractice that borders on heresy.”
In an op-ed published by The Christian Post, Perkins said that he observed some Christians who “pitched a fit” when the prayer photo went viral, expressing his belief that, despite their differences, the religious right and the religious left shouldn’t disagree over the importance of prayer.
More specifically, Perkins took aim at Barber’s proclamations.
“Obviously, Barber wasn’t nearly as upset about the prayer as he was about evangelicals’ access to the president they helped elect,” he wrote. “Had a photo surfaced of Christians praying over Barack Obama, I guarantee the reverend’s response would have been far different.”
Watch Barber’s comments below:
In the end, Perkins said that he can’t “speak to Donald Trump’s personal faith walk,” but that he believes the president shares in “some of evangelicals’ deepest concerns.”
But beyond that, he made a point about the influence that faith leaders are having on the president, wondering “what’s lost” by bringing God to Trump.
“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.”
Read Perkins’ response in its entirety here.
As Faithwire previously reported, Barber took his consternation over the prayer photo to MSNBC over the weekend, where he hit back at the pastors who had laid hands on and prayed over Trump.
“It is a form of theological malpractice that borders on heresy when you can p-r-a-y for a president and others when they are p-r-e-y — preying — on the most vulnerable,” he told MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “You’re violating the most sacred principles of religion.”
The photo that sparked Barber’s reaction was snapped after about 30 faith leaders received an invitation from the White House to hold a meeting earlier this month. Many of those who attended that gathering are on Trump’s faith advisory council, which he has relied on from time to time, according to The Washington Post.
The group met with Jennifer Korn, special assistant to the president, for a day-long discussion that focused on a range of issues, including health care, religious freedom, criminal justice reform and Israel, the outlet noted.
A photo of the group praying over Trump went viral after it was shared by faith leader and public relations expert Johnnie Moore, who attended the gathering. Moore said the event was an informal “meeting of friends” during which faith leaders prayed that God would lead Trump and protect his family.
“He was in great spirits, as was the vice president,” Moore told The Washington Post. “He was very very much [in] command of the situation. It felt like all was well. He was happy and joking.”