Politico took heat this morning for claiming in its headline about this that the pastor was “sorry” for praying for Trump after the president stopped by their church following the Virginia Beach shooting. That’s not quite true. The words “sorry” and “apology” don’t appear in his letter to the congregation.

But he does go out of his way to say that those who feel “hurt” by his decision have a “variety of valid reasons” for feeling that way. Uh, what?

At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us…

My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays…

I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.

1 Timothy 2 invites believers to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I’m just a simple unfrozen atheist caveman, unqualified to tell Christians how to practice their faith, but I can tell you this: In 12 years of Catholic schooling, not once was it intimated to me that it might be wrong to pray for someone. The very idea of it shocks me even now, decades later. Prayer is never wrong. If anything, it’s more righteous when offered for the wicked, that God might turn their hearts and redeem them. Nancy Pelosi claims that she prays for Trump, for fark’s sake.

What are the anti-Trump congregants of this church learning about their faith to make them feel “hurt” that the pastor would pray for someone whom they deem wicked? And what is the pastor of this church teaching to make them believe it’s “valid” to feel that way?

Becket Adams is as mystified as I am:

Prayer is the most fundamental and routine of Christian practices. Christians pray for everyone, especially those who appear to be less than righteous. That is sort of the point.

Moreover, it is standard practice (in the United States at least) for Christians to pray for world leaders during church services. Speaking as a Catholic, I can confirm that nearly every Mass I have attended in my life has included a prayer for the current president, including Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, etc.

The McLean Bible Church incident is made all the more insane considering Platt’s prayer was perfectly appropriate and reverent. It was not one of those obscene tongue-bathings that Trump has enjoyed from Christian activists like Jerry Falwell, Jr.

See for yourself below. All I can figure is that it’s not the prayer per se that congregants objected to but the fact that Trump’s presence turned it into something like a photo op. Trump didn’t speak, though, and it’s unclear how the pastor should have determined that he was orchestrating a PR stunt rather than earnestly requesting a blessing. As unlikely as it is that Donald J. Trump would carve out time to seek God’s grace, that’s the first step all sinners take in finding their way back, right? Imagine a pastor turning down a request for prayers from *anyone* on grounds of, “Nah, I just don’t believe you’re sincere.” What a ridiculous controversy.