Melania Trump's Lord's Prayer: Fake, Pandering to Evangelicals, or Genuine Expression of Faith?

The debate over First Lady Melania Trump's reading of the Lord's Prayer at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, for her husband, President Donald Trump, has continued to rage, with some conservatives calling it a genuine expression of faith, with others, including a pastor, suggesting it was manipulative.

(Photo: Reuters video screencap)First Lady Melania Trump speaking to supporters in Florida at a rally on February 18, 2017.

The American Family Association, which has both praised and criticized Trump's administration on different issues, argued that Melania Trump delivered a "powerful" reading.

"We have a long tradition in this country, going all the way back to our founding, of acknowledging God in our public life," said AFA President Tim Wildom in a video.

"President George Washington said that he would not even consider you a patriot if you could not acknowledge God, religion, and morality."

A number of left-leaning commentators on social media slammed the reading however, asking why Trump did not recite it from memory.

"This does seem disingenuous," tweeted Patrick Thornton, senior director of UX and strategy for CQ Roll Call. "Never seen someone read the Lord's Prayer before. Most Christians know it by heart by like 4th grade."

AFA discussed whether the prayer seemed "fake," as if it was trying to "pander" to Christians, but Walker Wildmon, assistant to the president, offered that it was "genuine," and "really encouraging to see."

"They (the First Family) have surrounded themselves with Christians, evangelicals for almost two years now, so I would say it's a genuine effort," he added.

Tim Wildom suggested that there is no reason for the Trump family to be pandering to evangelicals now.

"If it's just pandering, why would you do it after the election, there's no real reason — I think it was a genuine expression of faith by the First Lady," he said, adding that it is "wonderful and refreshing that we have a First Family that is acknowledging God and the Bible."

Others, such as Joel Tooley, pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene, which is a Protestant church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, shared his experiences of the rally in Florida, describing that he felt "demonic activity" and "religious zeal" which left him and his young daughter traumatized.

Tooley wrote in a Facebook post that he felt "sick" during the First Lady's prayer.

"This wasn't a prayer beseeching the presence of Almighty God, it felt theatrical and manipulative," he argued.

"People across the room were reciting it as if it were a pep squad cheer. At the close of the prayer, the room erupted in cheering. It was so uncomfortable," the pastor shared.

"I observed that Mr. Trump did not recite the prayer until the very last line, 'be the glory forever and ever, amen!' As he raised his hands in the air, evoking a cheer from the crowd, 'USA! USA! USA!'"

Fox News contributor Taya Kyle, the widow of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle, pushed back against the attack on the first lady, however.

"I wish more people in government would speak their mind and their heart, and that's for any religion that they have," Kyle said, adding that the prayer was "beautiful."

"Any time you're gonna be in the public eye in any way ... you have to accept that you're making yourself open and vulnerable to criticism," she added.

As for the argument that reading a Christian prayer at a government event breaches the separation of church and state, Kyle argued that people are failing to understand what the separation was originally meant to do.

"It was meant to protect the churches from government influence. It was meant to protect the people from having the government force a religion down their throat or compel them to believe something their conscience was not allowing for," she offered.

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