Rev. Paula White-Cain is many things: an author, a pastor, the center of a global media empire – and now an adviser to the 45th President of the United States. That last title is White-Cain’s newest, and one that is bringing her and President Donald Trump renewed attention and scrutiny. Neither are strangers to either attention or the scrutiny that comes with it.
Officially, White-Cain is head of the Faith and Opportunity Initiative in the Trump administration. That office began under President George W. Bush and continued through the administration of President Barack Obama. White-Cain’s appointment drew immediate criticism from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
The way the two met is revealed in White’s latest book, Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials. The book came out before her appointment to the Trump White House and is an autobiography chronicling the life that has brought White-Cain from childhood poverty and loss to become one of the world’s most famous pastors. In Something Greater, White-Cain mentions Trump’s name 173 times, demonstrating just how strong their relationship has become over nearly 20 years.
It’s 2001. Rev. Paula White is a few years into building her global media presence. On a snap decision she says must have been inspired by God, she decides to begin airing her sermons on a tiny Florida TV station for $300 per month. Before long, she receives a phone call from New York. The man on the other end of the line has an unmistakable New York accent. He tells White she has the “it factor” and recites some of her sermon topics back to her. The man tells her of his childhood faith in Queens and his opinion of several well-known pastors through the years.
The man is real estate mogul Donald Trump. He saw her delivering sermons while flipping channels at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago on the $300 per month TV station broadcast. The phone conversation between him and White that day begins a friendship that has lasted more than a decade.
Something Greater traces White’s life from the age of five to the present, though poverty and affluence, through obscurity and fame. It’s the sections on her relationship with Trump that will draw new attention.
Since that phone call in 2001, Trump has relied on White-Cain to such an extent that some call her the “Trump whisperer.” That first conversation, when Trump called after watching one of her sermons, foreshadows how Trump sees faith and purpose in the world.
“I really enjoyed your recent sermon about vision,” Trump tells White. “Vision is the bridge that takes you from the present into your future. How you have to write out the vision and make it clear and then you have to implement it.” White’s vision has built a global TV network. Trump’s vision has built skyscrapers and casinos and would eventually build a successful reality TV career and then a run for the White House.
During an early meeting, White-Cain writes that she set the purpose and tone of their relationship in frank terms. She doesn’t want his money or his fame, she tells him, because she already has enough of both. She wants his soul to belong to God. She puts his and his family members’ names on prayer cards, and determines to never take a dime from Trump or to take advantage of any of his possessions or positions.
Whatever one thinks of Rev. White-Cain – the “televangelist” or “prosperity preacher” – in Something Greater, she paints a portrait of the 45th president based on her long alliance with him, and which few outside his close circle are likely to recognize.
White’s description of Trump and his methods may startle most readers, and certainly most reporters who have covered him or tangled with him.
After spending time around Donald Trump I find myself inspired by his vision, thought process, keen insight, and overall discipline. He’s a brilliant thinker who tends to walk several steps ahead of the masses.
Donald Trump…disciplined? In this passage White suggests that the seeming chaos of Trump’s Twitter streams and other actions have more cunning and thought behind them than anyone in the media has given him credit for. It suggests that the “stray voltage” theory is true, and President Trump plays the mainstream media, the Democrats and social media like a virtuoso. This portrait is at odds with nearly every other book written about Trump and his presidency. But those books were written by critics out to make a buzz or a buck. Not by someone who has chosen never to take advantage of him.
And few know Donald Trump like Rev. Paula White-Cain.