Today the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee announced the list of “faith leaders” who will be involved in President-elect Trump’s inaugural ceremonies:
Those offering readings and giving the invocation at the ceremony are His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Pastor Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center.
Additionally, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Reverend Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International will offer readings and give the benediction.
Paula White has a long history bankruptcies, failed
churches business ventures, and unsuccessful marriages, which makes her the perfect choice to deliver a prayer on behalf a president-elect who has proudly proclaimed that he’s never felt the need to ask forgiveness from God for anything.
In case you’re not familiar with Paula White, she’s a prominent figure in the so-called “prosperity gospel” movement which teaches that God wants people to be healthy, happy, and rich. Any failure to obtain the aforementioned blessings signals a lack of faith or perhaps some sin in the Christian’s life. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, didn’t pull any punches when describing White and her brand of Christianity:
@jlupf Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) June 28, 2016
White claims close ties with President-elect Trump. She told Politico in July that she’s known him for 14 years, ever since he saw her on TV and said “she’s fantastic” and the two met on her next trip to New York.
“I can absolutely tell you that Mr. Trump has a relationship with God. He is a Christian, he accepts Jesus as his Lord and savior,” White said.
She cites as proof of Trump’s deep faith the times she saw him shake hands with construction workers in New York or Hispanic groundskeepers on his golf courses.
“There’s a lot of people that have influenced Mr. Trump’s life,” she said. “One thing I can tell you, that absolutely might be new to some of the media, new to some people, but God is not new to Mr. Trump. He absolutely has a heart and a hunger and a relationship with God.”
Why then, I wonder, did White pray for Trump as if he’s an unbeliever in September of 2015, asking that “any veil would be removed” and his “eyes would be open to see the glory and goodness of God”?
I guess things (and people) evolve quickly when there’s a presidential campaign on the line.
Some would say that both Trump and White share a heart and a hunger for money and worldly success. In fact, both Trump and White actually said as much when she interviewed him in 2008.
White asked Trump to share the “life lessons that really caused you to succeed financially today.” Trump explained that his workaholic father, who worked seven days a week and never took a vacation, was the happiest person he’s ever known. He said he has tried to follow his father’s example. “He led a good life and he led a happy life and he did nothing but work.”
“That’s the principle I teach,” White responded. “Find your passion in life and figure out a way to make money.”
“Well, I think that’s the key,” Trump said.
Those things actually have nothing to do with Christianity, which teaches the importance of putting God and others above self. In fact, Jesus was pretty explicit about not putting too much emphasis on accumulating wealth:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
White and her ex-husband Randy White have parlayed their TV ministry into a financial windfall. At the height of their popularity, their Without Walls International Church and broadcast ministry in Tampa was reportedly pulling in $40 million a year in donations. The co-pastors were collecting between $600,000 and $1.5 million a year in compensation. Plus there were book deals and TV appearances that went along with what they were paid by the ministry. At one point, according to the Tampa Tribune, Paula White’s broadcast business, Paula White Ministries, was bringing in $50,000-$80,000 a week.
At one point White lived in a $2.2 million waterfront Tampa Bay home, owned several Mercedes, a condo at Trump Park Avenue, and a $3.5 Trump Tower apartment.
But the facade began to crumble when the Tampa Tribune published an investigative series on the ministry’s lavish spending on exorbitant salaries and use of private jets and Rolls Royces. That was followed by an IRS investigation in 2004 that led to a U.S. Senate probe in 2007, spearheaded by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. The probe was eventually dropped, although White’s ministry didn’t fully respond to congressional inquiries, according to reports at the time.
The ministry sold off its Gulfstream jet as donations dried up. The Whites, who began their relationship while both were still married to others, divorced in 2009. It was the second divorce for both of them.
Next, according to Orlando Weekly:
A sensational tabloid exposé on the cover of the National Enquirer linked Paula White with fellow (and separated but still married) televangelist Benny Hinn in a romantic tryst in a five-star Rome hotel. Hinn, another prosperity gospel proponent, was registered in the presidential suite under the biblically suggestive name “David Solomon.” White denied the affair, but Hinn later acknowledged an “inappropriate relationship.
White’s ratings and the number of outlets for her broadcasts plummeted in the wake of the multiple scandals. Attendance at Without Walls in Tampa also tanked. A satellite church in Lakeland, Florida, with a 10,000-seat sanctuary, was abandoned in 2012 and filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after a Christian credit union threatened to foreclose on the property, citing the ministry’s failure to maintain payments on $25 million in loans. The property was eventually sold off.
“Paula represents everything that is wrong with American religion,” Ole Anthony, founder of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog organization, told Orlando Weekly. “No accountability, the jet-set lifestyle, divorces and affairs that seem to never end. She’s left a trail of destroyed churches behind her.”
This is not to say that people can’t be forgiven for their past sins and indiscretions. Indeed, Christianity is a faith premised upon redemption of sinners from their fallen state. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” the Bible teaches. But God’s forgiveness is predicated upon repentance—true sorrow that one has sinned against God coupled with a desire to change—and a dependence on the substitutionary death of Christ to pay the penalty for those sins. Anyone who refuses that free gift—or makes a mockery of it by continuing in their sin when they know the truth—is walking in darkness.
Paula White resurfaced at another church in 2012—New Destiny Christian Center—to begin her comeback. White, who is now married to Jonathan Cain (of rock band Journey fame), presides over glitzy and ostentatious services that are fueled by choreographed light shows, pulsating music, and dancers that lead up to the main event. The 50-year-old White, usually clad in skin-tight dresses or pantsuits (and sometimes thigh-high boots), prances around the stage to preach her gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity and offers to lay hands on those suffering from health problems—and of course ask for donations from viewers at home. The church boasts a membership of 10,000 and one site puts her net worth at $5.2 million. The prosperity gospel, even when it fails to deliver what’s promised, pays well for big-name leaders who have learned how to coax donations out of gullible viewers at home who truly believe they will receive their miracle by sending money to the TV preacher.
Paula White is going to make their lives great again—and Trump is going to make America great again! These two were made for each other and she’s exactly the type of person I would have expected Trump to choose to lead a (likely) heretical inaugural
motivational speech prayer before a nation that mostly won’t know the difference. The only questions that remain are whether we’ll see a phone number flashing on the bottom of the screen during her prayer asking for donations to her ministry and whether she’ll have a book table set up on the dais next to the Trump Steak table.