It makes sense that President Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser is Paula White, whose garish TV ministry promotes the controversial “prosperity Gospel,” the idea that Jesus, who in much of the Gospels sounds like a socialist, really wants you to become filthy rich (and the best way to do that is to donate – surprise! – to someone like Paula White).
White and Trump share a faith that emphasizes cash over Christ, but that’s not all they have in common. For example, both often say things that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Consider this gem unleashed recently by White during an interview with fellow TV preacher Jim Bakker. (Yes, that Jim Bakker. He got out of prison back in 1994 and pretended to be contrite for a few years but then went right back to fleecing people; these days, Bakker spends most his time hawking buckets of “survival food” to help his followers ride out the apocalypse, Armageddon, riots, societal breakdown, zombie attacks, a really heavy snowstorm, etc.)
TV preacher Paula White says if you oppose Trump, you're also opposing God.
“They say about our president, ‘Well, he is not presidential.’ Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness,” White told Bakker. “And I mean that with all due respect. Because in other words, he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically – whether people like it or not – has been raised up by God. Because God says that he raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”
OK, let’s unpack this a bit. You don’t have to be a theologian to see some flaws in White’s reasoning. First of all, does God really raise up all rulers? God raised up Caligula, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung? And anyone who fought those guys was fighting against God? Many believers would argue the opposite: opposing evil, genocidal dictators is doing God’s work.
Furthermore, far-right fundamentalist Christians tend to make this argument only when someone they like is in power. Prior to Trump, they spent eight years assailing President Barack Obama every day, with some of them even questioning his legitimacy. But Obama must have been raised up by God too, right? And by attacking him, under White’s own theory, were they not fighting against God?
Here’s what’s really going on: Religious Right leaders have hitched their wagons to a guy whose moral compass hasn’t worked for decades (if it ever did), a pathological liar and reckless tweeter who, as I noted on Monday, couldn’t even be bothered to immediately condemn neo-Nazis in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy.
Religious Right leaders made this Faustian bargain because they want to achieve certain political goals – mainly elevating their oppressive dogma into law and forcing everyone to follow it – and they believe a real estate baron and coarse reality TV figure who never had one good word to say about evangelical Christianity until he decided he wanted to be president is the man to satiate their lust for power.
Religious and non-religious people who support the separation of church and state may look upon the situation with dismay, but thankfully they don’t stop there. Many have been inspired to join, support and get involved with Americans United and fight to preserve our constitutional rights.
All fans of separation of church and state, religious or non-religious, should oppose White’s scriptural cherry-picking by keeping in mind a simple truth, one that our country’s founders knew well: Resisting dangerous zealots who yearn to take away our rights isn’t just admirable and noble, it’s also essential to maintaining our democracy.