A White House official told The New York Times yesterday that controversial TV preacher Paula White is joining the Trump administration in an official capacity.
White, a Florida-based minister known for promoting the “prosperity gospel” – the idea that if you have enough faith, God will reward you with riches – has been allied with Trump since the early 2000s. She’s a member of Trump’s secretive Evangelical Advisory Board, which Trump formed before the 2016 election to woo the Christian nationalist crowd. Americans United has been trying to bring accountability to this body, which, according to its own members, doesn’t actually exist.
White has also been one of Trump’s most dependable conservative evangelical apologists. Despite Trump’s frequent crass behavior, his tendency to lie and his seeming unfamiliarity with the basic doctrines of Christianity, White has stood by Trump, going so far as to insist that God put him in the White House and that opposing Trump is opposing God.
White told evangelist Jim Bakker during an August 2017 interview that God put Trump in office and that opposition to Trump is opposition to God, remarking, “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.”
A few days ago, she repeated these themes in another interview with Bakker, asserting, “I might not like the personality, I might not understand him . … Where do I line up? And you’re gonna have to make a decision that won’t be just held accountable here for how things turn out for you, your children, your grandchildren, but you’re gonna have to stand accountable before God one day. Not based on your opinion, your hurt, your wounding, what you think, what you don’t. Educate yourself. Know the issues, know the word of God, and then if you cannot align with the word of God I don’t see it.”
White also sparked controversy last year when she told her followers to give her ministry a month’s salary and implied that bad things would happen to them if they didn’t.
“It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018,” White wrote on her website. “It is GOD’S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. When you honor this principle it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life, it unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life! When you apply this everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences.”
The Times reported that White will work in the White House’s Office of Public Liaison. Her job, an anonymous administration official said, will be to offer advice on the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, Trump’s name for the faith-based initiative, which funnels tax money to religious groups ostensibly to fight social ills. There’s a certain irony in a person who believes poor people just need to have more faith in God to get rich advising the government on the provision of social services, but White, who has no experience in public service, will probably spend most of her time shoring up Trump’s conservative evangelical base in advance of the 2020 election.
White and Trump share certain things in common – both have checkered pasts when it comes to money and both have resisted any attempts to hold them accountable for their actions.
In 2007, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) launched an investigation into six large prosperity gospel ministries that he believed might have been violating federal law by using tax exemption to fund lavish lifestyles for ministry heads. Among the ministries Grassley examined was White’s Without Walls International Church in Tampa, which at the time she ran with her then-husband, Randy. Grassley asked the ministry to provide a list of expense account items “including, but not limited to, clothing expenses and any cosmetic surgery for years 2004 to present.” White provided some basic financial data about the ministry but refused the full request for information. Four years later the Grassley inquiry collapsed under withering attacks from Religious Right activists. White claimed this as vindication.
It’s worth noting that White’s theology has plenty of critics in the Christian community. Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and hardly a liberal, has bluntly stated, “Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe.”
When she’s not boosting Trump among evangelicals, White will likely join the president in promoting an agenda that is relentlessly anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-reproductive rights, anti-religious minority rights and anti-separation of religion and government. Your support of Americans United is crucial to helping us stand up to every part of it.
P.S. Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser has denounced White’s appointment. You can read her powerful statement here.