After all of the speculation and second-hand information, she can’t even bring herself to confirm or deny reports of Donald Trump’s conversion experience to Christianity. That, in itself, should be an answer.
I’m talking about the twice-divorced televangelist, Paula White, who is so-called “spiritual leader” of presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump. POLITICO recently covered the strange relationship between White and Trump. After James Dobson claimed to know Trump’s salvation status, based on information he said he received from White, more are wondering who she is. He has since walked back those remarks, clarifying that all he had was second-hand reports.
Dobson propelled White into the spotlight recently when he said, “I … hear that Paula White has known Trump for years and that she personally led him to Christ.”
White wouldn’t directly answer when she was asked whether that is an accurate characterization of her relationship with Trump, instead pivoting to a story of how they met and saying that while there had been many “moments” in which he had discussed his faith, she wouldn’t talk about any one instance of Trump’s accepting of Christ. That, she suggested, is his story to tell.
“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.”
We all have a “relationship” with God, as His creation, but what White has done here is to finesse her way around the subject with carefully chosen words.
Does Trump have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Has he sought forgiveness (he has claimed that he hasn’t three times)? Has he accepted Christ as his risen savior? That is the whole of being born again… not that you recognize there is a God, but that you accept the One He sent to be the savior of humanity from their fallen, corrupt state.
When a politician sends somebody out to act as a surrogate to a specific group of voters, it’s helpful if that person isn’t quite flawed, themselves.
It’s not that she doesn’t have a compelling story: In her telling, she went from being a “messed-up Mississippi girl” and a victim of abuse to finding salvation in Christ and devoting her life to the church. She speaks openly not only about her relationship struggles — though she maintains that she never had any affairs, rebutting tabloid suggestions to the contrary — and financial problems, but also about the death of her daughter, and her own struggles with addiction to prescription medication. She says that those obstacles ultimately pushed her closer to God and that she feels it’s important to relate that journey.
“Not only do I think that’s helped me connect with Mr. Trump, I think it’s helped me connect with so many people,” she said of her willingness to air her personal challenges.
But she has also emphasized her wealth in her preaching and public appearances, causing critics to deride her as one who pushes “prosperity gospel,” a doctrine that says God wants people to be rich — and that is more traditional religious leaders frown upon.
“Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe,” read a recent tweet from Russell Moore, a prominent Southern Baptist leader and vocal Trump critic, who wasn’t available for an interview.
Trump’s numerous affairs, and as many marriages as White has had, herself, may make the two kindred spirits, but it won’t cement his place with evangelicals.
He’s also less than a coherent messenger for the Christian platform, as his rallies are often peppered with foul or abusive language. His views on abortion and gay marriage are all over the place. He has no strong opinions on anything that would give confidence to people of faith that he’s “one of us.”
He has enjoyed enough support from self-professed Christians across the country to cause more than a few eyebrows to raise, but closer examination of those who support him finds that the main reason he has their support is, “He’s not Hillary Clinton.”
No, he’s not, but he’s just as “Christian” as she is.
Which is to say, not very.