Paula White, televangelist and leader of the New Destiny Christian Center, a large Pentecostal church near, Orlando Florida is both beloved and controversial. This is not only because of her lavish lifestyle but also her celebrity supporters, those who have included Michael Jackson, Tyra Banks and Donald Trump.
Trump and White’s relationship has spanned a little over a decade. The first time White prayed with Trump is when he was host of the reality TV show The Apprentice. When Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, White led the nation in prayer.
Since Donald Trump reached out to her on guidance for a possible White House run, White has become the closest thing the President has to a spiritual advisor. She is not only Trump’s closest spiritual advisor but also one of his most vocal defenders. When she made an appearance on the talk show, The Jim Bakker Show, after his first seven months in office, White suggested that those who criticize or oppose Trump are opposing God’s work.
“He’s been raised up by God because God says that he raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God that raises up a king, it is God that sets one down, and so when you fight against the plan of God, you’re fighting against the hand of God,” said White.
White’s relationship with Trump has boosted her popularity as a televangelist and a pastor. She is recognized by many for her controversial strand of Christianity known as the prosperity gospel. This theology teaches that living as a faithful Christian will result in both eternal life and also an abundance of material wealth on earth. In a 2007 televised event, White said, “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.” These views have been very controversial among many Christians as it is in conflict with the instruction by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mathew 16:24).
In 2017, White gave lengthy public statements about the president, saying she’s seen Trump “on many occasions” show repentance and that her belief that God elevated Trump extends to all leaders. On Trump’s spiritual character, White said Trump is “a person of repentance.”
“Our president 100 percent is a Christian who understands receiving faith by the grace of the Lord, Jesus. He understands repentance, and I’ve seen him on many occasions in private and even in public,” she said.
When asked more specifically be a reported what the president has repented for, White said that was private.
“That’s a very personal conversation that, as a pastor, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing that about someone’s personal life. But I can say again, things that we all would face in life,” she said.
While White has no title or official positon at the White House, she does play several rules including helping to put together an evangelical council for Trump during the campaign. She also acts as a pastor to the president.
While some have said White is responsible for leading Trump to Christ, many are not convinced that he is truly a born-again Christian or a man of faith. It doesn’t help that Trump hasn’t always been the clearest about his faith. During the campaign, Trump stirred controversy by saying he has never sought God’s forgiveness and doesn’t like to have to ask for it. Then there are other occasions where he has said he is a man of faith.
“I think people are shocked when they find out that I am Christian, that I am a religious person,” Trump wrote in “Great Again,” a book published during the presidential campaign. “They see me with all the surroundings of wealth, so they sometimes don’t associate that with being religious. That’s not accurate.”
When asked theological questions, Trump often speaks in vague terms. Asked “Who is God to you?” by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump answered “God is the ultimate,” then went on a brief spiel about how he got a great deal on the golf course before circling back to his original definition. “So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.” While he hasn’t always been vocal and descriptive related to his faith, or conversion experience, some would say his actions tell the story.
During his presidency, Trump has made decisions that have sparked debate within the Christian community. Many would say these decisions support his faith beliefs. One big example was his Jerusalem move, making the announcement that the U.S. would officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and prepare to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City.
American evangelicals, especially those close to President Donald Trump praised President Trump’s Jerusalem decision, hailing his announcement that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Others spoke of deep concern about the situation created by President Trump’s move, given the disruption of a delicate equilibrium in the governances of the sacred city and its holy sites.
While some believe that Trump is a man of faith, there are many others that don’t believe he has had a true born-again experience, reflected in his words and actions. The truth is, this is not for us to decide. It’s for God to decide. It's about his personal relationship with Jesus. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Hopefully, Trump has accepted Christ in his heart and if he hasn’t truly accepted Him, that he one day will.