Paula White: the pastor who helps Trump hear ‘what God has to say’

The head of a Florida megachurch says Trump spent hours seeking advice from God on a presidential run

Paula White, Donald Trumps spiritual adviser and personal pastor, re-enacted a moment at a private White House dinner last month which would eventually make headlines for showing the presidents hardline stance on abortion.


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    The evening before the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump approached the US senator Chris Coons, a Democrat and Presbyterian, about an expansion of abortion rights in New York state. The law is reviled by evangelicals like White.

    Trump thrust his face over the Democrats shoulder, so they were nearly cheek to cheek, and said in his ear: So, you can do that to a baby And thats not a human, is it? And you have no problem? He followed up: Isnt it called murder?

    Trump was just right in his face, and I was like, Whoa, said White, leaning over the ornate dining room table in her nearly 6,000-sq-ft home in Florida.

    White runs a megachurch in Florida, and is a link between the evangelical community, which she has navigated for decades, and a president whom she describes as not speaking Christian-ese. Although she has evaded the constant scrutiny of some in Trumps circle, she is nevertheless a controversial figure, who said she has regular calls with the president and ministers to his family.

    That White chose to tell this story underscores why she might be useful for Trump, whose past as a Manhattan playboy with multiple marriages might not have obvious appeal to the Christian right.

    Weeks after the dinner, anonymous sources told Politico about the confrontation. At least one Republican senator present denied the account, but it had already scored important points with Trumps evangelical base suggesting that his anti-abortion rhetoric is evidence of a private conviction, not political expediency.

    What was ironic in the thing is its not like Trump went out and targeted evangelicals, she said. Its not like he went out and [said]: Deliver evangelicals, I want their vote. Not at all.

    White frequently testifies to the presidents sincere and deep faith and said her role counseling Trump was an assignment from God. She delivered the invocation at the presidents inauguration and has since been a fixture at high-profile events, such as the state-like dinner Trump held for 100 evangelicals last summer. While there, she also joined a small, influential group discussion before the meal. She helps plan White House events for the faith community, and provides input on policy decisions.

    The Guardian contacted the White House about this story, but the administration did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

    Trump
    Trump listens as Paula White leads a prayer at a dinner celebrating evangelical leadership in the State Dining Room of the White House in August. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    Like many people Trump surrounds himself with, White is a controversial figure. She is alternately described as the woman who led Trump to Christ and a charlatan. Her Florida ministry and televangelism made her a millionaire, and attracted scrutiny from congressional investigators. Some political observers see the alliance between Trump and the evangelical community as a marriage of convenience: he needs their votes, they need someone to carry out their agenda.

    But White does not see it that way.

    He genuinely cared about the [evangelical] community, she said. She recounted a 2011 meeting when Trump asked her to bring a group of pastors to pray about whether he should run for president.

    We had about 25, 30 pastors come up, and we prayed for six hours in Trump Tower, she said. Trump, she said, prayed for about half that time. He genuinely wanted to hear what does God have to say? To really make America great is real to him, thats not a slogan, [its] genuinely so.

    White has come a long way from her first church, a storefront ministry in Tampa, Florida.

    Whites home now is in Bluegrass Estates in Apopka, Florida, near her Pentecostal ministry, New Destiny Christian Center. The loop of million-dollar homes with private stables is in a gated community across a highway from algae-covered trailers. Security is tight. When I first entered Bluegrass Estates, I was followed by a Cadillac Escalade outfitted with flashing blue lights.

    Who are you? a man rolled down a tinted window and demanded. Im asking you a question, he said, and threatened to call the police. When I mentioned Whites name, he called her a nice lady.

    Pastor
    White holds her granddaughter, Asher, two, while kissing her grandson Nicholas, six months old, at her home in Apopka, Florida, last month. Photograph: Eve Edelheit/The Guardian

    White has no formal religious training, but said she had a vision from God when she was 18 years old that told her to go preach the gospel. She had her son, Brad Knight, the same year. She was divorced soon after. For two years she did nothing but study the Bible, and soon began a ministry with her second husband, Randy White.

    In the early 2000s, as the church gained prominence, Randy told the Tampa Bay Times that churches needed to believe in their product. He said: My product is Jesus.

    By then, White was broadcasting across regional Christian television which also broadcast to Mar-a-Lago and on BET. Her church had grown to nearly 20,000 members, making it one of the largest in the country. She said Trump called her out of the blue one day, repeated three of her televised sermons verbatim, and said she had the it factor.

    She began spending more time in New York and eventually bought an apartment in Trumps Park Avenue building with Randy (it is on the market now for $3.9m; the price was recently reduced).

    White attributes the relationship to an assignment from God, who said show him who I am, White said.

    I encounter thousands of people, millions of people, over the course of ministry, but theres been a handful of people that I knew was, like, this was direct assignment, said White. Gods calling to her, she said, was directly regarding Trump.

    Part of the controversy surrounding White, and perhaps why she appealed to Trump, is because she teaches prosperity gospel, which holds that faith and donations to religious causes will boost adherents financial wellbeing as well as their spiritual health. As recently as last year, White encouraged members of her congregation to send their first months salary to her ministry to enjoy Gods blessings.

    Floridas conservative millionaire class moves in a small social circle, and White appears to have found company in fellow Trump supporters. Whites former landlord is David Siegel, the timeshare mogul whose wife was profiled in the documentary Queen of Versailles as the family built an 85,000-sq-ft replica of the French palace.

    White is now married to Jonathan Cain, the keyboardist from the rock band Journey, and the two often travel together, including to DC to see the president. Two congressional investigations, one in 2004 and another in 2007, ended without findings of wrongdoing.

    Pastor
    White helps her granddaughter put on a helmet to go horseback riding at her home in Apopka, Florida. Photograph: Eve Edelheit/The Guardian

    White coordinates meetings with faith leaders at the White House and with the Office of the Public Liaison on various humanitarian issues, including the Venezuelan crisis during our interview. She has advised on specific policies such as the US embassy in Israels move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (she told Trump: Youre making the right decision, sir).

    She also defends the president outside Washington. When it was revealed the Trump administration separated children from their parents at the border, White told the Christian Broadcasting Network that if Jesus had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah. After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, killing 3,000 people, White told Charisma News she worked daily with the White House on relief efforts, and officials on the island said how wonderful our government, our military, our national guard is.

    During our interview, White praised Trumps assault on the Johnson amendment, which bars religious institutions from openly expressing political views, and said she hoped abortion would be overturned, referring to the US supreme court decision that legalized it nationally.

    But she does not see herself as taking a political side when it comes to God.

    People go, If Hillary asked you to pray for her, would you? Of course I would, but I dont have a relationship with her. This is an ongoing, 18-year relationship [with Trump], said White. Importantly, White said, she had never taken a favor from Trump and never accepted money for her work with him.

    Ive been under Bushs courting, Ive been under Clintons courting, Obamas courting, Mitt Romneys courting, said White. She said it was all part of being a megachurch pastor and televangelist. Bernie Sanders has never asked me, but Im just saying if he did ask me to pray for him, I would, she said.

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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