‘Prosperity gospel’ pastor Paula White, who believes wealth is a sign of spiritual virtue, joined Trump's administration amid mounting criticism from religious groups

GettyPaula White and President Donald Trump.
  • President Trump has officially appointed his “spiritual advisor,” and prosperity gospel pastor Paula White to a White House position.
  • Paula White espouses a version of Christianity that says God rewards the pious with material wealth and happiness.
  • White made her start as a televangelist and gained an immense following with her ministry show,“Paula White Today.” In 2009, White was named the senior pastor at the Without Walls mega church in Florida.
  • Trump first reached out to White in the early 2000s while he was still starring in “The Apprentice.”
  • White reportedly prayed for Trump during significant moments in his life, and Trump appeared on White’s show. Trump named White as his unofficial spiritual adviser in 2016.
  • The decision to officially name White comes as Evangelical Christian groups, which have served as a loyal base of support for Trump, have shown discomfort with his recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
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President Trump’s personal ‘prosperity pastor’ and former Christian megachurch head Paula White has officially joined the White House. The appointment marks an attempt by the president to sure up religious support for his reelection campaign despite White’s controversial views that have divided some Christian communities.

Paula White Pink GettyPaula White.

The Tupelo, Mississippi, native made her claim to fame by launching her immensely popular televised ministry “Paula White Today,” in 2001. The preacher became known as a “prosperity gospel pastor” which generally involves espousing a belief that God rewards the pious with wealth, health, and happiness. In 2009, White was named the senior pastor at the Without Walls megachurch in Florida, further enshrining her authoritative status among America’s Evangelical Christians.

The pastor, like many televangelists, has drawn criticism in the past for using her position as a religious authority to enrich herself. This point was illustrated clearest early last year when White warned her followers of “consequences” if they did not donate money to her ministry.

White has served as an unofficial “spiritual advisor” to the president since 2016, but this week marked her official transition to a government role. Her new role in the Office of the Public Liaison, The New York Times reported, will involve advising members of Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. That initiative was established in May 2018 by way of executive order and is intended to help faith-based organisations, “strengthen the institutions of civil society and American families and communities.”

White joined the president for prayer on Thursday before the appointment.

“Honoured to pray for @realDonald Trump and our nation,” White wrote on Twitter the same day as the appointment.”

White has prayed for Trump since his time on “The Apprentice.”

Paula White speaking at Trump's 2017 inagurtion GettyPaula White speaking at Trump’s 2017 inauguration

White has maintained a close relationship with Trump for years. Trump reportedly first reached out to White around 2001 or 2002 while he was still staring in “The Apprentice.” According to The Guardian, the then actor phoned White after watching one of her televised sermons and said she had the “It factor.” From there, the two began a mutually beneficial relationship. White was called on by Trump to provide prayers for significant moments in his life, like the season finale of “The Apprentice, and in 2006, Trump appeared on White’s television show. White and her second husband also reportedly purchased a $US3.5 million condo in Trump Tower.

White has been a constant presence in the Trump White House. She was one of six religious leaders chosen to pray with Trump during his 2017 inauguration and she has served as Trump’s unofficial “spiritual adviser” since 2016. In recent months, with the 2020 presidential election looming, White has appeared more often publicly, voicing her support for the president. During an opening prayer at a Florida Trump rally in June, White spoke out about what she called a, “demonic network” of forces aligned against Trump.

“I declare that President Trump will overcome every strategy from hell and every strategy from the enemy, every strategy,” White said at that rally. “And he will fulfil his calling and his destiny.”

White’s appointment comes amid uncertain Christian support

White’s announcement comes as the Trump campaign heats up its 2020 presidential push. Evangelical Christians, which make around 25% of the US population, played a pivotal role in shaping Trump’s 2016 electoral base. Trump has previously courted the leaders of prominent Christian groups, such as Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr, and has spent a significant portion of his first term in office appeasing religious voters. Most notable, Trump lived up to his promise to conservative Christians groups by using the two Supreme Court vacancies under his first term to appoint anti-abortion justices, a move Christian groups have rewarded Trump for with their loyalty.

The decision to push White front and centre, though, comes amidst concerns that Trump’s support amongst America’s religious communities may be faltering. According to a Politico report released last week, the Trump administration has struggled with mounting criticism from religious groups who have reportedly balked at this decision to withdraw US forces from Syria.That criticism, according to the report, has forced the Trump administration to revamp its focus on Christian groups who are reportedly concerned with potential religious persecution in the area and who worry about the US’s commitment to Israel.

“This is a danger zone for this administration when it comes to evangelicals,” an unnamed longtime friend of Trump told Politico. “The moral compass is missing, and he’s off-balance here with evangelicals.”

There’s also some uncertainty over how Christian groups will receive White. While she’s grown an immense, cult-like following of supporters, her association with the prosperity gospel has divided some Christian groups who view her espousal of the theory as heresy.

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