The Court Evangelicals Take a Photo

Most of them were there on Friday night:

COurt Evangelicals

I don’t recognize everyone, but I see Alveda King, Jack Graham, Jenetzen Franklin, James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, James Robison, Michael Tait, Greg Laurie, Michelle Bachmann, Eric Metaxas, Tony Suarez, Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Johnnie Moore, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Richard Land, Cissie Graham, Tim Clinton, Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow, Paula White, and Guillermo Maldonado.

I wonder if Trump can identify them all.

Many of these people feature prominently in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Thoughts on the “Evangelicals for Trump” Rally

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

Earlier this evening Donald Trump launched his “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign with a speech at a Miami megachurch.

The King Jesus International Ministry Church, a Hispanic megachurch, was filled with court evangelicals.  Prior to Trump’s speech, some of them laid their hands on the president and prayed for him.  This group included Paula White, Jack Graham, Michael Tait (of the Christian rap group DC Talk), Jentezen Franklin, Cissie Graham (Franklin’s daughter), and Alveda King.  “Apostle” Guillermo Maldonado, the pastor of King Jesus Church, prayed that Trump would fulfill his role as a new King Cyrus.  Paula White prayed against the demonic forces trying to undermine Trump’s presidency.  Later Trump acknowledged James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Charlie Kirk, and other court “eeeeevangelicals” in attendance.

As Trump took the lectern, the evangelicals in attendance, many wearing pro-Trump clothing and MAGA hats, began chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”  It was clear from the outset that this event would be no different than any other Trump rally.  The applause lines were the same.  Trump degraded his opponents by name.  Nothing new here.  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Trump’s theme song, blared over the church loudspeaker when he was done with his speech.

Once the crowd stopped their patriotic chanting, Trump started bragging about the crowd size, adding that there were “1000s of people” outside “trying to get in.”  He called the “Evangelicals for Trump” movement the “greatest grass roots movement in American history.”  He reminded everyone how he killed Qassem Soleimani.

Trump generally stuck to the teleprompter, but he did go off script every now and then.  He painted himself as a president who was protecting American evangelicals from the those on the “Left” who want to “punish” people of faith and “destroy religion in America.” During this part of the speech one of the evangelical Christians in the audience screamed “Pocohontas,” a reference to Massachusetts Senator and Democratic president candidate Elizabeth Warren.  Trump was visibly pleased.  Indeed, Trump the strongman was on display.  Like autocratic leaders before him, he stirred fear among his people and offered them safety under his regime.  (This, I should add, is why evangelicals prefer Trump to Mike Pence, the Vice President who sees eye-to-eye with conservative evangelicals on every social and moral issue they care about.  Trump is a fighter and protector. Pence is not.)

Trump spent the entire speech reiterating the talking points that have defined his rhetoric when speaking to evangelicals.  He falsely claimed, once again, that he ended the Johnson Amendment.  He continued to claim, falsely, that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam wants to kill babies after they are born.  He said that he was going to return prayer to public schools when, in reality, prayer never left. He bragged about his commitment to global religious freedom, but failed to mention how he threw Syrian Christians under the bus.  He compared the crowd size of his Lincoln Memorial July 4, 2019 speech to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

At one point in his speech, Trump rattled off the names of the Fox News personalities who carry his water on cable television.  The crowd cheered as Trump read this laundry list of conservative media pundits.  It was all very appropriate for such an occasion because Fox News, more than anything else, including the Bible and the spiritual disciplines, has formed and shaped the values of most of the people in the room.  Trump’s staff knows this.  Why else would they put such a roll call in the speech? It was like Trump was reading the court evangelical heroes of the faith (Heb. 11), but instead of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, David, and Samuel, we got Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, and the hosts of Fox and Friends.  (It is also worth noting that Trump never quoted from or referenced the Bible in his speech).

At one point Trump had to rebuke one of the evangelicals in the crowd.  As the president praised himself for appointing conservative federal court justices, someone apparently yelled something about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent health problems. The implication was that Ginsburg would soon die (was this guy praying for it?) and then Trump could appoint another conservative Supreme Court justice. Trump had to tell this person that he did not wish any harm on Ginsburg.  Think about this for a moment.  Trump was in a room full of evangelicals and he, at least in this case, took the moral high road.

In one of the most human moments of the rally, Trump introduced two members of the Fresno State University pro-life club.  These women told a story about a professor who tried to stop them from sharing pro-life messages on campus.  They sued the professor and won in court.  Good for them. What was this professor thinking? He denied these young women free speech, but he also gave the court evangelicals more fodder for their victimization campaign–a campaign that was on full display in Miami tonight.

Trump also focused on non-religious issues.  He took credit for the strong economy.  He said he would make sure the evangelicals in attendance would not lose their Second Amendment rights.  And, despite the fact that there were probably undocumented evangelical immigrants in the room, extolled the virtues of his border wall.

By now I am used to this kind of thing from Trump.  But tonight I witnessed evangelical Christians–those who identify with the “good news” of Jesus Christ–raising their hands in a posture of worship as Trump talked about socialism and gun rights. I watched them rising to their feet and fist-pumping when Trump said he would win in 2020.

I usually get angry about evangelicals worshiping at the feet of Trump.   But tonight I just felt sad.

What are the Court Evangelicals Saying About Yesterday’s Impeachment and Trump’s Responses?

Watch:

So far none of the court evangelicals have said that Trump is right about Dingell because the former Michigan congressman did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before he died. But I would not put it past any one of them to say this.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has it covered at The Washington Post.  Read it here.

Here of some of the tweets in Bailey’s piece and a few more (with commentary):

Bailey quoted me in her piece:

Evangelical supporters of Trump have been talking about “forces” undermining Trump, framing the impeachment proceedings in “spiritual battle” language, said John Fea, a historian at Messiah College.

In November, Franklin Graham, president and chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, told Eric Metaxas on his radio show, “Well, I believe it’s almost a demonic power that is trying . . .” And Metaxas interrupted and said, “I would disagree. It’s not almost demonic. You know and I know, at the heart, it’s a spiritual battle.”

Last week, Trump hosted about 50 evangelical leaders in the White House to pray for him, especially drawing pastors from the Pentecostal tradition where teaching on “spiritual warfare” is prominent.

“If Trump is indeed God’s anointed, impeachment and his potential removal is of utmost concern to those with this worldview,” Fea said.

Why doesn’t Graham go all the way and say that he is the most “pro life pro faith president in American history? 🙂

Once again, a Trump supporter refuses to argue based on the facts of the case.  If you want to say impeachment is a “sham” then you need to make a solid constitutional case for why Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his failure to cooperate with Congress are not impeachable offenses.  Impeachment has nothing to do with whether a president is pro life, pro faith, a defender of religious freedom, or presiding over a strong economy.  (On the latter point, it find it interesting that so many court evangelicals are now economic determinists.  I thought they didn’t like Karl Marx).  Jack Graham, like the rest of the court evangelicals, are in Trump’s pocket. How else can we explain the fact that he will not say anything negative about this president and simply ignore his indiscretions.  Either shut-up about politics, or apply biblical truth to public life (and this POTUS) in an even-handed way.

See my comment above.  Ralph, please make an argument based on the facts of the case.

This document is absurd.  A quick response:

  1. The House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump and no one else.
  2.  Stop trying to politicize what it means to be a God-fearing, family loving and patriotic!  This “family values” rhetoric has been around since the late 1970s and  Trump’s behavior and policies in office have made it virtually meaningless.  I wonder what Moore and Rodriguez think about the moral quality of the rhetoric coming from this White House? Do they really want evangelical children to listen to Donald Trump or read his tweets? Should we all tell our children to be like Trump and publish children’s books extolling his character? And don’t even get me started with “family values” after what Trump did to migrant families at the border.
  3. This document makes vague references to “due process” and “rule of law.”  It does not say ANYTHING about the facts of the case.  (See my response to the Jack Graham tweet above).  Rather than approaching impeachment and Trump’s behavior with deep historical and theological reflection, this statement just echoes the talking points of the GOP members of the House Judicial and Intelligence committees.  Christian leaders should do much, much better than this.  I’m not holding my breath.
  4. This document assumes that those who impeached Trump do not believe in “free elections” to determine political leadership.  Actually, if it wasn’t for “free elections” the Democrats would not have won the House in 2018.  The people spoke.  The 2018 election was a referendum on the first two years of the Trump presidency.  THIS is democracy at work.  But I assume Moore and Rodriguez mean that Trump’s impeachment somehow undermines the results of the presidential election of 2106.  First, the undermining of the elections was done BY THE RUSSIANS well before impeachment.  Second, impeachment is meant to discipline a POTUS during the time in-between elections.  Based on the logic of Moore and Rodriguez’s statement, the impeachment of Bill Clinton also undermined the people’s voice in the election of 1996.  The near-impeachment of Richard Nixon undermined the people’s voice in the election 1972.
  5.  The statement reads: “They impeached millions of Americans…who believe that it’s precisely the job of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the United States government to intensely obstruct one another in order to check and balance our freewheeling democracy….” I have no idea what this means.
  6. The statement assumes that one cannot believe “every life is sacred in and out of the womb” and still support impeachment.  That’s nonsense.  Trump’s impeachment has nothing to do with abortion or any other kind of life issue. He was impeached for abusing power and obstructing Congress.

Gary Bauer has a unique ability to nicely summarize the court evangelical position in 560 characters.

The Number of Court Evangelicals is Growing

Worship Leaders

Last week the number of court evangelicals increased dramatically as the White House invited evangelical worship leaders to meet Donald Trump.  Thanks to Dr. Andy Rowell, a professor at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, for identifying some of the worship leaders who appear with Trump in the above photo:

  1. Paula White-Cain (and husband Jonathan Cain met the night before Dec 5, 2019 at the White House with Trump supporters Jentezen FranklinMarcus LambJoni LambHarry Jackson)
  2. Brian Houston (Hillsong Church pastor) Instagram video and instagram of seanfeucht
  3. Kari Jobe (Carnes) (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris)
  4. Cody Carnes (traveling worship leader, was at Gateway Church, Southlake TX, with Trump supporter, Pastor Robert Morris) Instagram video
  5. Brian Johnson (President of Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram of seanfeucht (His father, Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson voted for Trump).
  6. Jenn Johnson (co-founder Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  7. Britt Nicole (traveling singer)
  8. Sean Feucht (Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group photo and another photo and video
  9. Stephen James Hart (Visual Worship Leader, Bethel Music, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  10. Luke Hendrickson (Mixing engineer, Bethel Church, Redding, CA) Instagram group shot.
  11. Heather Armstrong (photography, Redding, CA)
  12. Kiley Goodpasture (Project Manager, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  13. Dominic Shahbon (Director of Events, Bethel Music, Redding, CA)
  14. Allison & Antonio Marin (Strings players, Northern CA)
  15. Jeremy Edwardson (Music producer, Redding CA)
  16. David Funk (Worship leader – Gable Price and Friends, Redding, CA)
  17. Chris Quilala (Jesus Culture, Sacramento, CA)
  18. Joseph Zwanziger (The Father’s House, Vacaville, CA) Instagram group shot.
  19. Tosha Zwanziger 
  20. Terry Crist (Lead Pastor, Hillsong Phoenix) (Not 100% sure he was there)
  21. Michael Stampley (Worship leader, GA)
  22. Heidi Stampley
  23. Micah Stampley
  24. Trent Cory (Hope City United Church, Albany, GA)
  25. Keisha Cory 
  26. Myles Rutherford (co-pastors, Worship with Wonders, Marietta, GA) and group shot
  27. DeLana Rutherford 
  28. David Brinson (Senior Pastor, Eighth Day Church, Warner Robins, GA who worked with Paula White)
  29. & son Rafael Brinson 
  30. Tim Brinson (Worship Leader, SC and GA)
  31. (Jonathan) Ernstly Etienne, Worship Director, Free Chapel, Gainesville, GA (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Jentezen Franklin)
  32. Hillary Harper Etienne
  33. Eddie James (traveling worship leaders, Ocoee, TN) Instagram group shot.
  34. David Binion (Dwell Church, Fairview, TX)
  35. Nicole Binion (not 100% sure if she was there – photo)
  36. Nayomi Thomas (worship leaders, Raymore, MO)
  37. & Jaye Thomas 
  38. Bryn Waddell, Charlotte, NC.
  39. Two women from New Wine Music. selfie. (associated with Trump supporter, Pastor Guillermo Maldonado of El Rey Jesús, in Miami, FL). 
  40. Jonathan Williams, photographer

These Nashville worship leaders loved it:

I think former Christianity Today managing editor and evangelical writer Katelyn Beaty sums it up pretty well:

Here is what I wrote about power in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

The court evangelicals have been shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt 4:8-10); but, unlike Jesus in his encounter with the Tempter, they have gladly embraced them.  Evangelicals claim to follow a Savior who relinquished worldly power–even to the point of giving his life. Yet they continue to place their hope in political candidates as a means of advancing an agenda that confuses the kingdom of God with the United States of America.  Evangelicals often decry the idea of “separation of church and state” (although as we will see in chapter 2, they have not always thought this way), but this constitutional principle has always served as a safeguard to protect the church from the temptations that come with worldly power.  Political scientist Glenn Tinder says that power is a “morally problematic” idea because it almost always induces “others to serve one’s own purposes.”  In the sense that political power objectifies other human beings, it is a “degraded relationship if judged by the standards of love.”  Political power does not have to result in immoral ends, but it nearly always does due to the fallenness of human beings and brokenness of a world stained by sin.  Humility, on the other hand, is always centered on the cross of Jesus Christ, a political act that ushered in a new kind of political entity–the kingdom of God.  Humility thus requires listening, debate, conversation, and dialogue that respects the dignity of all God’s human creation.  What would it take to replace the pursuit of power with humility?

Here is Rowell:

It is entirely appropriate to pray for a president. The problem is if the powerful person “receiving prayer” is primarily using the pray-er to reach their constituency on his behalf. In other words, there likely was not an opportunity to speak truth to power to President Trump. But rather, the strategy is to sell these worship leaders (who have big Instagram followings) with a one-sided “Look at what Trump is doing for evangelicals!” so that they then turn and communicate to their fans: “President Trump and his administration are people passionate about worship and prayer, just like you! And therefore, you should defend President Trump and try to see the good in what he does. And you should vote for him!”

It is of course initially exciting to get an offer to visit the White House and pray for President Trump and disappointing when people criticize you for leading worship (!), but it should be sobering to realize that you are being used to boost President Trump’s popularity. President Trump is in the midst of an impeachment proceeding because of his own misbehavior—because he ignored all advice about Ukraine from his foreign policy advisers. Moreover, on Dec 4, he slashed access to food assistance to 700,000 Americans. And his work on human trafficking is exaggerated. Yes, evangelicals vote Republican for “pro-life” but the abortion rate has been falling fast especially in Democratic administrations due to more access to contraceptives. It is fine to worry about the excesses of a Democratic administration with regard to religious freedom or other issues, but it is another thing to be part of an operation that is focused on promoting President Trump. Moreover, Paula White-Cain, who organized the gathering, is not a model of financial and moral integrity

Read his entire post here.

Is Paula White Bringing Her “Ponzi Scheme” to the White House?

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

Many of you recall that court evangelical and prosperity preacher Paula White is now working in the White House.  Learn more here.

Former George W. Bush Administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter suggests that White is using her new position in the White House to make her spiritual “sales pitch” to her television followers.

Here is Newsweek:

Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House, blasted President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual adviser Paula White, suggesting the religious leader was committing “fraud” and running a “Ponzi scheme.”

The White House recently announced that White, who previously served as the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, would officially spearhead Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Since taking on the official role, the prominent televangelist has continued to sell religious items that she claims will provide spiritual and material benefits to buyers.

“This ‘prosperity gospel’ scam by ⁦@Paula_White⁩ tests the boundaries between ‘religious freedom’ and criminal mail fraud and wire fraud,” Painter argued in a Wednesday morning tweet. “‘Send me money and God will make you rich.’ Now she uses her White House position to make her sales pitch.”

On Tuesday, Painter raised related concerns about White. “Paula White now is running her faith based Ponzi scheme from inside the White House,” he wrote in a tweet, sharing a link to a Newsweekarticle that reported on criticism of Trump’s adviser. ‘”Send me your January paycheck and God will pay you back with interest …. [perhaps out of somebody else’s February paycheck],'” he added.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelicals Weigh-In on Today’s First Day of Impeachment Hearings

Trump court evangelicals

Court evangelicals in the court

Several of the court evangelicals had things to say today (and in the last day or two) about impeachment.

Here is Franklin Graham:

This Paula White quote tells it all.  It is, in many ways, the essence of court evangelicalism and Trump evangelicalism generally.

Here is Ralph Reed:

Moral Majority Veteran Cal Thomas on the Prosperity Preacher Who Just Joined Trump’s White House

Cal T

Here is what I wrote about Cal Thomas in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

When Jerry Falwell Sr. founded the Moral Majority in 1979 –in his attempt to clean up and win back America–journalist Cal Thomas and evangelical pastor Ed Dobson were two of the Moral Majority’s most important staff members.  Thomas put his journalism career on hold to join Falwell in Lynchburg as the Moral Majority’s vice president for communications.  Dobson, a professor at Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College (later to become Liberty University), served as a tireless promoter of the organization from his position as a member of the board.  During the 1980s, those two were influential in shaping the direction of the Moral Majority.  They believed in Falwell’s vision completely and served the cause with passion and zeal.

But in 1999, Dobson and Thomas reflected soberly on their experience with Falwell and the Moral Majority in their book Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?  They concluded that the answer to the subtitle’s question was a definitive “no.”  Neither Dobson nor Thomas left evangelicalism or ceased their commitment to conservative causes; but they were forced to admit that the political strategy they helped to forge in the 1980s had failed.  Despite their efforts, Roe v. Wade had not been overturned.  The Internet had made pornography more accessible than ever.  Drug use had not subsided, and crime had not dissipated in any significant way.  In the process, the prophetic witness of the evangelical church was subordinated to political power and all its trappings.  As Cal Thomas put it, in a reference to Palm Sunday, “Who wanted to ride into the capital on the back of an ass when one could go first class in a private jet and be picked up and driven around in a chauffeured limousine?

Thomas, who parlayed his Moral Majority fame into a nationally syndicated newspaper column, did not mince words when he disparaged the evangelical pursuit of political power, “Christian faith is about truth,” he tells his readers, and “whenever you try to mix power and truth, power usually wins.”  Through his years with Falwell, Thomas learned ho power is the “ultimate aphrodisiac.”  It is not only seductive, but also affects the judgment of the one who “takes it.”  Thomas warned his evangelical readers how the chase for political power threatens the spread of the gospel.  He quoted the late Catholic priest Henri Nouwen: “The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the gospel is the greatest temptation of all.”  Thomas pointed to the myriad ways in which the Moral Majority–and the Christian Right agenda that is spawned–played to the fears of white evangelicals.  For example, Moral Majority fundraising letters always followed a basic formula: “First, they identify an enemy: homosexuals, abortionists, Democrats, or ‘liberals’ in general.  Second the enemies are accused of being out to ‘get us’ or to impose their morality on the rest of the country.  Third, the letter assures the reader that something will be done…. Fourth, to get this job done, please send money.”  Thomas completely rejected the court evangelical notion that Christians need to have a “seat at the table.”  “Access” to political power, he argued, required compromise of “cherished and deeply held convictions.”  He added: “Religious leaders who seek favor with the king run the risk of refusing to speak truth to power out of fear that they won’t be invited back.”  

These are strong words.  Thomas offers a cautionary tale to today’s court evangelicals based on their own extensive experience in the king’s court.  (Of course this did not prevent Thomas from endorsing Donald Trump).  In his recent column he criticizes the selection of prosperity preacher Paula White as Trump’s new director of faith-based outreach.  Here is a taste:

As far as I can tell from a reading of history, while some presidents were friends of clergy, who sometimes advised them, to my knowledge, none hired them as staff members until the presidency of Richard Nixon. It was during Nixon’s administration that Charles Colson began mobilizing the evangelical community to support the president’s policies and programs, seeing evangelicals as just another special interest group, like organized labor has been for Democrats.

After his conversion and after serving time in prison for crimes related to the Watergate scandal, Colson told historian Kevin Kruse, as recounted in The Washington Post, “Sure, we used the prayer breakfasts and church services and all that for political ends. One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders. We would bring them into the White House, and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office, and I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups that we worked with.”

The latest spiritual adviser to the president is TV evangelist Paula White-Cain. For 18 years she has claimed to have President Trump’s ear on religious matters, but while his policies closely align with evangelical concerns, there is little evidence her “advice” has had any effect on his personal behavior.

Ms. White-Cain is unlikely to serve the role Nathan the prophet filled when he confronted King David over his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, bringing David to repentance and one of the great statements about placing faith in political leaders: “Put not your trust in princes … in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3)

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical Paula White Joins the White House Office of Public Liaison

paulawhitefranklingraham_hdv

Paula White at the court with fellow court evangelical Franklin Graham

Paula White is the televangelist and megachurch pastor who claims to have led Donald Trump through his supposed born again experience.  Evangelical theologians and leaders have said  the prosperity gospel that she preaches is heretical.  We have covered White extensively here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

 

The Orlando Sentinel on court evangelical Paula White

More court evangelical fear mongering from Paula White

A court evangelical weighs-in on Thanksgiving in the age of Trump

Court Evangelical Paula White is the Latest to Use the Bible to Defend Trump’s Immigration Policies

Paula White responds to critics of her recent comments on immigration

Court Evangelical: Trump is “100 percent a Christian who understands repentance

Court Evangelical Says Trump’s “Two Corinthians” Gaffe Was a Set Up

Court Evangelical: “We were sent there to take over”

A Court Evangelical Exposed: Heat Street on Paula White

James Dobson Reveals the Evangelical Leader Who Brought Trump to Christ

Here is some of what I wrote about White in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

White’s life is a classic rags-to-riches story filled with hardship, struggle, and eventual victory (and wealth0 stemming from faith in Christ and positive thinking.  She often describes herself as a “messed-up Mississippi girl” who God saved from an early life of sexual and psychological abuse, poverty, and single motherhood.  She is not shy about sharing negative stories from her past because she believes her biography is a testament to how God can help ordinary people live the American dream.  As religion scholars Shayne Lee and Phillip Sinitiere note, White preaches a gospel of “redemption and second chances.”  After a neighbor in her trailer park led her to Christ, Paula married Pentecostal preacher Randy White.  The newlyweds scraped together enough resources to start a church in Tampa, Florida, that would eventually become Without Walls International Church. Well before the 2016 presidential election, White was preaching that individuals could make America great again through a combination of faith in God and self-esteem.  During one appearance on the Trinity Broadcast Network in 2007, White told her viewers that “anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.”

Lee and Sinitiere call White the “‘Oprah’ of the evangelical world.”  In 2001, she began Paula White Today, a television show that would soon appear on nine different television networks.  Her show and self-help books are filled with helpful advice for overcoming everyday problems. She hawks dietary supplements, teachers her followers how to lose weight (repent and stop eating sugar), and offers beauty tips.  According to Lee and Sinitiere, White “reinvented her image with extensive plastic surgery, modish hairstyles, perfectly manicured nails, chic silk suits, fitted dresses, and a leaner size 4 figure.”  White knows how to market her message and get her followers to send her money. For example, during the 2016 Lenten season, White preached a sermon from John 11:44–the passage in the Fourth Gospel in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  White told her viewers that just as Jesus raised Lazarus, they too could overcome’s life difficulties if they would only “sow the seed of faith” in the form of a $1,144 donation to her ministry.  White assured her listeners that she does not usually request such specific amounts of money, but this was different.  God had specifically instructed her to ask for this $1,144 to correspond with the Scripture passage he told her to preach. Those who donated would receive an anointed “prayer cloth” that would bring “signs and wonders” to their lives.  White herself owns a $2.1 million waterfront mansion and a $3.5 million condominium in Trump Tower in New York City.

Over the years several celebrities have become followers of White.  When pop icon Michael Jackson was arrested on child molestation charges in 2003, he asked White to come to his ranch and provide him with spiritual counsel.  Former New York Mets baseball star Darryl Strawberry sought White’s spiritual assistance amid his several stints in prison for drug-related offenses.  But White’s biggest start-caliber fan is Donald Trump.  In 2002, Trump, who had apparently seen White on television, reached out to the popular prosperity preacher and invited her to a meeting at Trump Tower.  White and her message must have impressed Trump. Following that meeting they remained friends, and Trump began to take White with him on Atlantic City excursions, where she would conduct Bible studies and prayer meetings with the celebrities who visited the casinos.  At some point in their ongoing relationship, White claimed that Trump had a born-again experience. When Religion News Service asked White about Trump’s conversion, she said that she was “one hundred percent” sure that he “confesses Jesus Christ as Lord,” adding that she “shared the Gospel with Mr. Trump,” using the “Roman Road map” (a popular took used by evangelicals to share their faith with others)…..

Now it appears that Paula White is working for the White House.  Here is a taste of the New York Times reporting:

Paula White, a televangelist based in Florida and personal pastor to President Trump whom he has known since 2002, has joined the Trump administration in an official capacity, according to a White House official.

Ms. White will work in the Office of Public Liaison, the official said, which is the division of the White House overseeing outreach to groups and coalitions organizing key parts of the president’s base. Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.

As Mr. Trump campaigns for a second term, he cannot afford to lose support from the religious conservatives who voted for him in 2016 in significant numbers. Without their backing, his path to re-election would be significantly narrower.

He has taken repeated steps to ensure they turn out for him again — by issuing executive orders, making cabinet appointments and nominating federal judges that pass muster with the religious right. On a range of issues from abortion rights to tax exemptions for churches, Mr. Trump has tried to grant Christian conservatives their policy wish lists whenever legally and politically feasible.

But Ms. White cannot be easily categorized as either a political asset or a liability. She has a large following among Christians who believe in the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God blesses people he deems to be of strong faith with wealth, good health and other gifts.

Read the entire piece here.

The *Orlando Sentinel* on Court Evangelical Paula White

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

The editorial board chides the court evangelical for “weaponizing faith for politics.”  Here is a taste of the editorial:

We’re particularly appalled — though not surprised — by Paula White.

Not because she’s a conservative but because of her naked use of religion as a weapon. She’s trying to frighten believers with apocalyptic consequences if they don’t get in line behind this president.

Unfortunately, the national attention on these self-promoting evangelical opportunists risks overshadowing the selfless work of Christian churches and missions that help people who are hungry, poor, sick and homeless.

Here in Central Florida, groups like the Catholic Charities, the Christian Service Center and IDignity better represent the Christian faith tradition.

Read the entire editorial here.

More Court Evangelical Fear Mongering from Paula White

Bakker White

Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White is at it again.  On a recent appearance on the Jim Bakker Show to promote her new book Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials, White said that those who do not support Trump will one day have to answer to God.

Here is a taste of Leonardo Blair’s piece at The Christian Post:

“It is a dividing line unless you have eyes to see,” White told Bakker while discussing how America was being changed through the lower courts. Trump has been working hard to protect religious freedom in a spiritual war between good and evil that is being waged through the courts and that threatens to outlaw the Bible as hate speech, she claimed.

“It’s [warfare] gonna either make you stand and lets you have to look in the Word and say what does God say and where do I line up. Where do I line up on policy? I might not like the personality, I might not understand him. Get my book and you’ll understand the personality and you’ll understand the person, Ok? Not just the persona,” White said.

“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 continued.

She explained earlier how since he assumed office, Trump managed to fill 170 lower court vacancies and two Supreme Court justices.

“We now we’ll have a third one, we just need the time. But it is very potential that we could have a fourth or even a fifth,” White said.

“If we can change the Supreme Court like we are already changing it, these are lifetime appointments. You don’t think all hell is trembling right now?” White asked.

Without President Trump’s re-election, White and Bakker agreed, “we’re going to lose the freedom of America soon.”

Read the entire piece here.

Two quick comments:

  1. I don’t think “hell” really cares about Supreme Court nominations. If anything, hell is rejoicing as its minions watch Paula White put her faith in a political strongman to save her.
  2. Let’s not forget that almost every major court evangelical has endorsed White’s book.

Trump Tells Border Agents to Break the Law. Court Evangelicals Remain Silent

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Jake Tapper of CNN is reporting that Donald Trump told immigration officials on the Mexican border to essentially ignore court orders allowing Central American migrants seeking asylum into the country.  Here is a taste of Tapper’s piece:

Three Thursdays ago, in a meeting at the Oval Office with top officials — including Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, top aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp and Dan Scavino, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and more — the President, according to one attendee, was “ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue.”

Senior administration officials say that Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would shut down other ports.

Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President.

She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports.

According to two people in the room, the President said: “I don’t care.”

Ultimately, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney seemed to have been able to talk the President out of closing the port of El Paso. Trump, however, was insistent that his administration begin taking another action — denying asylum seekers entry. Nielsen tried to explain to the President that the asylum laws allow migrants from Central America to come to the US and gain entry. She talked to the White House counsel to see if there were any exceptions, but he told her that her reading of the law was correct.

Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to official requests for comment.

Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, “We’re full, our system’s full, our country’s full — can’t come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can’t handle any more, our country is full. Can’t come in, I’m sorry. It’s very simple.”

Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.”

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.

Read the entire piece here.

Some will say that Tapper represents the “left-wing media” who is out to get Trump.  I have a few thoughts on this:

  1.  Tapper is an excellent reporter who is one of the most fair-minded interviewers on CNN.
  2.  What Tapper is reporting here fits very well with everything we know about Donald Trump.
  3.  A question for Trump supporters (or “left-wing media” haters):  Is there anything  that the CNN or New York Times could uncover about Trump that might actually be true?

Tapper’s piece is just further proof that Trump is a populist tyrant.  He won in 2016 by promising to build a wall.  His immigration policy thus far has been draconian.  Some of the children he separated from their parents are lost and it will take up to two years to find them.  Today he falsely claimed that Obama is to blame for the separation of these children. He believes that he has a mandate from the people (or at least the ones who elected him) to do these things and, as a result, he does not pay much attention to the rule of law, checks and balances, or time-honored American institutions.

Trump’s populism reminds me of Andrew Jackson’s rationale for removing the Cherokees from their homeland and sending them on the so-called “Trail of Tears.”  The white men who voted for Jackson wanted the Cherokee gone.  Jackson listened and responded.  This is what democracy meant in the early 19th century.  Maybe this is why Michigan conservatives do not want students to study “democracy” in their history classes.

And where are the Trump court evangelicals today?  What do they have to say about his disregard for the law, his separation of children, and his constant lies?  Here is what they are up to today:

Bob Jeffress, with his snarky laugh and Trump name-dropping, is still obsessed with the fact that Pete Buttigieg is gay, progressive and pro-choice.  (By the way, Jeffress’s defense of Mike Pence here does not seem to hold-up when compared to past Pence statements on the subject).

Jack Graham is hanging out with the “My Pillow” guy:

I am not sure if Paula White has any followers among the separated families on the border, but if she does, they are going to have a hard time taking her advice here:

 

Conservative Evangelicals Defend Steve King and Want Kevin McCarthy to Apologize

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Perhaps some of you missed it.  Iowa congressman Steve King, in an interview with the New York Times, said this: “White nationalists, white supremacist, Western Civilization–how did that language become offensive?”

King later tried to back away from the statement, but it was too little, too late.  House minority leader Kevin McCarthy removed King from the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees earlier this week and he was almost censured.  King’s remarks were the latest in a long career defined by racist and nativist comments.

Not everyone is happy with what McCarthy, the House Republicans, and Congress have done to King.  Right Wing Watch has brought to my attention news of a group of Christian Right leaders who are supporting King.  The group is led by Janet Porter, a Christian Right activist who served as the spokesperson for Roy Moore’s 2017 Alabama  Senate race.  Porter is asking Christian Right leaders to sign a letter to Kevin McCarthy.  Here is the text of that letter:
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Dear Leader McCarthy,

We are appalled that Republican leadership would choose to believe a liberal news organization famous for their bias over an outstanding member of Congress who has served the people of Iowa and the United States honorably and faithfully for 16 years.

If Congressman Steve King believed and stood by the outrageous misquote of the New York Times, then the actions taken against him would have been warranted, but the opposite is true.

Unlike North Korea, we in the United States are “innocent until proven guilty” and hold to the principles of Western Civilization, as Rep. King so admirably does. The foundational principle begins with the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the principles to which Rep. King was referring and which he has championed for more than two decades of public service.

Don’t make the fatal mistake of turning the reins of the U.S. Congress over to the liberal media, allowing them to target, misquote, and falsely brand any member of Congress they wish to remove. 

We call on you to do the right thing as Minority Leader: issue a public apology and reinstate Rep. King to his committee assignments.  If we don’t stand with this good man against the media-manufactured assault today, none of us will be safe from it tomorrow.

The Christian Right leaders who signed this letter include:

  • The scandal-ridden former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
  • Court evangelical and family values radio host James Dobson
  • Court evangelical and charismatic media mogul Steven Strang
  • Paul Blair, president of an organization called Reclaiming America for Christ
  • Rick Scarborough, a conservative Southern Baptist political activist
  • Lance Wallnau, a court evangelical who claims to have prophesied Donald Trump’s election.
  • Rena Lindevaldsen, a law professor at Liberty University
  • Jim Garlow, a pastor and prominent court evangelical who recently co-authored a book with David Barton.
  • Cythnia Dunbar, a member of the Republican National Committee who is probably best known for trying to bring Christian nationalist ideas into American history books in Texas.  (She also claimed that Barack Obama, if elected POTUS, would work with terrorists to attack the United States within his first 6 months in office).
  • William Federer, a Christian nationalist known for collecting quotes about the founding fathers

I discuss Dobson, Strang, and Wallnau in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

This letter may be more revealing for the people who DID NOT sign it, including Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, Franklin Graham, Paula White, Johnnie Moore,  Eric Metaxas, and other court evangelicals.

A Court Evangelical Weighs-In on Thanksgiving in the Age of Trump

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I will just let this one stand alone.  You can all have it.

Here is a taste of court evangelical Paula White’s op-ed at Florida Daily:

Thanksgiving Day is a unique tradition when America sets aside one day in the year to stop our busy lives, reflect on our blessings, and give thanks to God as one nation and one people.

This year, especially, we have strong reminders of how blessed we are by God as a nation, and that He sometimes uses the unlikeliest of people to accomplish the greatest of things.

After all, it’s hard not to appreciate everything that’s going right for our country this year. And, while you might not be where you want to be this holiday season, you’re probably in a much better situation than you used to be. That meaningful difference is thanks to the leadership of President Trump, who is himself guided largely by faith.

In fact, we can all learn a valuable lesson from President Trump about what a genuinely giving spirit looks like.

I’ll never forget the time I visited then-businessman Donald Trump in New York City with a friend of mine in ministry. After hearing about the work she was doing to minister to street prostitutes and abused women, Mr. Trump immediately called out to his assistant to retrieve his checkbook and cut a check, making a $10,000 donation to my friend’s organization.

That’s just one example of a phenomenon I witnessed time after time in my interactions with Donald Trump: his willingness to share some of his significant wealth on behalf of worthy causes without seeking recognition or adulation.

Despite perceptions and the caricature that the media use to portray him, that same humble outlook has characterized President Trump’s approach to his duties in the Oval Office.

Read the entire piece here.

Post-Election Spin From the Court Evangelicals

Here is what the court evangelicals are saying today:

I agree here with Jack Graham. Yes, life and liberty were on the ballot yesterday. Life in the womb and after the baby is born. Liberty for all men and women:

Robett Jeffress makes a prediction:

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council made a statement.  He thinks that GOP victories last night were largely because of abortion.  His statement also reveals that he has no interest in finding any common ground with his opponents:  “We will stand with President Trump and Majority Leader McConnell in working to repel the Pelosi agenda that is at odds with the values that made America a great nation.”  At least Tony Perkins is honest.

Here is Samuel Rodriguez:

I have no idea what Eric Metaxas and Jerry Falwell Jr. are saying.  They both blocked me.

Was there a court evangelical viewing party?

The Court Evangelicals Give Donald Trump a Bible

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Court evangelicals Franklin Graham and Paula White at last night’s White House dinner for evangelicals

Donald Trump apparently has more Bibles than he knows what to do with.  He keeps them “at a certain place. A very nice place.”

Last night he added to his collection.

100 evangelical leaders who were gathered at the White House for a dinner presented a Bible to the president.  They all signed it.  The presentation was made by court evangelical and prosperity preacher Paula White.  Here is a transcript:

Bible court evangelicals

The inscription reads:

“First Lady and President, you are in our prayers always.  Thank you for your courageous and bold stand for religious liberty, and for your timeless service to all Americans.  We appreciate the price that you have paid to walk in the high calling.  History will record the greatness that you have brought for generations.”

Following the reading of the inscription, the audience was asked to say “Amen!”

The standards the Bible sets for greatness are very different, and in most cases diametrically opposed, to the kind of “greatness” that the court evangelicals celebrate in their flattery of Trump.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:43-45).  The Gospel of Matthew records a moment in the life of Jesus when his disciples came to him asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus called a child to come in their midst and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” (Mt 18:1-5).

The fact that 100 evangelical leaders affirmed the message about greatness inscribed in the Bible presented to Trump, and then gave that inscription a hearty “Amen,” speaks volumes about the current state of American evangelicalism.

Paula White Responds to Critics of Her Recent Comments on Immigration

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Last week we did a post on Paula White’s defense of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.  Get up to speed here.

Now White has turned to the Christian Post to take on her critics.

Here is a taste:

During the interview I made an off-handed comment that although Jesus was a refugee as a baby, he didn’t break the immigration laws of his time, or else he wouldn’t be sinless or our messiah. Within a few days I was surprised to see my name all over the media as they excoriated a comment made by “Trump’s spiritual advisor.” On CNN’s Anderson 360, a Catholic priest said my comments were “appalling” and “reprehensible” and that he didn’t know what Gospel I was reading.

I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s character, but it certainly seemed like those reporting on the story were less offended by what I said as they were excited to criticize someone associated with the Trump administration. They weren’t just inferring I lacked compassion, they were calling me dumb, and by extension, all evangelicals who support the president.

As a blonde female, and as a pastor, this isn’t the first time someone has called me stupid. Sadly, it comes with the territory. And while the Bible may say turn the other cheek, it does not say allow bullies to treat you like a punching bag. The truth matters too much and, in this instance, the lives of thousands of immigrant children and their families are impacted by what our nation decides to do regarding our immigration policy.

Read the rest here.   White thinks that the only reason people criticized her is because they want to attack a supporter of Donald Trump.  In other words, she thinks this is all about politics.  Maybe she is right.  But many of us criticize Trump-loving court evangelicals because they use really bad theology to prop-up the president.

Court Evangelical Paula White is the Latest to Use the Bible to Defend Trump’s Immigration Policies

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Court evangelical Paula White, the prosperity preacher who claims to have led Donald Trump to Christ, is now using the Bible to defend the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border.

Tara Isabella Burton is all over this story.  Here is a taste of her piece at VOX:

In recent weeks and months, a number of prominent evangelical leaders associated with President Donald Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory council, as well as members of Trump’s administration, have used Biblical precedent to defend Trump’s policy of family separation at the US-Mexico border.

Few, however, have been as brazen as Paula White, the prosperity gospel preacher (and Trump’s right-hand woman) who told the right-leaning faith-based Christian Broadcasting Network that Jesus could not have broken any immigration laws during his family’s flight to Egypt because Jesus, who was without sin, could not therefore have broken the law.

White spent the interview defending Trump on his policy of family separation, calling the camps in which migrant children are being detained “amazing.” She argued for the Biblical precedent of family separation. “I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee,’” White told the network. She added, “Yes, [Jesus] did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.”

White is referring to a part of the Biblical narrative recounted in the gospel of Matthew, as well as some books of Biblical Apocrypha. According to tradition, the King of Judea at the time of Jesus’s birth, Herod — fearful of a premonition that another “king of the Jews” has been born — slaughters all new infant boys in the area. Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus find refuge from Herod’s wrath in Egypt, returning only after Herod’s death.

Read the entire piece here.

Two quick thoughts:

First, as Burton notes, Jesus was crucified for political insurrection.  Last time I checked that involves breaking the law.

Second, White says that the detention centers are “amazing.”  She also said that the kids get “three square meals, psychiatric care, clinician, medical care, chapel, events, schooling, language, and love.”  I know the comparison is not exact or perfect, but when I read these words I thought about what Southern evangelical slaveholders in the early 19th century said about their slaves when slavery met with criticism from Northern abolitionists.   Here is a passage from George Fitzhugh‘s 1857 defense of slavery:

The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with som muh of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments.

I will stop there and let someone else dissect the rest of these absurd Paula White remarks.  Want to learn more about White?  Check out chapter 4 of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Unless of Course You are Stopped at the Border and Your Children are Confiscated…

Gotta love the court evangelicals!  😦

 

Some Court Evangelicals Break Ranks on Trump’s Immigration Policy

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The Trump administration is separating children from parents at the Mexican border.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that Romans 13 justifies the policy, but court evangelical Franklin Graham calls the policy “disgraceful.”  Another court evangelical, Samuel Rodriguez, also opposes the policy.  Learn more from this piece at CBN news.

I am now waiting for the following evangelical leaders to stand-up to Donald Trump’s immigration policy:

Robert Jeffress has said nothing.  Yet he has wished Trump a Happy Birthday and thanked him for being such a great POTUS:

Jerry Falwell Jr. has said nothing.  If he tweeted something today I can’t see it.  He blocked me a long time ago.

Paula White has said nothing.  But she is tweeting:

Eric Metaxas:  I don’t know what he is saying on this issue.  I am blocked.

Johnnie Moore:  He seems more focused on Trump’s meeting with North Korea”

Mark Burns is being a good court evangelical:

James Dobson, the champion of “family values” has an interesting tweet today:

Ronnie Floyd seems to be running a prayer sweepstakes:

Richard Land: Silent

Greg Laurie is focused on a big rally in Dallas and Trump’s meeting with the North Koreans:

Tony Perkins, another champion of family values, has said nothing about the fact that Trump is ripping families apart at the border. Do “family values” only apply to white families? Middle-class families?

But he does love Trump: