In an exclusive interview with The Christian Post, Pastor Paula White talks about Donald Trump's faith and why she supports him for president. She also responds directly to the many Christians who either don't support Trump or are still unsure of who to vote for this November.
James Dobson recently reported he had heard that Paula White led Donald Trump to Christ, and Trump is now a "baby Christian." CP asked White about that, as well as other questions about Trump's faith. White also responded to criticisms that she is a proponent of the prosperity gospel.
White, senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, was one of Trump's early supporters. In September 2015, she was one of about 40 religious leaders who met with Trump for a private prayer service at Trump Tower in New York. Last month, she attended Trump's meeting with over 900 evangelical leaders and was appointed to Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has struggled with issues related to his claim that he is a Christian. He declined to name his favorite Bible verse. Later, he cited a verse that's not in the Bible as his favorite while claiming no one knows the Bible better than him. He said he never asked for forgiveness, a necessary step to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, because he hasn't done anything that needed to be forgiven. He claims to be a Presbyterian and a member of Marble Collegiate Church, but Marble Collegiate is not Presbyterian and has no record of him being a member. And, at a Liberty University speech, he referred to 2 Corinthians as "two Corinthians" and then blamed Tony Perkins for giving him the scripture and writing it as "2 Corinthians."
Trump also has taken positions considered anathema by his Christian critics. He advocates the use of miliary force that might result in the killing of family members of terrorists, including innocent civilians and children, in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. He has made supportive statements about Planned Parenthood. And, he has made many statements considered anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim and anti-woman.
After Trump's August 2015 meeting with White and other religious leaders, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, described the meeting as outreach to heretics.
"The people that Trump has so far identified as his evangelical outreach are mostly prosperity gospel types, which are considered by mainstream evangelicals to be heretics," he told Politico at the time.
White responds to many of these criticisms in this interview.
Here is the full, lightly edited, transcript of that email interview:
CP: Do you know Mr. Trump's favorite scripture?
White: For nearly fifteen years, I've had countless conversations with Donald Trump about the Bible. In fact, I met him because he watches Christian television and he was moved by one of my sermons: The Value of Vision.
After watching my television show, he tracked me down. He literally called me out of the blue, and I was amazed by how he remembered my sermon, almost word-for-word.
Often when I was in the city, I would just swing by his office and we would talk. We talked about a wide variety of topics that ranged from faith to family to world events.
Prior to the last presidential cycle, I distinctly remember a time he asked me to bring some friends to the Trump Tower to pray with him. He was trying to decide whether God was leading him to run for president and he wanted us to spend some time with him in prayer over that question. At the end of that informal prayer meeting, he decided it wasn't the right time.
My observation and experience is that faith has been instrumental in his life. Like many Christians, his understanding of the Bible has grown and is growing. So, while I can't give you a specific chapter and verse, I know of his love for the Word of God.
CP: Are you the pastor many believe led Mr. Trump to Jesus Christ?
White: In my ministry, I've been fortunate to privately advise many national leaders, celebrities and people of unusual influence. I don't talk about those conversations and relationships because they are built on trust and I wouldn't even be talking about this one had the press not chosen to politicize it.
I can tell you with confidence that I have heard Mr. Trump verbally acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins through prayer, and I absolutely believe he is a Christian who is growing like the rest of us. I know that from many personal conversations.
CP: Given that it is to his political advantage to declare himself a Christian how can Christians know for sure that Donald Trump is a Christian?
White: Mr. Trump believes that his faith is primarily personal and private. He has spoken about it publicly on and off through the years when it was appropriate. However, he is not a preacher or a theologian. He's a Christian in the way that all Christians are, a work in progress.
In my entire ministry, I've just chosen to take people at their word. If the man hanging on the cross next to Jesus can profess his faith so quickly, just before his death, and be welcomed into Kingdom then surely Christians ought to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt.
Thank God that Jesus isn't as judgmental with us as we are with so many of those He loves and died for.
Mother Teresa said; "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
Unfortunately, too many Christians have spent way too much time judging Mr. Trump and his relationship with Christ. God is the only one who knows the heart of a man and it is above our pay grade to be his judge.
By the way, I believe that if he was intentionally covering up his faith in this election then someone would accuse him of doing that for his political advantage. It's just the way our cynical culture is these days.
CP: Do you think Mr. Trump supports Planned Parenthood? He has said Planned Parenthood "does good work."
White: Mr. Trump is totally and entirely pro-life. He has acknowledged again and again his commitment to appoint pro-life Supreme Court Justices, and he's written an op-ed about his pro-life position. He's even publicly released the list of justices he would appoint. People have a clear choice this election: a pro-life Donald Trump or a pro-choice Hillary Clinton.