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.
CP: Can you share a story about Mr. Trump that most people don't yet know that reflects his character?
White: I wish that everyone could have the privilege of meeting Donald Trump one on one. They would find him to be so different from the caricature being painted of him in the press.
The Trump I know is extremely giving, charitable and doesn't seek the credit for the numerous acts of kindness he does. I wish everyone could know the Trump whose children praise him and see their personal interaction as a family. I wish everyone could know the Trump who prays and asks for prayer or the Trump who came from a strong spiritual heritage or the Trump who I once watched go far out of his way to an entry level worker who was raking a sand trap on one of his properties just to thank him, acknowledge his work and to shake his hand. He's a good man, and there are far more stories than I have time to tell.
CP: Why should Christians trust Mr. Trump?
White: Let me tell you a story that no one knows. Right after the gathering in New York with 1,000 evangelicals, Mr. Trump called me.
He said, "Paula, they know I will fight for them, right?"
Some people embrace this idea that we have to trust him because he's better than the alternative. Well, I don't believe that's true. I think we CAN legitimately trust him.
Mr. Trump has been building relationships with our community for years, far before he was running for president. He attended Billy Graham's 90th birthday party. He spoke at Liberty University first many years ago. He not only called me up after watching my program on Christian television, he also showed up at a rally at Madison Square Garden where Dr. David Jeremiah was ministering. He came and sat on the front row, for the entire service. He has attended many such services from the smallest of churches to the largest of crusades.
I don't know how to convince someone to trust anybody in these cynical times, but it would be appropriate to ask those who joined me in meeting with him at Trump Tower on June 21. They all left saying they trust him, and these are all leaders in the Evangelical community who are admired and trusted themselves.
CP: Why do you support Donald Trump for president?
White: I know Donald Trump. I know the strong leader he is. I know how capable of a businessman he is. I know how compassionate he is. I know how smart he is. I know how he defends our values and the people whom he loves. I know how much he loves this country. I know how much he loves his children and how they admire and respect him.
He didn't have to run for President. He did it because he loves America and he wants our future to be bright, and he's willing to fight for that. He's willing to sacrifice for it too. Despite constant attacks in the press and constant attempts to malign his character, countless phrases being taken out of context, and the loss of so much …. he has decided it's worth it.
Just this week, my son and daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful little girl. We wept while we stood there and looked into the innocent eyes of that amazing little child, but I have to tell you … that little girl might not know an America as safe, prosperous and hopeful if something doesn't drastically change.
The next president will appoint between two and four Supreme Court justices, and that decision will preserve our country's values or it will fundamentally change America. This election is consequential. We need a strong leader. I believe I can trust my grandchild's future to the leadership of the man I know, Donald Trump.
CP: If Mr. Trump is elected in November, is your name on the short list of pastors from which one will be selected to give the presidential inauguration prayer in January 2017?
White: I don't know and, frankly, I don't care. The prayers I'm more interested in are prayers that are private, not public.
CP: You've been described as a "prosperity gospel preacher." Your thoughts?
White: I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. I believe Jesus is the son of God who died for the sins of the entire world. I believe Jesus rose again on the third day. I believe in the virgin birth and the second coming. I preach salvation by grace through faith alone. I preach for the repentance of sin.
I do not believe in the "prosperity Gospel" as I've been accused of believing it. I do believe that all good things come from God, and I also believe that God teaches us so much through our suffering.
Listen to 100 of my sermons, and 80 or 90 of them will be about overcoming our struggles and the lessons God teaches us in valleys he allows us to enter. My life has not been an easy one, from my childhood, and at times, in my adulthood.
I'm 50 now, and a grandmother, so there are, of course, things my 50 year old self wouldn't have done at 25. Thankfully, God gives us so much grace and allows us to learn so much through our trials. He's also allowed me to bring millions of people along through my personal experiences, trials and, sometimes, pain.
I have been accused of so many things that are so untrue. Some of those accusations persist despite their being entirely false, but I'll just continue preaching the Gospel.
It all reminds me of an adage that Jerry Falwell, whom I had the privilege of joining in a private meeting of 20 Christian leaders in Mitt Romney's home a few years ago, used to say: "never defend yourself, your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it."
You know what? It's all worth it if some struggling person looks at my story and finds hope in Jesus Christ to go on another day. I'll take all the friendly fire required to lead one more person to Jesus. We've received grace, and I believe we ought to give much grace.