Within a year of the election, Donald Trump has added a controversial Protestant minister to the White House’s office of religious affairs who defends the so-called prosperity gospel, according to which God wants the financial prosperity of good Christians who pay when they owe their tithe.
Pastor Paula White, a 53-year-old Florida telepreacher, has joined the U.S. government as a liaison with religious groups. White has built, throughout her life, a network of churches maintained with donations from parishioners, donations from which she has also benefited. That’s the way those Protestant megachurches operate, where it’s often preached that someone who is generous with tithes will receive God’s blessing in the form of millions.
The pastor lives in a mansion in Tampa with an estimated value of 2.2 million. Already when Trump was sworn in in 2017, it was White who prayed for the president on Capitol Hill before cameras around the world. Since then, she has been invited to numerous meetings with religious leaders at the White House and has participated in dozens of meetings, advising the president on the evangelical vote. White has been instrumental in changing Trump’s mind, as his increasingly clear opposition to abortion. The prosperity gospel is part of Pentecostalism, a branch of Protestantism that is no stranger to controversy, not only for its defense that donations to pastors will be rewarded with a material wealth that God wants for his faithful.
White and Trump met in 2002 and have been friends ever since. In 2014, White’s then-run church, Without Walls, declared a suspension of payments for inability to meet a debt of more than 25 million. Then the pastor opened another, City of Destiny, from which she stepped down in May to dedicate herself to opening a university and a network of 3,000 new temples.
This is not the first time that an American president has placed himself in the hands of a religious as a spiritual advisor (it is the first time that the pastor is a woman). Republicans Ike Eisenhower and Richard Nixon routinely sought advice from the celebrated Reverend Billy Graham. Democrat Barack Obama did the same with telepreacher Rick Warren.