Just two weeks before it was revealed that President Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White had officially joined the White House staff, White’s most recent book became the latest evangelical offering to portray Trump’s election as part of a divine plan.
White is a prosperity gospel preacher who tells supporters that they can access divine blessings by sending money to her ministry. Her new memoir, “Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials,” seems designed to humanize White by emphasizing the challenges she has faced in her life and to portray herself and her relationship with Trump as part of God’s plan to help the U.S. “live out its holy calling on the earth.” The timing of the book’s release, a year before the 2020 election, is certainly no coincidence.
White writes that she has always had a longing for God to do something big with her life: “A great big AWE came when Trump became president. But the awe wasn’t in the surprise of his victory but rather in the amazement of my place in it to be positioned to serve all humanity and write history by acts of faith. As I’ve said, over and over I’d hear, ‘You were raised up for such a time as this.’”
“Something Greater” is divided into thematic chapters, so it jumps around chronologically; White’s tendency to write in present tense about past events means that you may find yourself pausing over a sentence to figure out whether she’s describing an event in the past or her current thinking and interpretation of it. Given how associated White has become with Trump, the book contains some surprising tidbits: her broadcasting start on BET; a 2006 award from the Rainbow Coalition; her participation in Maya Angelou’s 80th birthday celebration.
White describes her life as an “amazing love story between me and God.” She says God told her in a vision when she was a teenager that her mission was to preach the gospel. But her commitment to following God’s calling did not insulate her from hard times. She describes a difficult childhood that took a turn for the worse when her rich but irresponsible father killed himself and his parents cut her mother off financially. She says she was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a babysitter and her boyfriend and struggled for years with eating disorders. As an adult she went through two divorces—one a high-profile break with evangelist Randy White—as well as the death of a young adult daughter to cancer.
White says she overcame those difficulties by relying on God and by becoming a driven, hard-working person. “My life story,” White writes, “is about how a young Mississippi girl became a wounded woman,” and “how those wounds helped her become a warrior.”
The latter part of the book focuses largely on White’s relationship with Trump, who she met 14 years before he was elected president when he asked to meet her after having seen her television show. “I feel God saying that Trump is ‘a spiritual assignment for me,’” she writes, “that I am to pray over him daily and show him God.”
“I won’t want your money; I have enough of my own,” she says she told him. “And I don’t want your fame, because I have more than enough of that, too. Mr. Trump: I want your soul.”
White clearly wants her readers to see Trump in a new light, in the same way she sought to do when she introduced him to evangelical pastors 30 or 40 at a time after he decided to run for president.
“After spending time around Donald Trump I find myself inspired by his vision, thought process, keen insight, and overall discipline,” she writes. “He’s a brilliant thinker who tends to walk several steps ahead of the masses.”
She had Trump on her TV show to talk about his book on getting rich, and she says he wrote to her that after the appearance the book went to No. 1. But White writes that God used her relationship with Trump to her benefit as well as his. “As much as I know God has sent me into Donald Trump’s life to pray for him and his family and be a person who wants nothing from him but to show him God, I am beginning to realize that he is being used in my life to help restore my confidence after some pretty shaky years.”
More concretely, God used Trump to help her find her New York home—in a Trump building of course—and she writes that when he showed her a corner unit on Park Avenue, she knew she belonged there “as if I’m taking a step that has already been ordered by God.” To seal the deal, she says, God enabled her to afford the multimillion-dollar price tag by connecting her with a motivational speaking outfit that paid her a pile of money. (A staff report written as part of a Senate Finance Committee inquiry into several ministries in 2007 and 2008 wrote that an insider familiar with the finances of White’s church at the time stated that church funds were used to pay a “housing allowance” on the property.)
White writes that when Trump considered jumping into the presidential race in 2011, she and about 30 pastors prayed for hours to get God’s guidance. She says she told Trump that she didn’t think the timing was right. But he kept thinking about it and by 2014 had made up his mind. He called her to let her know, “I’m going to go for this.” White says she leapt into action:
Now I know our prayers need to intensify. He tells me he would love to meet with pastors and asks if I can be in charge of reaching out to the evangelicals. In many ways, we both pretty much assume this, since back in 2011 he had asked me to gather some pastors together to pray over him. Basically, he wants me to be the bridge between him and the evangelicals in our country. “I’d be honored, Mr. Trump.”
I am being requested to come all the way in by more than Mr. Trump but by God Himself. I suddenly realize this is very real. This is happening. This is all part of the bigger assignment, Paula. As soon as Trump asks me to gather together religious leaders for him to talk to, I know I need to implement a plan. I seek God for a strategy.
White describes how she went about building a board that drew from Pentecostal and Charismatic and evangelical communities. She set up a series of meetings with Trump, a process that led to the creation of his campaign’s evangelical advisory team, which included, among others, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Samuel Rodriguez, Harry Jackson, James Robison, Robert Jeffress, Kenneth Copeland, and Michele Bachmann. Many of these figures continue to be Trump’s most ardent supporters.
White takes readers into a September 2015 meeting with about 40 evangelical leaders in Trump’s New York City office when Trump was officially a candidate:
As Trump stands in the center of us holding his Bible, I pray our final prayer. With one hand on his arm and the other on his chest, I reverently seek God as I lift my friend up to Him. “Father, we just secure him right now by the blood of Jesus,” I declare. “We thank You that no weapon formed against him will be able to prosper. And any tongue that rises against him will be condemned according to the Word of God. Even as we lay hands on him right now, let Your hand be laid upon him. Let him have a greater encounter with You. A greater encounter with the Spirit of God. That according to Ephesians 1:17 and 18, the eyes of your heart may enlighten his, and that he will see the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in the saints. That any veil would be removed and his eyes would be opened to see the glory and the goodness of God. All of his days let him live well. I secure him. I secure his children. I secure his family. I secure his calling and his mantle. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”
White writes about serving as a messenger between God and Donald Trump during the Republican convention when she realized, “God wants to speak to Donald.” Just before Trump left his hotel to make his address, she writes, she was asked to go to his room and pray for him. “I asked God to anoint Donald and give him strength and clarity when speaking to the American public.”
This is what she was feeling during the convention:
We believe in faith that it’s time for darkness to be dispelled. This is what I say in my prayer earlier this week. It’s time for this nation to live out its holy calling on the earth. We believe in faith and that it’s time for us to become the light that this world desperately needs.
Just before the election she reassured Trump that the evangelicals would turn out for him. “I feel the same way I felt from day one,” she writes. “Donald Trump is going to be our president. This isn’t arrogance; it’s confidence, and it’s one that comes from God.”
White prayed at Trump’s inauguration and is often at his side when he is making an announcement that shows his willingness to turn the religious right’s agenda into federal policy. She has told viewer of Jim Bakker’s TV show that opposition to Trump is opposition to God. At an election rally in Orlando in June, her prayer portrayed Trump’s opponents as evil, wicked, and demonic. And she is mobilizing religious right leaders to denounce the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.
As Right Wing Watch reported, White used Jewish holy days such as Passover and Yom Kippur this year to promise people access to special divine blessings in return for sending her money. White’s role at Trump’s inauguration drew a little bit of grousing from evangelicals who find her prosperity gospel heretical, but that has quieted down since Trump put her at the center of his administration’s evangelical outreach. Religious right leaders like Ralph Reed and conservative media like Fox & Friends have promoted “Something Greater.”
White’s book covers her street-level evangelizing and urban ministries as well as her role as a sort of celebrity pastor to the stars, including professional athletes, musician Kid Rock, and the Jackson family. She says it was her second husband Randy who wanted to keep moving up to bigger mansions, but she defends getting a private plane to jet to hundreds of speaking engagements, and she allows someone else (unnamed) to offer a justification for the life of money and fame:
“You couldn’t reach some of the people you reach if you didn’t have all of that. The name and the status. There are some people who wouldn’t pay attention to you. God must trust some with money and fame because there are people He wants to reach. So I finally get it. Sometimes God will bless people and put them in the same world as others so they can be impactful.”
About six months ago, White handed the reins of her Florida megachurch to her son, saying that she was going to take on an “apostolic” role and create a network of 3,000 churches. Presumably those plans are on hold now that she has officially joined the White House staff and will undoubtedly be focused on encouraging religious right leaders to mobilize their followers to give Trump a second term in the White House.