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.
Mrs. 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)
In an interview with Shannon Bream on Fox News on Monday night, Mrs. White-Cain responded to critics who call her a heretic by saying she aligns herself with orthodox biblical teachings. She denied she preaches a “you give to get” prosperity gospel, but videos of her preaching reveal otherwise. In addition, hers is a marriage between the state — at least a state headed by Mr. Trump — and a kingdom Jesus said is “not of this world.”
Here are some direct quotes from videos readily attainable online from her preaching and TV appearances. Judge for yourself.
“Wherever I go, God rules. When I walk on White House grounds, God walks on White House grounds. I have every right and authority to declare the White House holy ground, because I was standing there and where I stand is holy.”
Then there’s a line some might consider idolatrous: “To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God.”
As for not preaching a prosperity gospel, Mrs. White-Cain has said: “there is a department of treasury in Heaven, which says God is watching over everything you do and you are storing up eternal treasure that will go so far beyond what we can even imagine … you need to send in $3,500; you need to send in $35,000; you need to send in that $100,000 check.” She claimed if you don’t send the money, your “dream will die; your call will die.” That sounds to me like a spiritual quid pro quo.
Mrs. White-Cain has owned a private jet (Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and walked most places), a $2.6 million home and a $3.5 million condo in Trump Tower. The Son of Man, scripture says, had no place to lay his head.
Mrs. White-Cain is correct on some issues of concern to evangelicals, from Mr. Trump’s naming of conservative U.S. Supreme Court and lower court judges, to religious freedom matters, but her seeming worship of President Trump far exceeds biblical norms, and her prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all, fits the definition of heresy: “Opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.”
The great danger for the image and what should be the first priority of those who are part of the evangelical community is that they will be seen as worshipping a lesser and even false god than the one they are supposed to be worshipping and serving.
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).