- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A memoir by President Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White-Cain has drawn praise and derision from evangelicals, revealing division within Mr. Trump’s base over the credibility of his Christian mentor.

Ms. White-Cain’s “Something Greater” traces her conversion at 18 to her life as a Florida megachurch televangelist. It also details her first phone call with Mr. Trump and her mentorship, which culminated with her official invocation at the president’s inauguration.

Her memoir debuted at No. 5 on Amazon’s Christian inspirational bestseller list. High-profile fans, including Mr. Trump, have brought in powerful endorsements from the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, and megachurch pastors/authors T.D. Jakes and Greg Laurie.

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“@Paula_White has led an interesting life and now serves as a trusted advisor to @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Graham tweeted to his 2 million followers. “She has a new book coming out tomorrow that you might want to check out!”

“An amazing read. Honest & inspiring. I’ve read it and I highly recommend this terrific book!,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, wrote on Twitter last week.

Ms. White’s book has received praise from other evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University, who called Ms. White “our friend” and said her life “is an encouragement to so many.”

Christian writer Greg Laurie also noted while he was “not sure what to think” when he met Ms. White, acknowledging differing theological backgrounds, he found her “to be gracious and humble” and encouraged followers to pick up her book. 

But negative reaction to Ms. White-Cain’s memoir has emerged almost as fast as the positive.

“In another time, these long-respected gospel preachers and conservative leaders would never have risked reputation and religious conviction to promote her,” Costi W. Hinn, an Arizona pastor and nephew of prosperity gospel supporter Benny Hinn, wrote in Religion News Service.

In a book review for Christianity Today, writer David Robertson called “Something Greater” “revealing, disturbing and depressing.”

“[The book] demonstrates why so much of the US evangelical church is in deep trouble,” wrote Mr. Robertson, faulting Ms. White-Cain for navel-gazing about her extravagant clothing purchases and purporting to hold a doctorate in theology without any formal training.

Mr. Graham later deleted his tweet of support.

Ms. White-Cain has responded to her critics during her book tour.

“Just because some people are so blind they can’t see your value — it doesn’t change the worth of you!” she tweeted Monday.

Ms. White-Cain became a lightning rod as the most visible Christian pastor to embrace Mr. Trump. Criticism has mounted over her presumed association with prosperity gospel theology, which purports that financial well-being is evidence of the will of God, even though she has disavowed any ties to the belief system.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission with the Southern Baptist Convention, has called Ms. White-Cain a “charlatan” and “heretic.”

Others have taken Ms. White-Cain to task for her unapologetic conservative politics and say she whitewashes Mr. Trump’s Christian bona fides.

In a weekend interview with Fox News, Ms. White-Cain defended her relationship with Mr. Trump, whose pugilistic style has undercut his public statements of his Christian faith.

“No. 1, he’s a New Yorker, a strong businessman,” said Ms. White-Cain. “He’s a strong man, no doubt about that, but I also see the compassion, the humanity, the care, the strength in maybe a different way than many other people see it.”

Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Dartmouth College, said there is no precedent for the kind of relationship Ms. White-Cain maintains with Mr. Trump.

“I suspect that voting bloc will remain loyal,” Mr. Balmer said in an email, suggesting the term “evangelical” has lost its meaning beyond a political category. “[B]ut I have no sense of what criteria the leaders employ to make such determinations. Obviously, it’s not morality or fidelity to biblical precepts.”

Nearly three-fourths of white evangelicals support Mr. Trump, according to a September NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Ms. White-Cain is not a mainstream evangelical; she belongs to a Pentecostal sect called Word of Faith. Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California, in 2017 characterized her faith as not “another branch of Pentecostalism” but another religion entirely.

As head of the president’s evangelical advisory board, Ms. White-Cain continues to support Mr. Trump. At a Trump reelection rally in Orlando in June, she prayed on stage against “demonic networks” opposing the president.

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