In response to questions about his report that Donald Trump had recently “accept[ed] a relationship with Christ,” James Dobson issued a further statement including the following:
“I . . . hear that Paula White has known Trump for years and that she personally led him to Christ. Do I know that for sure? No. Do I know the details of that alleged conversion? I can’t say that I do.”
Here we learn that Dobson apparently heard from another person, not White herself, that it was Paula White who allegedly led Trump to Christ. Dobson is not sure that this actually happened, and he doesn’t know the details. The whole story that Trump has recently converted thus becomes even cloudier and more doubtful.
And what of Paula White? What effect does her alleged participation have on the credibility of the claim of Trump’s conversion? Her story is a sad one. She was born Paula Furr in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1966. When she was five her mother took her and left her father. Thereafter, her father committed suicide, and her mother became an alcoholic. By 1984 eighteen-year-old Paula lived with her mother and stepfather in Maryland. In that year she bore a child out of wedlock and then married the child’s father, a young man who played in a rock group. That same year she also professed faith in Christ and, as she later explained, she believed God had spoken to her in a vision calling her to preach.
Paula and her husband attended a charismatic church where in 1987, according to other parishioners, Paula became romantically involved with associate pastor Randy White, who was married and the father of three. In 1989 Paula and Randy divorced their spouses and the following year married each other. They moved to Tampa and founded what became Without Walls International Church. By 2004 it claimed a congregation of 20,000, making it the biggest megachurch in the Tampa Bay area. Paula came to have her own TV program, “Paula White Today,” which brought her nationwide fame in some circles.
In 2007 Paula and Randy divorced. Paula continues to be popular in some parts of the American church scene. She heads Paula White Ministries, which produces her ongoing “Paula White Today” program. Her message is that of the Prosperity Gospel, and in recent years some have complained that it is more and more about prosperity and less and less about the Gospel, as her message has become more secular. In 2012 she became senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, and in 2015 she married rock guitarist Jonathan Cain of the group Journey. It was also Cain’s third marriage.
Paula White has a history with Donald Trump. They’ve been friends for fifteen years. Trump saw her on television and contacted her. White claims she discovered that Trump “loved God” and that he was “a caring man,” with great compassion and integrity, who was ready to write fat checks to her friends in ministry. In 2006, while trying to decide on a gift for Trump’s sixtieth birthday, White says she found out that what he really wanted was a Bible signed by Billy Graham. So she got a Bible, and Graham signed it and, according to White, added a “prophetic word.” According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the “prophetic word” was “God bless you always. Billy Graham.”
In 2007 White purchased a condominium in Trump Tower valued at $3.5 million. Trump appeared on her television program, referred to her as his personal pastor, blurbed one of her books, and regularly flew her to Atlantic City for private Bible studies together with athletes and celebrities.
When the current presidential campaign started, White organized a special meeting with Trump and thirty or forty other, mostly Prosperity Gospel, preachers and televangelists. They met in Trump Tower last September. As they laid hands on Trump, White prayed, “Father, we just secure him right now by the blood of Jesus. 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.” At rallies during the course of the campaign, White has spoken on Trump’s behalf, assuring audiences of Trump’s high character and solid Christian faith.
So what are we to make of Dobson’s report that he heard that Trump recently “accept[ed] a relationship with Christ”? In light of what we now know, it seems likely that Dobson heard a typically garbled rumor that White had recently led Trump to Christ. The reality behind that rumor seems to have been White’s repeated claims that Trump has in fact been a Christian for years. Those claims simply are not credible, both because of White’s own lack of credibility and because Trump’s manner of life flatly contradicts any claim that he could be a Christian. The man who runs casinos and strip clubs, who commits adultery and boasts of it, who lies habitually and slanders not only his fellow candidates but also their families, is not a Christian.
“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:5-6