The newest White House staffer? Televangelist Paula White: pastor to the president, rumored to be God’s favorite spokesperson and now an adviser on the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. We’d call it “Keeping the Flock in the Fold.”
Indeed, one of the more surprising features of the lubricious Trump presidency is his remarkable capacity to slither away from one squalid scandal after another with barely a blip in favorability ratings, at least within his base, particularly among those identifying as white evangelical Christians.
Past political leaders have had to resign from office, been the subject of unrelenting condemnation by pastors of the religious right, had their reputations badly stained or at minimum taken a strong hit in polls over the sorts of affairs, accusations and approbations that for Donald are just another day at the office. Like a greased pig wiggling out of the hands of a hungry farmer, Trump squeals and squeaks his way out of the formerly firm fingers of moral judgment.
Theories abound. Simple forgiveness? A trait of the faith, yes, but in scarce supply for others in similar positions of power, notably Barack “Hussein” Obama and Hillary “Killary” Clinton. Perhaps evangelicals deem his porn-star copulating a means to justify their court-packing ends? Yet even other Republican leaders are not extended this same courtesy.
Researchers at England’s Cambridge University raise an interesting possibility: his refusal to apologize. Ever. For anything. Their research shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, many adults view apologies from public figures as a sign of weakness, neutral at best, and for many likely to increase a desire to see punishment exacted. Thus, Trump’s stream of non-apologies may be read by our brains as “Weaklings say ‘sorry,’ kings say ‘so what?’”
We return now to Paula White, another of Trump’s “straight from central casting” picks. She not only aligns with Trump’s views of how his crew should look, she preaches that God wants to make you rich. A match made in heaven. Put another way, if God blesses his beloveds with wealth, then a billionaire surely cannot be on the highway to hell. In short, White raises Trump up where he sags, spiritually and otherwise.
For the uninitiated, her famous “prosperity gospel” transforms the old idea of bread cast upon the water coming back to you into “cast your bread in Paula’s direction and God will pay you back, with interest.” A guarantee to enrich at least 50 percent of these donor transactions provides odds that even a failed casino operator can recognize as tempting.
If only Jesus had known how valuable money was to such a venture, surely he would not have picked Judas from among the twelve disciples to serve as treasurer. Nor wasted so much time blessing, feeding and talking about the poor.
With last week’s stinging election losses in Kentucky and Virginia, and Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff darkening his days with a spell of impeachment, there could be no better time for Trump to do what he believes he must to ensure God is on his side (which may explain White’s public prayer last week condemning the president’s opponents, accusing them of being aligned with evil spirits and using sorcery, and vowing that those contesting him “would be exposed and dealt with and overturned in Jesus’ name”).
Having ourselves grown up conservative Christians, we are haunted by a much different interpretation, one drawing upon the 13th chapter of the biblical book of Revelation. We were taught that someday a political leader would arise, appropriately identified as the “Antichrist” for being all things Jesus wasn’t. You know, things like lustful, boastful, greedy and full of pride. He would be aided in tricking the world into nonetheless thinking he was divine by a “False Prophet.” Then at some point he would suffer a serious wound to the head, yet survive, causing all the world to worship him.
Trump as Antichrist? Paula White as False Prophet? And impeachment proceedings as the wound to the head that he amazes all by surviving? Not for us. For we grew out of believing that biblical prophecies were about America 2020 rather than, say, Rome 20 AD.
What we believe is that, by the time they’re done, Donald Trump and Paula White will have crucified both Christianity and the Republican Party. In the meantime, these two huckster heretics won’t wait for the afterlife to enjoy streets paved with gold. The only miracle in it all is that our former fellow evangelicals don’t see it coming.