On January 20, 2017, Christian televangelist and pastor Paula White delivered an invocation at Donald Trump’s inauguration. White focused her remarks on praising God and country, only mentioning Trump in a customary call for prayer. She then appealed to God to “bestow upon our President the wisdom necessary to lead this great nation, the grace to unify us, and the strength to stand for what is honorable and right in your sight.”
Nearly two and a half years later, Trump has hit a trifecta of failure in the wisdom, grace, and strength departments. So, what does White say now? Having informally served as Trump’s spiritual advisor while leading a White House evangelical advisory council, White returned to the stage Monday night to help kick off Trump’s reelection campaign in Orlando, Florida. Although this was a political event, White’s speech was over-the-top in tone and substance.
As a religious leader, White could have used her platform to spread a positive message, encouraging Trump supporters to keep believing yet be tolerant of others who disagree. She could have praised Trump for what she believes are accomplishments and say there is more to achieve in a second term. She could have then closed with an inspiring message such as, “With God by your side, we can achieve anything. Together, we will work hard, keep the faith, and get Trump reelected in 2020!”
White did none of these things. After quickly praising God and country, her speech went off the rails. Quoting from Psalm 2, White asked, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain, the kings of the Earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed,” referring to Trump. White then belligerently framed Trump’s unnamed opponents as essentially being the enemies of God while calling for an end to free speech and political dissent in this country: “So, right now let every demonic network that has aligned itself against the purpose, against the calling of President Trump, let it be broken, let it be torn down in the name of Jesus.”
When a spiritual advisor to the President of the United States weaponizes religion for partisan purposes, it speaks volumes as to the dark and desperate path the candidate believes he must take to win reelection. White’s performance is also a sign of how much things have changed in the Republican Party since its first President took office. Just before the Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln spoke to the South about secession in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Lincoln went on to become one of our nation’s most respected Presidents. Trump seems to be living on a prayer.