A controversial Florida televangelist who is Donald Trump’s top spiritual adviser will say a prayer at his Inauguration.
Paula White was described as “his guide to the country’s religious conservatives” by Christianity Today.
White will join five other faith leaders from different religions at the Inauguration. She is the pastor at New Destiny Christian Center near Orlando, Florida. According to the New York Times, White will be the first female clergy member to offer an inaugural prayer in U.S. history.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Trump First Saw White on Television & Called Her Out of the Blue
Christianity Today reported that the president elect first heard of White by watching television.
According to NBC News, Trump “cold-called” White, quoting her as saying, “I pick up the phone and he begins to say to me, ‘I’ve been watching you on television.'” That was 15 years ago.
White shares Trump’s habit of using exclamation points on Twitter:
Her Twitter page mostly contains inspirational comments, though. According to the New York Times, White has prayed over Trump at key junctures in his life, including seasons of his reality TV show, The Apprentice.
Her center’s Facebook page says “NDCC is a vibrant Church under the leadership of Senior Pastor Paula White and Developing people who love God, love people, and have a heart to serve.”
2. Some Worry That White’s Invite Will Lend More Power to the ‘Prosperity Gospel Movement’
According to the Washington Post, one critic said White and some of the others offering prayers at the Inauguration are “all televangelists who hail from the ‘prosperity gospel’ camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith.”
Some evangelicals consider the movement “heretical.” Evangelical Michael Horton wrote in the Post that prosperity gospel is “the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we ‘decree.'”
NBC News defines prosperity gospel as “preaching that followers who donate large sums will be made wealthy by God.”
3. White Is Married to the Man Who Penned Journey‘s Iconic Hit, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’
White is married to Jonathan Cain, keyboardist for the iconic music group, Journey, and who wrote their famous song Don’t Stop Believin’, according to Joy105.com. She was previously divorced twice and was accused of a relationship with another televangelist. She denied they had an inappropriate relationship after The National Enquirer allegedly caught them holding hands in Rome.
MyFirstClassLife reports that White was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in a childhood “marked by poverty and physical abuse.” The Christian Post says White calls herself a “former messed up Mississippi girl.”
She once allegedly became addicted to prescription medication after suffering a stroke.
“Moving around the country with her mother and stepfather as a child, the family finally settled in Maryland where her life took on an entirely new path. By the time she graduated from high school, White had converted to Christianity and claimed she had a vision from God,” the sited reported.
The site African Spear reports that White is one of the richest televangelists in America, hosting a television show Paula White Today on the Trinity Broadcast Network. She is also an author.
4. White Has Strongly Defended Trump’s Faith, Insisting He is ‘Saved’
Even thought Trump has acknowledged he does not always attend church regularly, White has a rock-hard belief in the sincerity of the president-elect’s faith.
She told NBC News, “I know that Donald is saved. He’s absolutely — received Jesus Christ as his lord and savior.”
White told the New York Times that she believes Trump has a “hunger for God.”
Politico called White Trump’s “God Whisperer.”
5. White’s Ministry Was Part of a Three-Year Congressional Investigation
NBC News reported that White’s ministry was part of an inquiry by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley into televangelists’ fundraising methods. The New York Times says White “refused to cooperate” with the inquiry at the time.
It resulted in “no findings of wrongdoing or penalties,” the network reported.
According to the Christian Post, “in 2004…the IRS launched a nine-year investigation into the personal and organizational finances of White and her then husband, Randy.”
One site placed White’s net worth at $5 million, saying she “transformed” a “struggling” Florida church with humorous sermons.