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CONVERSATIONS: For Spiritual Advice, Trump Turns To Central Florida Pastor

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Photo courtesy Twitter/ @paula_white

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: The pastor who prays with Donald Trump is a woman who leads a predominately black congregation of thousands in central Florida.

Politico describes Paula White as Trump’s “God whisperer.”

To talk more about this Amy Green joins us. Welcome!

AMY GREEN: Nice to be here!

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: Amy, who is Paula White?

AMY GREEN: Paula White is senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka.

She is a book author and connected with Donald Trump years ago through her TV show. She says Trump cold-called her to tell her how much he liked her show, and the two became friends. Here she is at a Trump rally at the University of Central Florida back in the spring.

“Over the years we would have many deep conversations about his faith, about God, about life, about people. It was never about the presidency. This was a friendship. But here is what I want to share with you personally. I found a very caring man. I found a man who had more integrity than most people that I had encountered.”

Politico describes White as a “spiritual adviser” to the GOP presidential nominee. She declined an interview with WMFE after repeated requests.

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: She is a white pastor of a predominately black congregation. What is her background?

AMY GREEN: Before leading New Destiny Christian Center, White founded a Tampa megachurch with her now ex-husband Randy White. It was part of a congressional investigation into several high-profile preachers suspected of financial improprieties, but the Whites never were charged with any wrongdoing.

She had a difficult childhood. Her father committed suicide when she was 5 and she suffered physical and sexual abuse.

She now is married to Jonathan Cain of the rock band Journey. She says her personal story of overcoming tragedy inspires her followers.

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: Paula White is a woman. Her congregation we mentioned is predominately black. How effective of a spiritual spokeswoman is White for the GOP presidential nominee?

AMY GREEN: Well, Trump also has been outspoken about his own spiritual life, saying he does not ask for forgiveness and describing the sacrament as “my little wine” and “my little cracker.” He has said he is proud of evangelical support but not sure he deserves it.

I talked with Gabriel Salguero, pastor of a church here in central Florida and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. He says it may be difficult for White or anyone else to overcome these deficits.

“The candidate himself has made it very difficult for many of his surrogates. Think about how many Republican candidates themselves, not even surrogates, are running away from some of his language.”

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: Amy Green, what do other religious leaders say about White?

AMY GREEN: Well, I talked with Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland church here in central Florida and a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama. Here he is saying Donald Trump and Paula White reveal something about politics and religion in America today, a fascination with celebrity.

“People don’t want to get into anything in depth. They just want to be fascinated with kind of the strong, opinionated talking points and kind of red meat that’s thrown out to people just so that they confirm what they already believe.”

White is an outsider among evangelical leaders, which is interesting when you think about how influential religious and evangelical voters are in American presidential politics. But of course Trump himself is an outsider.

CRYSTAL CHAVEZ: I’ve been speaking with 90.7’s Amy Green. Thanks for joining us!

AMY GREEN: You’re welcome!

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »