J. Lee Grady on Instead of Judging Paula White Cain, I’ll Pray for Her

President Trump and Paula White Cain (Reuters file photo)

If anyone had told me 20 years ago that Donald Trump would one day be president of the United States, I would have laughed and said: “That’s as crazy as saying Paula White will be working for him in the White House.”

Welcome to the bizarre world of 2019. Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman and reality TV star, sits in the Oval Office in the same year that rapper Kanye West made a gospel album. And last week Trump tapped Paula White Cain—a Pentecostal pastor now married to a former rock star—to serve as a religious adviser.

Some people will hate me for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway. I’m praying for Paula.

Just as Trump’s 2016 victory sent the American political establishment into total freak-out mode, the selection of Paula as a senior counselor on religious issues has prompted an outcry among political and media elites. It also raised eyebrows among Trump’s most loyal Christian supporters, who view Paula with disdain because of her gender, her Pentecostal roots and her prosperity gospel message.

The mainstream media went after Paula after they learned of her association with Trump during his presidential campaign. The criticism got louder when she was one of six religious leaders who prayed during Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January 2017. White was the first woman to ever lead an inaugural prayer.

She has been dismissed as a charlatan, partly because her ministry was investigated by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley in 2007 (no charges were ever filed) and because her flamboyant pulpit style includes some over-the-top fundraising gimmicks.

But I’ve watched Paula’s career for 25 years, and I know she’s a much more complex woman than her critics realize. Say what you will about her cringe-worthy appeals for “first fruits offerings” (tactics I’ve condemned in this column in the past), Paula is a sister in Christ who at least deserves our prayers as she tries to build spiritual bridges during the most divisive season in recent American history.

In the 1990s, Paula and her second husband, Randy, led Without Walls International, a booming charismatic megachurch in Tampa, Florida. Their roots were in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), a Pentecostal denomination that taught them to preach passionately and to reach the homeless, immigrants and the disenfranchised. Without Walls grew to more than 25,000 members in its heyday—and Paula became a celebrity.

I remember listening to one of her sermons in 2002. She told the audience in a rhythmic cadence: “I know I look like Gloria Copeland, but I preach like Jackie McCullough.” (Copeland is white; McCollough is a black female preacher.) Paula’s style is a mix of you-can-do-it motivational speaking and old-fashioned camp meeting fervor. Her audiences shout back at her with hallelujahs when she tells how she grew up in a trailer park but eventually bought a mansion.

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SOURCE: Charisma News