Beneath the ‘Wacky’ Paula White Video is a Dark and Deeply Undemocratic World Propping Up the President

Still of Paula White from 11/16/2020 Prayer Service at City of Destiny.

These are the end times for the presidency of Donald Trump and the White House role for his spiritual advisor, Paula White. Their futures are bound together and both have made clear that they will fight to the end, and maybe beyond. During the second night of a post-election prayer marathon White’s son, Pastor Brad Knight thanked God, perhaps prematurely, for “securing her position for the next four years. And therefore the position of your people, the voice of your people.”

During the nightly prayer broadcast, Paula White and fellow prayer warriors called on God to smite the president’s enemies—his political opponents, anyone standing in the way of a second term, and anyone interfering with their vision of national and global dominion. 

The first night generated so much press coverage following the release of clips by Right Wing Watch (and mocking memes that trended on Twitter) that Paula White Ministries took down the video. But because of this, they knew that the whole world would be watching on the second night of their Pray for the Nation broadcasts. 

On the first night, White and members of her staff, notably Pastor Todd Lamphere, and her son, Pastor Brad Knight, engaged in imprecatory prayer against the “demonic confederacies” they believe were arrayed against them, and against Trump’s reelection. Peter Montgomery reported that Knight, who casts himself as a “warrior” in the mold of the biblical king David, and holding earthly authority due to his “apostolic mantle,” prayed for God to act—while blurring the person of Jesus and Donald Trump in his prayers.

Right now, everything in opposition to that must fall. Everything in opposition to Paula White-Cain must fall. Everything in opposition to Bradley Knight must fall. Everything in opposition to this house and the people in it must fall. And God, we standing here [sic] knowing that it will also speak against that which has risen up against America. And that everything that has come in opposition to the man that you have chosen, the man that you have elected, the man that your hand is behind, the man that you’re pleased with, the man that you pulled out of the midst of darkness and elevated, the man who made a mockery of the things of this world. And will do it again. God, we call you out now, and nothing against him shall prosper. Nothing that rises against him shall succeed.

Paula White claimed that “demonic” elements are seeking to “hijack the will of God, to hijack what God has already established in the Earth.” She asked God to “take vengeance.” 

“For every enemy that is aligned against you,” she prayed, “let there be, that we would strike the ground.” 

White tweeted a further call to imprecatory prayer:

“I ask you to pray fervently, without ceasing for our nation and the election results. There is great concern that some are trying to steal this election. Let us pray to God, who knows all, to reveal truth. Pray that the enemies to God are quieted and their plans are overturned”

“Some of the ‘spiritual warfare’ enthusiasts are dangerously ramping-up their rhetoric beyond the usual hyper-spiritualized form of ‘spiritual warfare’ language as found in Ephesians 6:12,” Dr. André Gagné, a Professor of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal told RD. “It is concerning in part because they claim that God speaks and acts through them when they speak prophetically to the Church like this.” 

From grift to glitz to government

If this had happened on the stage of a fringe-y evangelist somewhere, it might have been enough to keep Right watchers, scholars, and journalists up at night. But Paula White is now one of the most prominent female religious leaders in the U.S. All the world is her stage, and she’s likely to play a growing role in American religious and public life. As an author, and as the spiritual advisor to the president of the United States, she’s as high profile a figure as exists in all of evangelicalism.

White first came to public attention as one of the most disreputable preachers of the prosperity gospel. She and fellow prosperity gospel practitioners Kenneth Copeland, Eddie Long, Creflo Dollar, and Benny Hinn were even investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 2007 for allegedly diverting tax-exempt donations to underwrite high-flying lifestyles. The investigation of White was inconclusive because getting to the bottom of her finances turned out to be as difficult as getting Donald Trump’s tax returns. 

But the glitzy rise that featured a mansion and a private jet may be epitomized, as journalist Sarah Posner reports in Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump, by how she and her husband, fellow evangelist Randy White were able to afford a $3.5 million condo in Trump Tower in New York.

For a time, they were stars in the televangelical firmament. But it all unraveled in a series of scandals, including an alleged affair with Benny Hinn (which she denies), a spectacular divorce, and a lawsuit by her former church. Nevertheless, a predominantly African-American Orlando area megachurch, New Destiny Christian Center, hired her as senior pastor in 2012. 

Like Donald Trump, she’s on her third marriage, this time to former rock star Jonathan Cain, best known as the keyboardist for Journey, who with his fellow band members composed the 1981 hit “Don’t Stop Believing”—long before he met Paula White and became a believer. Cain performed the live soundtrack for the Pray for the Nation broadcasts.

White was one of a small group of evangelical leaders who backed Trump at a time when most others had lined up with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Marco Rubio (R-FL). White, Kenneth Copeland and Robert Jeffress were part of this group that met with the future president at Trump Tower in 2015. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump credited White with his conversion and becoming a “baby Christian.” She went on to deliver the invocation at his inauguration and to become chair of Trump’s White House evangelical advisory board.

Meanwhile, White’s church was rebranded in May 2019 as City of Destiny in Apopka, Florida. At that time, White conferred the titles of Senior Co-Pastors on Brad Knight, her son from her first marriage, and his wife Rachel. She remained “Apostolic Overseer,” as she had been for years, and said she was going to plant 3,000 churches and start a university.

Six months later, White joined the White House staff to lead  the “Faith & Opportunity Initiative,” and also launched the One Voice Prayer Movement. This campaign included Todd Lamphere, (who serves as Pastor of Global Outreach for Paula White Ministries and as her “Chief of Staff”), as well as top Dominionist leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), such as James Goll, Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle and Dutch Sheets. This operation coordinated the activities of evangelical supporters of the president.

A longtime observer of the movement and a former Fellow at Political Research Associates, Rachel Tabachnick, told RD that White’s faith-based outreach for the Trump administration included efforts to tap into the preexisting prayer networks built by the apostles and prophets of NAR. She explained:

“White and many other prosperity doctrine evangelists have adopted the church governance models of the New Apostolic Reformation. White began 2012 with a sermon titled “Season of Apostolic Reformation,” telling her congregation that they must align with this new order. “God is a theocracy, not a democracy,” White stated, and warned congregants to “get in, get out, or get run over.”  

Nights of prayer for dominion

On the second night of Pray for the Nation, now with a presumably larger audience due to the viral video, the theatrics were more restrained but the prayers were no less militant. White set the stage for three hours of prophetic prayer by Knight, Lamphere, and others who variously quoted from, paraphrased, and riffed off of Biblical passages. 

White said that the Church has a covenant with God, and that the “same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, dwells on the inside of us right now. As believers, you have an everlasting covenant.” Therefore, White reminded viewers and those present, throughout the evening, God speaks and acts through his Church. (15:20) “A praying person,” she says, “has power.” (21:09)

“You have to execute the will of God on earth—because God legally gave man dominion. When he said ‘let man have dominion’—he transferred it over.”

“It is illegal for God to do anything on the Earth,” she averred, “unless he works with someone.” The someone, or someones he is talking about comprise what they call “the body of Christ,” who are empowered to gain “dominion” over the Earth and to enforce their understanding of God’s agenda. This is what many observers call Dominionism.

“We are not peripheral to the world,” she declares. “The world is peripheral to us—the Church! The Church!” She insists that God “did not give the world authority, he gave all authority in heaven and on Earth to his Church.” (1:38) 

Pastor Brad Knight claimed that many of his fellow Christians and Jews do not know God like they do. These unnamed others are said to be caught up in idolatrous “dogmas,” “doctrines,” and “catechisms.” Some of these Christians may know the Trinity and maybe something about the Reformation, but, he maintained, they are “lost.” 

He suspects that these alleged idolaters may also be facilitating Trump and White’s departure from the White House.

“You have money. You have power. And now you want to take what you think is yours, because you were born within the realm of what we call Christianity. You were born within the realm of Israel. But I’m telling you right now that you cannot just march up to the people where God is—to the people of God—the people that spend time with God—to us, the living temple of God and take what’s ours.”

“The Lord may be your god,” Knight said; but pointing to himself added, “He is really our God.”

“We walk with God, in the presence of God,” he said softly, shaking his head. “And you have traded God for idols and you don’t even know it.”

White took the idea even further, suggesting that national unity and accepting legitimate election results, means accepting criminals and people of other religions. It was a diversion from the attacks on Christians, Jews, religious pluralism, and religious equality under the law, and the practice and institutions of democracy to which she and Pastor Brad had sustained for the previous hour or so. But it was also a continuation of those attacks.

“People keep praying unity, praying unity, praying unity like it’s this blanket prayer,” she said. “But I am not going to be unified… with someone that is not in covenant with my God… I’ll make it plain and it will seem harsh. It may sound brutal, but I am not going to be… unified with a child pedophile. I am not going to unify with a sexual abuser or a domestic abuser. I’m talking about total wickedness.”

“The unity that God speaks of,” she declared, “was not for the world but for the Church.”

Imprecation nation

Pastor Brad stepped up to claim that they “stand in proxy for the Church in America as a whole” and prayed that God: 

“not let the accusations of the enemy stand, God and let not those accusations fuel the plots of kings and people in power… and parties that are not supposed to be elected… and those who are not supposed to be in positions of power.”

He reminded God that “this president moved the embassy to Jerusalem… Not even fully understanding but obeying the voice of your prophesy, God. Where everybody else said, ‘we’ll do it,’ but they ignored it once they were elected, God.”

What came next epitomizes how the views of City of Destiny are conflated with their understanding of God’s intentions and the supposed destiny of the Church, the United States, and the nation of Israel. 

“We are an extension of Israel…” Pastor Brad declared. “And “every nation that rises against America and its purpose… is also rising against Israel and its purpose on the Earth. And God, you shall abort their plans of wickedness.”

Asked about Knight’s prayer, Tabachnick told RD, “The apostolic and prophetic networks that now dominate organized Christian Zionism have transitioned from more passive narratives of events to take place in the afterlife toward narratives requiring dominion over the world in this life. The political implications of this transcend the role of the U.S. alone, and engages many “nationalisms” around the world, as millions are taught an increasingly politicized interpretation of the prerequisites required for the return of Jesus and the end of the natural world.”

In one of the most unambiguous imprecations of the night, Pastor Brad riffed off of Psalms 2:

“Make the ends of the earth our possession God. God, everyone who has risen against us, everyone who mocks us, everyone who has power, everyone who thinks they have victory because they plotted. Every will—even within the Church … that is not aligned with you, God. Break it god. Do not even hear their prayers and nullify their cries… and break them with a rod of iron. Dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

“The ‘iron rod’ is clearly an image of violence and subjugation by force, and targets anyone who gets in their way,” said Professor Gagné. “Knight revealed their violently anti-democratic impulses when he asked God to take his ‘iron rod’ and smash his alleged opponents. In fact, this biblical imagery is used in the context of theocratic rulership, where Jesus and believers will one day rule the nations with the ‘iron rod,’ as also seen in Revelation 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:15.”

Mow down democracy like it’s a lawn

White returned to the lectern, to remind God of their covenant (2:26) and to “hear the cry of the righteous and turn a deaf ear to the wicked. For you will mow down the wickedness, even as you mow down the grass, God.”

“God, we declare that you will keep the POTUS (sic) in his purpose and in his position right now.” 

“We override the will of man for the will of God, right now.”

She called on God to take down “any demonic agenda that has been released over this election,” any “fraud” and any organization that is unaligned with his purpose. “We ask for swift victory even now.” 

White went on like this until, catching herself, she looks to the camera and says “I know you will mischaracterize and try to say that I’m naming or saying this is something aligned with some political party. But I’m not. I’m dealing with spirits.”

Nevertheless, she said to anyone listening, “if you think this election is settled, you are wrong!”