After Donald Trump’s transition committee announced the names of six faith leaders to appear at his inauguration three weeks from now, you would think it had announced the coming of the Antichrist, judging from some of the press reactions.
The spite fest that erupted Wednesday afternoon was mainly directed toward the lone female invitee.
Disagree with the Rev. Paula White's theology as you may (many conservative Christians do), but tell me: Is she that evil?
First, the better stuff. From CNN, we get the list:
Donald Trump's inaugural committee announced Wednesday six faith leaders who will participate in the swearing-in ceremony of the President-elect.
Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan; Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Paula White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center will offer readings and give the invocation.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, senior pastor of Great Faith Ministries International will also offer readings and give the benediction.
You’ve got a Catholic, Jew and four Protestants, including a Hispanic, a black man, a white man and a white woman.
Making a perfectly valid and essential point, YahooNews noted that Rodriguez disagrees with Trump on a lot of stuff.
Christianity Today got a hold of some scholars to offer context and reminded us that no Presbyterians –- Trump’s own denomination –- were invited. It also evoked controversial faith leader invitees (Rick Warren and Louis Giglio) from past inaugurations.
The Washington Post, which I believe broke this story, was the only outlet I found that noted White will be the only the second woman to pray at an inauguration. It also got a hold of Hier to ask why he was showing up in support of a man who some have accused of anti-Semitism. The story added:
The choice of clergy members to speak at previous inaugurations has drawn criticism, including Barack Obama’s choice of Pastor Rick Warren in 2008 because of Warren’s anti-gay-marriage stance. Trump’s inaugural committee chose some clergy members, including Jackson and White, who were associated with Trump during his campaign, as well as others like Rodriguez, who spoke out against Trump’s views on immigration and other issues of importance to his Hispanic Christian community.
“It’s a particular honor that shows the greatness of America,” said Hier, the first rabbi chosen for an inauguration since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985. When Hier’s selection was announced Wednesday, he mused about what his parents -- who fled anti-Semitism in Poland and moved to America before the Holocaust -- would think about his role. “Whatever you turn to in the Torah, one can find connections and relevance to whatever period of history human beings live in. So that’s not going to be a challenge.”
RNS chimed in with a few more facts:
For the first time in 40 years –- since President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 -– a Catholic bishop will take part in a presidential inauguration. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, is among six faith leaders who will participate in the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony …
A few paragraphs later:
White and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International, who will give a benediction, also are the first prosperity gospel preachers in recent memory to take part in a presidential inauguration.
That was one of the kinder things said about the duo.
Now to the slime fest from other outlets, the worst being from the Daily Beast, that paragon of objective journalism. The headline: “Shady pastor to pray with Trump at inauguration” gives you an idea of where this piece is headed.
In 2007, TV preacher Paula White got investigated by the U.S. Senate for her shady fundraising practices.
Ten years later, she will pray at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
White is a televangelist with a huge audience and a knack for stirring controversy. She’s been a Trump booster for years, and she helped organize a summit for him in the early days of his presidential campaign with other televangelists. Her presence at the inauguration is a very strong indicator that Trump’s White House will be a safe space for the Christian right’s most controversial characters.
Why is White’s presence such a harbinger of doom in contrast to the five men? One would think that White was taking the oath of office herself for all the commotion this article raises. The article rakes White over the coals for nine paragraphs -- finally adding at paragraph 10 that the Senate found no wrongdoing with her organization.
The ending is quite deceptive, in that it says:
One of the sermons for sale on her website is called “Why God Wants You Wealthy.” Trump, meanwhile, wrote a book titled Why We Want You to Be Rich. Trump and God both. Why aren’t you rich already?
At Trump’s inauguration, she’ll fit right in.
The only problem with that is Trump wasn’t referring to God at all in his title. The “we” refers to Trump and co-writer Robert Kiyosaki. (Hat tip to fellow GetReligionista Mark Kellner for making this point on Facebook).
But hey, when you’re criticizing a woman who supports Trump, who cares about the details?
I don't get the hate directed toward this woman that is out of proportion to who she is. I wrote in October about the hit piece The Forward did on her and I asked if male televangelists were getting similar treatment. I think not.
White may be enjoying her place in the sun now, but as the invective gets worse, she may find the rest of this decade to be a very long four years.