US evangelical leader and advisor to the president Paula White has defended Trump from his critics, comparing him to a 'king' and saying he 'has been raised up by God'. But if Trump has been 'chosen', it might not be good news.
Speaking yesterday on the PTL Network's 'Jim Bakker Show', White was staunch in her backing for Trump.
'They say about our president, 'Well, he is not presidential.' Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness,' she said. 'And I mean that with all due respect. Because in other words, he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically – whether people like it or not – has been raised up by God.'
She also compared Trump's rise to power to that of the biblical queen Esther, according to RNS. She added: 'Because God says that he raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.'
White essentially challenged Trump's critics: 'How can you criticise him? He's been chosen by God.' Unfortunately, it's a dubious, dangerous theology of leadership, and in Scriptural terms being 'raised up' by God can be terrible news for those being raised.
For starters, Trump's possession of power isn't obvious evidence God gave it to him. Would White apply the same logic to Trump's rhetorical nemesis, North Korea's Kim Jong Un? What of the myriad oppressive regimes across the world, who include Christians among their victims – were these governments chosen by God? Or closer to home, would she say God raised up Barack Obama, or Hilary Clinton if she had won last year instead? One guesses not.
It's true that Scripture talks about God raising up leaders. St Paul did write, perhaps perplexingly, that 'The authorities that exist have been established by God' (Romans 13), but as Christian Today's Mark Woods has explained, that can't be used as a blanket divine endorsement of any government. If it were, then the American Revolution should never have happened.
And Scripture also speaks of God bringing leaders down – as White acknowledged. So what makes her so sure Trump isn't awaiting a divinely demise? In light of the fact that we don't know the mind of God, it's probably wiser to defend leaders on the basis of their personal, political record – rather than appealing to the unimpeachable authority of God. Indeed, it sets a dangerous precedent: once you're committed to the idea that God absolutely ordained a leader, you might well go to any lengths to defend them. You could easily learn to ignore their faults, misdeeds and abuses of power, lest you 'fight the hand of God'.
Spiritual advisors should be more aware than most about the need for accountability over blind adulation when it comes to serving leaders. And as the furore over Trump, his incendiary defence of white supremacists and his faithful evangelical council shows, this isn't a purely hypothetical question.
And as writer Derek Rishmawy highlighted on Twitter, being 'raised up' isn't always a good thing in Scripture. God 'raised up' Pharaoh, the cruel Egyptian enslaver of the Israelites, so that God might ultimately demonstrate his power to destroy him.
'For this very purpose, I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth,' declares the Lord to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16. God is intervening in politics, but not to glorify human leaders, but show the might of his own name, Earth's ultimate ruler and the only one worthy of worship.
Of course, White wasn't trying to compare Trump to Pharaoh, but by using the biblical language of 'raising up' she helpfully illustrated just how complex the notion is.
Rather than getting a free pass because God 'chose them', it's surely more accurate to say God has even higher expectations of world leaders, that they would serve wisely with both justice and mercy. If they don't – instead using power only for their own glory – then they can expect not praise, but judgement when Jesus returns.
Christians disagree on politics, about which leaders and philosophies and programs make for a good society. And that's OK. What's deeply disagreeable is Christian leaders asserting divine authority to say our favourite figure has God's backing. It's dangerous, divisive and theologically confused.
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