Trump's Jesus Lady, Paula White, Wants Your Electric Bill Money
Paula White, Trump's personal Bible lady, wants your money. Not just some of your money, all of it. Every last dime. And if you don't give it to her, that will mean that you don't even like God at all and instead want to worship your utility provider.
This is a no-brainer for those of us who do not believe in God, or those who do not believe in Paula White, but a whole lot of people out there actually do.
In an in-depth Mother Jones profile on White, Stephanie Mencimer highlighted the conflict between White's position in the White House and her personal ministry and televangelism career, and the way that is complicated by the fact that churches that endorse political candidates can get into trouble with the IRS. It's even further complicated by the fact that White's gimmick is Prosperity Gospel, a flavor of evangelicalism in which preachers ask congregants to give them lots and lots of money in order to win "favors" from God and become rich themselves. It's quite the scam!
One of the more appalling features of Prosperity Gospel bullshit is that it very often specifically targets poor people — because who is going to be more in the market for a miracle from God than people in desperate situations? People who are comfortable aren't sitting around praying for one. At least not as often. The worse off you are, the more willing you are to try anything.
And this is what White's ministry does. In fact, as Mencimer reports, she even asks those poor people to skip their electric bills and give the money to her instead:
She broke it all down for her congregants, making it simple: If they prioritize their paychecks for more earthly needs, like keeping the lights on, they were treating Florida Power and Light (FPL) like God himself. "Instead of writing [that check] to the house of God as I'm instructed to, then what I'm saying spiritually is, 'FPL, I have now established a spiritual law that put you first. So, FPL, save my family, FPL, deliver my drug addicted son. FPL, kill this cancer that doctors say is in my body.'"
White, for the record, has millions and millions of dollars. And she's not asking wealthy people to give up their winter St. Barts getaway, she's asking poor people to live in the dark. And, when contacted by Mother Jones, White's ministry refused to even explain how that money was spent.
Over the next half hour, White built to a crescendo, shed many tears, spoke in tongues, and implored people to give. Hundreds of people streamed down the aisles to throw envelopes of money at her feet. "The First Fruits sets the pattern and establishes the destiny for what is left," she cried. "Many of you need to bring a First Fruit offering right now!" Mostly Latino apostles and prophets from the church brought baskets to the front to collect the offerings. No one from King Jesus responded to questions from Mother Jones about where the donations went.
But a big chunk of it has definitely been spent on her mansion and private jet.
Among other things, a Senate report found that White's personal ministry and the church she ran with her now ex-husband used tax-exempt ministry funds to pay nearly $900,000 one year for the Whites' waterfront mansion. It paid over a million dollars in salaries to family members and kept the Whites in the air with a private jet. White and her church refused to cooperate with the investigation and in 2011, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), issued a report outlining the committee's findings but took no other action.
A lot about this kind of stuff is easy to laugh at from the outside. The speaking in tongues, the scamminess of it all, the fact that of course Trump has a grifter for a spiritual advisor — it's all pretty ridiculous. But this? This is cruel. She is telling poor people that if they give her money, they will earn the right to pray to God to get rid of their cancer. As if cancer is a thing you get because you're not praying right.
Having your electricity turned off is no joke. I've been there. It's not just that you're in the dark — which, by the way, is pretty dangerous — it's that your food spoils (and if you don't have enough money to pay for electricity, you probably don't have a ton for food either), you can't dry your hair, you can't charge your phone (although maybe you also gave Paula White your phone bill money), and if you have an electric stove you're shit out of luck on making any food to eat. It's really not easy to function or to go to work like that, and it's not much better if it's your gas that gets turned off either.
But White's not a total hypocrite — she's not big on paying bills either. As the Mother Jones profile points out, "White's church declared bankruptcy in 2014 after defaulting on $29 million in loans from an evangelical credit union." She also reportedly stole $2 million in video and music equipment from her ex-husband's church.
To say that people who have so much less money than she does are "worshiping" the electric company instead of God if they pay their bills is a truly evil thing to say. It is even more disturbing that the United States government is endorsing this. I think someone ought to ask the Trump administration directly if they think that poor people should default on their bills and instead give that money to Paula White. That seems fair!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse