During last year’s presidential campaign, some Christian leaders compared Donald Trump to various biblical kings, most often as a modern-day David, an imperfect man chosen by God to lead Israel.
Televangelist Paula White, a prosperity gospel pastor and spiritual adviser to Trump, made another scriptural comparison this week — this time between the president and a Jewish woman in the Bible.
Appearing on “The Jim Bakker Show,” White said Trump’s victory in November was akin to Esther becoming queen in the Hebrew Bible because both were unconventional choices for the roles they received.
Esther, as the story goes in Jewish and Christian scripture, was an orphan hand-picked by the Persian king to be his new queen at a time when Jews were persecuted. In her position she was able to stop a plan to kill all the Jewish people in Persia. The Bible says Esther was placed there by God for this purpose.
“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,” White said on the show.
Esther did not have the image or the background to be queen, yet God chose her, White said. The same is true for Trump’s ascent to the presidency, she believes.
God is “raising up Esthers,” she said.
Stephen Strang, the founder of Charisma Magazine, a Pentecostal news site, said Christians often look for spiritual parallels in modern-day life, so it is natural for them to make these comparisons between Trump and biblical figures, though he could not remember previous presidents, Democrat or Republican, similarly being associated this way.
White has known Trump since the early 2000s, and he chose her as one of the clergy members to pray at his inauguration. The choice was controversial, as my colleague Julie Zauzmer wrote then, because prosperity gospel says true believers of God will receive both eternal salvation and material wealth on Earth. Other Christians says this is heretical, and warn that preachers like White profit off their gospel by asking followers for money.
Two years ago, comedian John Oliver did a segment dissecting the practices of prosperity gospel. In 2007, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) launched an investigation into spending by televangelists, including White. But its report three years later did not reach any conclusions.
During her appearance, White went on to encourage viewers to be obedient and loyal to Trump because it is what God wants. If God hadn’t intervened in the U.S. elections, she said, religious liberties would have eroded to such an extent that people would have had to pray in an “underground church” within five years.
White’s perspective is similar — albeit perhaps more dramatic — to many conservative Christian leaders who have increasingly said in recent years that growing tolerance for liberal mores and secularism comes at a cost to traditional faith. Many GOP candidates, including Trump, said during the campaign that protecting the religious liberty of traditional believers was among their top priorities.
Lance Wallnau, a Christian author, claimed God spoke to him and showed him that Trump was like King Cyrus, who followed God’s will despite being a pagan.
“I really believe that the mercy of God intervened in this last election cycle and gave us an individual who has the willpower and the tenacity to be able to do a reset,” Wallnau told CBN News in March. “I heard the Lord, ‘Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.’”
Strang shares Wallnau’s belief that Cyrus is the more apt comparison, showing that “God can raise up a leader to rescue his people” even if that leader comes from an untraditional background. He doesn’t quite see the Esther one, however.
White’s analogy was equally puzzling to Dennis Olson, a professor of Old Testament theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Though he understands the point about Esther and Trump both being outsiders, he sees more reasons why they are opposites.
Esther’s story is one about protecting persecuted ethnic minorities, said Olson, while the president has won support from white supremacist groups and seeks to crack down on immigration.
But evangelical Christians in America see themselves as persecuted by an increasingly secular nation and see Trump as the one chosen to fight for them. On that subject, Strang has written a book to be released in November called, “God and Donald Trump,” which examines Trump’s “divine” win.
“I believe that Bible-believing Christians have been praying for a turn in our country and we feel our religious liberties have been eroded and our country is less and less Godly,” Strang said. “And somehow, someway, his election was a partial answer to our prayer.”
(Correction: A previous version of this story quoted Steven Strang as saying, “Bible-bleeding.” He said, “Bible-believing.”)