Debate raged after claims that Trump became a born-again Christian. Here's the person who reportedly 'led him to Christ'
Posted July 19, 2016
Debate and skepticism raged after Christian leader Dr. James Dobson recently proclaimed that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has accepted "a relationship with" Jesus.
And while the respected psychologist initially declined in his now-viral interview with GodFactor.com's Michael Anthony to name the person who he said "led [Trump] to Christ," he later put out a clarifying statement amid the media flurry.
In it, Dobson, 80, said that "only the Lord knows the condition of a person's heart," and that he believes that Trump is "tender to the things of the spirit." It was a caveat that was far less definitive than his original statement on the matter.
Dobson also clarified that, not having definitive knowledge about the Republican businessman's personal faith, he was speaking in his earlier interview with Anthony based on what he had heard from others.
"I also hear that Paula White has known Trump for years and that she personally led him to Christ. Do I know that for sure? No," he said in a statement published to his website on June 27. "Do I know the details of that alleged conversion? I can’t say that I do."
Dobson went on to say that he is serving with others on a faith advisory committee to help Trump better connect with evangelicals and offered up a more pointed view on the candidate's purported faith and the stakes of the election.
"If anything, this man is a baby Christian who doesn’t have a clue about how believers think, talk and act," he continued. "All I can tell you is that we have only two choices, Hillary or Donald. Hillary scares me to death."
Dobson said that he is haunted both night and day by the idea that Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton could potentially "run the world" for eight years — and said that Christians need to be in prayer "at this time of crisis."
These statements came after Dobson's initial comments seemed to strike a more definitive tone about Trump's current Christian standing.
"There are a lot of people ministering to [Trump] personally. He did accept a relationship with Christ," Dobson initially told Anthony after Trump's June 21 meeting with more than 900 evangelical leaders in New York City. "I know the person who led him to Christ and that's fairly recent."
At that point, he apparently didn't name Paula White — a well-known televangelist — as being the person who reportedly led Trump to accept Jesus, though he did call for people to pray for Trump, saying that the candidate isn't well-versed in evangelical language and subject matter.
"He refers a lot to religion and not much to faith and belief," Dobson said. "You've got to cut him some slack. He didn't grow up like we did."
Since Dobson's clarifying statement which came days after these latter comments, many outlets and commentators have spoken out on the matter. Jeff Maples of the Pulpit & Pen blog referred to White as a "prosperity gospel heretic" and wrote:
"This ridiculous claim that Donald Trump has been led to Christ by someone who has no idea who Christ is, while posing for pictures in front of Playboy Magazines with Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell, misquoting and twisting scripture for self-gain, and speaking of new-age false teachers as his primary spiritual mentors, is a prime example of why the professing church, and our nation, is under the judgment of God."
Others, like Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — a fierce Trump critic — also made similar comments about White. Moore tweeted, "Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe."
In an article last year, the Christian Post noted that White is often called a "prosperity preacher" and defined the term as a pastoral teaching in which someone is rewarded financially by God for donating money to ministry or by acting the way a pastor has requested.
Leon Wolf over at conservative blog Red State wrote that Dobson's initial remarks to Anthony made him look like a "sucker," but that his admission that it was White who was at the center of the story "makes him look like even more of a sucker."
And MSNBC saw Dobson's clarifying statement as an attempt to backtrack, publishing a story under the following headline: "Dobson walks back claims about Trump’s born-again conversion."
While White certainly has her critics, the popular pastor has also attracted more than 474,000 Twitter followers and over 3 million Facebook "likes," showing that she has, at the least, amassed a massive supporter base.
The televangelist has been vocal about her support for Trump, telling CBN News' David Brody last month that she believes that the hand of God is on his candidacy.
"There’s no way in the natural, if we were to use this terminology, that you could take a man against 17 other candidates that if we look back at the beginning of this, very qualified candidates, and then here he is, the nominee," she said. "For me, that has to be providence. That has to be the hand of God, in my opinion."
White also said that she has known Trump for 14 years and that the two began speaking after he heard three of her sermons and called her, quoting portions of her talks back and telling her how impressed he was with her work; she also said that "he absolutely enjoys hearing the word [of God]."
This is hardly the first time that debate has centered on Trump's faith, with the subject of candidates' religious views routinely grabbing attention.
For instance, the Dobson debacle teamed with Trump's recent questioning of Clinton's faith, gave birth to comical hashtags such as #iftrumpwereevangelical and #methodisthillary, with people using both to jump in on the conversation.
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