Whose House?
Whose House? lucky-photographer/gettyimages.com

Donald Trump's personal spiritual adviser Paula White is, of course, a "Prosperity Gospel" pastor and televangelist based in, of course, Florida. This is what she recently said during a conference call with other evangelical leaders: "Lord, we ask you to deliver our president [Trump] from any snare, any setup of the enemy, according to Ephesians 6:12. Any persons [or] entities that are aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus."

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But more interesting than that is she actually thinks that God is always where she is, and she also claims that God is in the White House because she declared the White House to be holy ground. She sees herself as the authority on what is and is not sacred.

What I want to examine in this post is the kind of god White has in mind or dramatizes in her sermons. The first thing we can say about this God is He is into places. He is a God who can be here and not there. And so, if there's something that's happening in this place that He likes, He will go there. One of these places is the White House, claims White.

But what happens when we have a God who is place-oriented, one who is exactly where White points her finger? Well, some must wonder: Why is God over there (the White House) when we need Him over here (a hospital or a homeless camp)? Some might answer, correctly, that God is actually also at the hospital. Being at the White House does not prevent Him from being in other locations. And I believe that White would find it hard not to agree with the substance of this answer. She would say: God is with those who believe.

But this still presents a problem for White. If you believe that God is with the believers, then how can she be certain that the White House was godless during, for example, the Barack Obama years? What if there was a believer among Obama's staff. Why was He not with this person? Did He hate Obama that much? Can you be certain Obama's White House was totally vacated by Him? The more God is with others, the more messy He becomes.

I do not know how White would reconcile the idea that God is with all believers all over the world with the idea that God is wherever she points her holy finger. Again, the problem is this: If any believer can point their finger and say, "God is here," then what's the big deal? White can do it, Black can do it, Brown can do it, too. How is this at all amazing or even worth a sermon? What makes Trump's spiritual adviser so special? All you need is faith, and there is God for you. I'm certain White is not ignorant of the conceptual difficulties presented by a God who is not always just with her. And so she must, at some point in her addled logic, believe God follows her more than others. God gives extra time to those He knows are devoted to Him the most.

But there is an even greater problem that's presented by this claim of specialness. When White leaves a church, does He leave it with her? Or does He stay behind and watch her walk away? It is, after all, the house of the lord. I want us to really think about this, because it is, I believe, a problem that hardly ever enters the minds of evangelical pastors when they close the doors of their megachurches. Is God still in there? Or is He going to come outside with me?

If He is inside, this means God is in an empty church, and what good is that? It makes more sense for a mobile and place-oriented God to leave with the congregation and the pastor at the end of a service. But if we are to believe that He departs with His followers, and the leader of His followers (who locks the church doors), then we have something that is too horrible to contemplate. A place of worship without a God. And the bigger the church, the greater the spiritual emptiness.

What all of this must make clear to the educated theologian who is considering White's primitive theology of place and mobility and preference, is that its conundrums would immediately be resolved if we had a Spinozistic God. This God, of course, would spoil all the fun of saying He is in the White House, because He would also be in the house of the Clintons, the Obamas, the Squad, those on the wrong side of town, and even with men and women who do not believe in God. He is just everywhere. As the 17th-century philosopher and Calvinist Pierre Bayle understood and dreaded, Spinoza's God is with those you love and those you hate.