Christians can be found of all political and theological colors, but regardless of where one lands on the trajectory of Christianity, there’s one thing we should all be able to easily agree on:
Donald Trump’s most recent dehumanizing language is actually an assault against the Christian foundation.
While shocking or offensive language from Trump is no surprise, I would urge Christians of all shapes and sizes to not downplay or dismiss the seriousness of his most recent words. When recently speaking of America’s immigration policies at a cabinet meeting, Trump referred to deported immigrants, saying:
“These aren’t people, they’re animals.”
Calling people “animals” might not sound like the most offensive or outrageous thing he’s ever said, but for the Christian– whether you are conservative or liberal– Trump’s comments are an attack upon the very foundation that nearly all other Christian theology, belief, and ethics are built upon. Yes, Christianity is like a river that splinters off in different directions, but before those disagreements there is by and large a mutual starting point.
Regardless of how one interprets the book of Genesis, the Christian foundation ultimately begins with the belief that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. Or more specifically, all Christian faith and practice ultimately stems from the belief that each human being has intrinsic, unsurpassable worth to God. Whether spoken or unspoken, this is the core foundation that all other beliefs and theology flow from, whether you’re a conservative Christian, liberal, or somewhere inbetween.
Why has God attempted to make himself known? Because human beings are God’s image bearers and have intrinsic, unsurpassable worth.
Why did Jesus put on flesh and dwell among us? Why was he willing to die (however one might explain the atonement)? Because human beings are God’s image bearers and have intrinsic, unsurpassable worth.
Why does God command us to love one another, and even say that it’s impossible to love God but also hate another person?
Why do evangelical Christians engage in world missions, progressive Christians preach inclusion, and everything else in between?
Because we both actually believe that as image bearers of God, we all have intrinsic and unsurpassable worth.
I don’t care how liberal or how conservative a particular theology may be, [with the exception of Calvinism] the vast majority of Christian faith and practice is deeply rooted in the foundational belief that we are each image bearers of the living God, and that we each have divine value that cannot be stripped away.
And this is why when Donald Trump speaks of immigrants and says they’re “not even people, they’re animals” it is an assault to our core foundation: referring to a human being as an “animal” (unless you’re doing it in bed) strips them of their divine value. More damagingly, it sends the anti-Christian message that there are some people who do not have unsurpassable worth and the God-given worth that we have.
In fact, nearly every act of evil in history first begins with attacking this foundation. Once we begin to see others as less than image bearers who have unsurpassable worth to God, and once we begin to label them as somehow being less than as fully human or as valued as we are, we then pave a road that will lead us to do the unthinkable– often without any remorse for it.
Why were we able to commit genocide against the Native Americans? Well, it first started with labeling them as “savages.”
Why was it so easy for our ancestors to buy and sell human beings? Well, they literally declared them to be less than fully human– that certainly makes it much easier on the conscience.
Whether it’s American slavery, or Hitler’s gas chambers, the most anti-Christ actions in history all began at the same root:
Attacking the foundational truth that each human being is an image bearer of the living God and thus has intrinsic and unsurpassable worth– just as our “Christian” president did when he called God’s image bearers “animals.”
And that’s precisely why Donald Trump’s most recent dehumanizing language is not only an assault against the Christian foundation, and something to be denounced by conservatives and liberals alike, but is a dangerous first step down a road that leads to the greatest evils the world has ever known.
For those who claim to follow Jesus, we have no choice but to resist.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.