Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Core Values the Religious Right Taught Me, But Abandoned in the Age of Trump

I was a child of the Religious Right.

From my 777 “To Hell With The Devil” t-shirt, to reading Like Lambs to the Slaughter so I could explain to my English teacher how her guided “relaxation” technique was demonic, I was programmed well.

I grew up and eventually became an adult in the Religious Right.

I left Gospel tracts with my tip at restaurants, was the town chairman of the Republican party, and even had a bumper sticker that said “I accelerate for liberals.”

Throughout my years in the Religious Right, especially as a child, I was taught a specific slate of values– some I still hold, and some I do not. Ironically, the same can be said for the Religious Right itself; core values and principles which once were seen as unshakable, have now been discarded in the Age of Trump. Here are some of these values that this Leftist Apostate learned from the Religious Right, but that only I believe now:

Simply claiming to be a Christian doesn’t mean that one actually is a Christian

Growing up in the Religious Right, we used to have a go-to saying for people who claimed to be a Christian but whose life clearly didn’t reflect it. We’d tell them, “I can sit in the garage all day long and claim to be a car, but that doesn’t make me a car.” We rightly believed that simply claiming the title “Christian” did not necessarily mean that an individual actually was one.

However, in the Age of Trump, this belief has been totally abandoned. Instead, the most un-Christian president one could possibly imagine is now seen as a bold Christian who boldly defends Christian values– simply because… well, he says so.

Me? Well, I might be a Leftist Apostate, but I still believe that the true evidence of whether or not one is a Christian is found in the type of life that they lead.

Character counts

Here’s an inconvenient truth: during the Clinton presidency we coined the term “character counts” because, so we believed, the individual moral and ethical character of a leader directly impacted their ability to lead.

This core belief of the Religious Right firmly existed until the day they realized remaining true to this value would mean voting against their own candidate. In the Clinton Era, this value meant taking out a democrat– but in the current era, remaining true to that value would have meant actually electing one. With the election of Trump I thought I had seen my former tribe at their worst, and wondered if this was a one-time deal they’d eventually repent of, but came to see that this value change of the Religious Right was permanent in nature when they supported child-predator Roy Moore for Senate.

Me? Well, this Liberal Apostate believes that character still counts, and won’t be supporting candidates in either party who can’t pass a basic morality test.

Truth and morality don’t change simply because surrounding culture changes.

When I was a kid the Religious Right sat us down and taught us that simply because culture may change, it doesn’t mean that truth or morality changes with it– that just because all of our friends might become accepting of something, doesn’t mean it’s right or true. Instead, we were taught that truth is absolute and that what is moral or immoral never changes either.

In the Era of Trump, this belief changed dramatically. While they still of course hold to some of their original moral convictions, truth and morality in many areas have all of a sudden become much more fluid. Sexual assault became “locker room talk”, lies became “alternative facts”, folks like Franklin Graham responded to the Russian meddling in the U.S. election with “so what, everyone is doing it”, and the moral failings of their own political leaders all of a sudden became somehow excusable.

Me? Well, I remain firm in my conviction that truth and morality don’t shift with the seasons of culture. What is a lie today doesn’t magically become truth tomorrow. What is immoral today doesn’t instantly become acceptable tomorrow. Apostate or not, I’ll keep holding this conviction long after they have walked away from it.

It is impossible to serve two masters

Jesus famously said that it’s impossible to serve two masters, and when I was a member of the Religious Right we actually believed this.

We were taught that you can love God or love the things of this world, but you cannot love both. We were taught that you can follow God’s way, or follow the world’s way, but not both. Back in those days, being a Christian actually meant you had to make some choices that might result in personal sacrifice.

These days? While I still believe it is impossible to swear allegiance to God and something or someone else, the Religious Right seems to have changed their tune. Instead, I’ve actually seen many leaders on the Religious Right argue that serving God, by definition, meant one had to also serve Donald Trump.

Yes, in the old days we believed that one had to pick between Jesus and Barabbas, but in the Era of Trump it appears that you can choose them both at the same time.

Me? Well, I actually still hold to the belief that you can follow God, or follow the crowd.


Yes, I spent many years as a member of the Religious Right and made a rather public exit from that tribe.

But what is also true is that I learned some values and principles during my time in the Religious Right, that were good and true.

These values remain true to me…

I only wish these still remained true to them.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

Maybe it's not the end of the world...

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But let's be honest-- this is pretty #$@%! close.

Trump's America
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Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It might not be the end of the world...

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"Benjamin L. Corey demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Gospel." - 12/14/2014
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What you think

Post Comments:

  • otrotierra says:

    Thank you Dr. Corey for affirming Jesus, no matter how offensive it is to U.S. Evangelicals following Trump’s hate-filled gospel.

  • TheReal Govteach says:

    I live in East Texas, the middle of the evangelical world. These people will give the shirts off their backs to help you….then turn around and do some of the most hate filled things. Often involving people who are of another race….or religion…..often a religion that also follows Christ. How do I explain these actions to a non-Christian? Seriously?

  • Dave Leigh says:

    Would like to hear what the fifth value is.

  • Al Cruise says:

    Galatians 5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

  • Larry TheKeyboardist Blake says:

    That part about serving two masters…wasn’t it supposed to be God and Money? Gotta love how the religious right conveniently ignores that part (looks directly at Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen).

  • Matthew says:

    It´s amazing what people are willing to tolerate in the pursuit of power and control.

  • A Blessing to All says:

    It is interesting that even “back in the day” “I accelerate for liberals” was an acceptable bumper sticker.Maybe a lot of this stuff was just simmering below the surface before it boiled over…

  • Iain Lovejoy says:

    If you left tracts with your tip, it seems you never were a proper fundie: the usual practice is to leave a tract instead of a tip, as I understand it.

  • ashpenaz says:

    I understand these Fundies are selling out all their values, but what I don’t get is this–why for Trump, of all people? If you’re going to sell your soul for an authoritarian leader, couldn’t you pick someone better than Trump? Or Roy Moore? If I knew I was going to have to stand before Jesus and explain who I turned my back on him for, I wouldn’t want to have to point to a 6-ft. cardboard figure of Trump. Jesus would have to control His giggling while He threw you in the Lake of Fire. If they were selling their souls for, say, even Putin (which I guess they are)–it would make sense. At least Putin is smart and attractive. Both Putin and Satan are probably laughing hysterically behind these Fundies’ backs, going, “Trump? Seriously? Can you believe how easy these people were to fool?”

    Fundies, show some self-respect. Sell your souls for someone worthwhile–like Ted Cruz! 🙂

  • Chuck Johnson says:

    Me? Well, I remain firm in my conviction that truth and morality don’t shift with the seasons of culture. What is a lie today doesn’t magically become truth tomorrow. What is immoral today doesn’t instantly become acceptable tomorrow.-Benjamin

    No, not magically or instantly.
    But in time, these changes come.

  • SamHamilton says:

    Well said Mr. Corey. Far too often we see people jettison their standards for the sake of political “wins.” But in the long run, these wins don’t last. Many supposed feminists who made excuses for and even defended Bill Clinton are now facing accountability. Christians who excuse Donald Trump’s behavior will eventually be held accountable. It will take time, but it will happen.

  • Al Cruise says:

    At the end of the day , I feel that the leaders and gatekeepers of the religious right seen Trump as someone who would preserve their “privileged culture” that they feel is under threat. I don’t feel the support they gave Trump was based on any kind of Spiritual reflection, but more on self preservation of their privileges within society .

  • Herm says:

    Luke 23:1-25, John 19:1-16, Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15

    But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

    “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

    “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

    John 19:15 (NIV2011)

    Ben, this is not new. The chief priests knew only to appease Caesar to protect the sanctity of their religious beliefs. To do so they incited their flocks to sacrifice the only Rabbi who could teach them to be children of God, faithful only to the perfect will of their Father in heaven.

    In order to protect their religious beliefs (e.g.: no equal civil rights for gays and no right for a woman to choose how her body is utilized for the propagation of mankind), the evangelical fundamentalists today will appease any Caesar, benevolent or not, righteous or not, by sacrificing their Teacher over the will of their chief priests.

    I could go on and on, as too many here know, but the sum of the law says nothing about selling out God in the name of God. Caiaphas, as the reigning high priest, had the privilege of going directly to counsel with the Holy Spirit relative to the credibility of Jesus being the prophesied Christ. He would have learned from the Spirit of truth directly that he would be, if he continued on as he did, crucifying a beloved child of God in God’s name only to appease the politics of his party (the Chief Priests and Pharisees) and the will of Caesar.

    As it was written then, it remains true today. We still are barbarically, in essence, sacrificing our virgin daughters to appease the wrath of our volcano god just as we were taught from birth by our religious leaders. I choose not to be in the lynch mob masses as the source to find my pride of righteousness through my tribe’s traditional sacrifice of God’s daughters and sons, simply because I did not check with the available Spirit of truth first, no longer behind the curtain. There is only one Way for us all to end our self righteous appeasement of our parties, our religions, our families, communities and our nations of mankind by sacrificing children of God >>> Matthew 23:8-12 … John 16:13 … Matthew 7:12

    I truly do unconditionally love (with and in empathy, tolerance, passion, forgiveness, …) all of Man and God, of whom each I am a son, born of water and of Spirit. I hurt for President Trump, for all those who follow his lead and for all the innocent children of Man and God who are crucified by those who know not what they are doing. This is not new and there is no sign that it will end as long as Man is the steward of life on this earth.

  • Shirley Blake says:

    I love your passion and fire for God. And while I mostly agree I can’t help but think, as noted below, really, nothing has changed. The history of religion from the Old Testament and on demonstrates the very nature of sin in the corrupt thirst for power that is inherent in man and subsequently the church. Isn’t that ultimately why we have the story of the Christ? To provide life to the ideals of God. I, you and those who are able to be humbled must stand the charge and lift up continually the values that Jesus life represents.

  • cken says:

    Unfortunately the other candidate fell shorter on the moral scale than Trump.

  • Bob Shiloh says:

    As usual you are conflicted and confuse politics with religion. The Presidential election was between a Democrat and a Republican not Jesus and Satan. The Left is for God with their lips but anti-God with their actions. The Right is also for God in their rhetoric but less so in their actions. But this is politics not church. We elect a President to keep us safe and to grow the economy among other things; not to be an image of Jesus.

  • kaydenpat says:

    Another great article. After Conservatives endorsed Roy Moore, they should be told to shut up and sit down when they try to push their “moral values” on the rest of us. They have absolutely nothing to say to me.

  • raven nevermore says:

    I possibly agree with Corey more than disagree. What he and others like him, however, do not understand that the religious right simply had enough of the intellectual bigotry (using whatever intelligence to be narrow minded and self-righteous) from the leftists. I take it God will use imperfect leaders.God used Churchill and is using Trump – in both cases, no thanks to leftists.

  • Houndentenor says:

    But they were always like this. A good recent case in point: Paul Pressler.* This was widely known 25 years ago in Houston but everyone at both 1st and 2nd Baptist Churches (2nd Baptist is larger for some reason) there was happy to let him continue in important lay leadership positions in the Southern Baptist Convention. Trump isn’t new. It’s just out in the open. That’s the only change.

    * https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Lawsuit-accuses-retired-Texas-justice-of-sexual-12458341.php

    (Also, note that as early as 1989 an unspecified ethics charge disqualified him from a position in the Bush (41) administration: http://articles.latimes.com/1989-09-22/news/mn-711_1_ethical-questions )

    Things like this always went on. It was just easier to cover your tracks before the internet.

  • AnonymousSam says:

    There was a poll awhile back which showed that Christians believed, firmly and ardently, that a person’s individual character was pivotal to how well they could perform the duties of their office.

    Then in 2015, that poll showed a sharp reversal. Suddenly a person’s character didn’t matter one bit. And guess who had announced his candidacy for president around that time?

    There’s statistical evidence to back up #2 if I can dredge it up again.

  • ashpenaz says:

    About Hillary–I think she is a flawed human being and a corrupt, ambitious politician. I also think her resume shows her to be an intelligent, capable manager. As evangelicals now say, I wasn’t voting for a pastor–I was voting for someone who I felt had the skills to be President. Clearly, of the two candidates whose resumes were on my desk in the last election, Hillary was without any doubt whatsoever the person I would hire to run my company/country. Her flaws, though many and deep, did not pose a threat to the overall mission of the company/country. She would be an effective manager until we had the chance to put in someone better. Trump, from everything on his clearly limited resume, showed that he would be a danger to the mission of the company, and I felt it was even possible that the company would go out of business if I voted to put Trump in a position of leadership. I still think that.

    Now that evangelicals have clearly stated that someone’s personal flaws do not render them ineligible for public office, I can vote for candidates like Hillary, or Elizabeth Warren, or Cory Booker, or Joe Biden. Thank God, there’s now a Biblical defense for electing sinners! 🙂

  • Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg says:

    Moral superiority isn’t a religious value; it’s a matter of ego. If you had to vote with your feet and leave your church due to its hypocrisy, note that Jesus said, “The love of the greater number will cool off,” and wait for further Orders. Never mind, gloating. We who find the Church wanting have nothing to gloat over.

  • Mr. James Parson says:

    What is immoral today doesn’t instantly become acceptable tomorrow.

    Sure it does. This is not even hard to find examples.

  • FrankScotsman . says:

    We’ve (America) religiously reached what I often call “Ambient Religion.” There’s no longer any connection between our religion and our behavior, but instead our religion is solely connected to our environment. Religion doesn’t flow out from us, but is expected to come as support from things around us. We can’t allow anyone to offend our religious “ambiance” by saying “Happy Holidays” or serving us coffee at Christmas time in plain red cups, or speak in foreign languages, or wear foreign clothes or openly follow a religion we don’t follow. The attitude is that “everyone else is responsible for my religion except for me.”
    I don’t see any point to such entitled religion, we need to follow the admonition to “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” I hope American religion has a reformation and returns to personal responsibility.

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