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.

Trump’s Dehumanizing Language Is An Assault Against Our Christian Foundation

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.

If that belief were to actually take root in the hearts of others? Well, I can imagine you just might find that belief give birth to all kinds of anti-Christ behaviors.

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.

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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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Post Comments:

  • The Mouse Avenger says:

    Well-put, well-written, & well-thought-out in every single way. 🙂 I have no other words to say, alas!

  • LadyWoman says:

    Surely someone is going to tell you, “He was just talking about gang members”. It’s the “just” that starts us down the path of more wide-spread dehumanization. If we don’t fight to at least think of everyone as human and valuable just for that, then it’s easy to think this person is less than because and that person is less than because and here’s a guy who’s less than because…we can ALWAYS find ways to dehumanize people. We sure as hell don’t need our President priming the pump by calling ANYONE animals. Deal with crime, yes, but deal with HUMANS, PEOPLE, committing crimes.

  • gloriamarie says:

    If one claims to be a Christian, one will know that no Christian can ever think to call another human being an “animal.” It is inconsistent with loving one’s neighbor as one’s self as God first loves us. There are no two ways to look at it. A Christian knows God loves all people.

    The only people who would call another person an “animal” is someone who speaks from a place of privilege, usually although not always, white privilege. The only people who would call another person an “animal” are people who think they are better than another. And God tells us no one is better than another. We are all sinners.

    This administration is filled with people of privilege who think they are better than anyone else in the country and possibly the world. This administration passes laws that help people like them and only like them: rich, straight, and white. This administration, I am convinced, would consider the average John Pavlovitz’ follower an “animal” because we are not rich, not all of us are straight, not all of us are white. They are endorsing self-professed neo-Nazis to run for political office, unopposed.

    The values of the current administration have nothing in common with Jesus’ values as taught in the Sermons on the Mount/Plain and in Matthew 25. This administration and those who support it have turned their backs on Jesus and His teachings.

    Every day I work hard to incorporate Jesus’s values to resist this administration and the evils they perpetuate. I strive to bring to attention actions, articles, well-documented news backed up by citations, references, and sources. The kingdom of heaven is “at hand,” meaning we can reach out and touch it and make it a reality. We can do this for the whole world. If you like, you can join my Facebook group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff.

  • Matthew says:

    What has happened to America?

  • Bob Shiloh says:

    I did not have to read very far to see you are quoting out of context and being as bad as the Fake News media.
    MS-13 is the gang our President was referring to and they are animals and need to be locked up for life. Fortunately for most of your readers this is all over the news and some are reporting on it correctly not trying to pander.

  • otrotierra says:

    Thank you Dr. Corey for affirming Jesus and The Greatest Commandment, no matter how politically offensive it is to U.S. white evangelicals still following Trump’s rage-filled, xenophobic gospel. White evangelicals will not be raptured, but will spend the remainder of their days attempting to justify their unjustifiable support for bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, fear-mongering, hatred, lies, deception, corruption, and their denial and obfuscation of the truth.

  • richard says:

    well, at least Trump didn’t call them a bunch of snakes and a brood of vipers, huh ?
    And yet that’s what Jesus called a group of people.
    Think about that.

  • Tim Higgins says:

    Seems that this has been debunked. I’m totally against the rhetoric of this man, but in this instance, we’ve got it wrong. Only right to retract. I’m removing my share of this from my page.

    https://www.dailywire.com/news/30748/animals-heres-how-unethical-mainstream-media-joseph-curl

  • Derek Ramsey says:

    “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.”

    Let’s ignore for a bit the implications to Trump and just address the underlying claim about Christians and the foundation of Christian theology. It’s difficult to conclude that either knowledge of scripture is surely lacking or this is just good old-fashioned partisan politics intruding into theology.

    John the Baptist called people vipers (Matthew 3:7). Jesus called people dogs and pigs (Matthew 7:6) and vipers and snakes (Matthew 12:34; 23:33). Peter called people animals (2 Peter 2:12). Balaam, a human, was rebuked by a donkey. God debased Nebuchadnezzar into living as a beast, like an ox, eagle, and bird. Jesus was placed in a manger, the eating trough for animals. There is nothing inherently wrong with calling someone an animal and Christians should not feel ashamed for doing so whenever it is appropriate. Context is everything.

    What gets worse is that the context of the statement was left out, as pointed out by other comments. Unlike calling someone an animal, deceiving is a unambiguous sin. This article should be retracted, as it is falsely distorts Christian theology.

  • Jim Larkin says:

    False teachers, like those who deny God, those who are full of greed, those who are sexually depraved, are referred to in the Bible (2 Peter 2) as(or like) “unreasoning animals” “creatures of instinct to be captured and killed” “stains and blemishes” “a dog” “a sow” (a swine, hog or a boar).

  • Elizabeth Niederer says:

    And this describes undocumented persons within the borders of the USA how, precisely?

  • Cynthia says:

    Certainly agree at how unacceptable his language and policies are, but I’m not really sure about calling it an attack on our Christian foundation.

    An attack on American foundation? That would make sense to say, since he is the American president and has the power to affect the country. Against fundamental Christian values? That would also make sense. Attack on vulnerable immigrants? Surely. But how is someone who isn’t a Christian leader capable of assaulting the foundation of Christianity? Surely Christianity exists independent of the US President and the US is not a theocracy.

  • Guest says:

    You know what’s dehumanizing? Taking people out of context. The “animals” comment was specifically in reference to a question about MS-13.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/05/17/ms-13-donald-trump-gang-violence-animals-immigrants-media-column/621537002/

    That being said, regardless of speech I think it’s dehumanizing to put one’s will over another, even if it’s the collective will.
    I’m also much less concerned about the dehumanizing aspect of speech as I am the inhumane view toward murder our presidents have had, including abolishing due process.
    https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/targeted-killing-death-without-due-process

  • otrotierra says:

    Just FYI to Dr. Corey and the comment section moderator: harassment continues at the Sojourners comment section, as a user has yet again opened a fraudulent Disqus account to impersonate me. Their account is marked as private in the hopes of masking their deception.

  • Al Cruise says:

    This all stems from this fact and it’s scaring the living hell out of white evangelicals. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/

  • Scott says:

    Motto of MS-13: Rape, control, kill. Calling them animals is an insult to animals.

  • Realist1234 says:

    Sometimes animals treat each other better than some humans. I dont see animals beheading or burning alive their fellow beings.

  • Just Me says:

    You, like the rest of the media, took this out of context. He was speaking specifically about the MS13 gang members and yes calling them animals is factually correct.

  • Francis J Farrell says:

    READ THE TRANSCRIPT! SHAME FOR YOU PARROTTING THE LEFTIST “FAKE NEWS” LINE!

  • BJ Oropeza says:

    Could you please check your facts? This was said about the gang MS-13, which means that you quoted Trump out of context. A good discipline I’ve learned to do now (due to so much bias in news media coverage of anything that goes on politically or in the White House), is to switch between two media sources, one on the right and one of the left, such as CNN and Fox news, or NYTimes and Drudge report. This way, at least you could hear both sides of an issue, and detect when news is taking things out of context.

  • Marshall says:

    John Bunyan also took liberty to describe humans by means of zoology.
    Politics can be no ally of faith.

  • C_Alan_Nault says:

    “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. ”

    And that women are not worth as much as men and must be subordinate to men.

    1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
    35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    Also, shun non-Christians.

    2 John 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
    10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed

    Also, your slaves should fear and respect you.

    Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.

    And if your slave is also Christian, your slave should work even harder for you because he/she will be helping a fellow Christian.

    1 Timothy 6:1-2 Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.

  • Dang Genius says:

    Trump is a master politician. He’s a genius panderer, just like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Although his language may seem off-the-cuff, I suspect it’s more thought out with intention to stir support from his base. Bottom line is, we have a serious education problem in this country and until we fill the country with smart voters, we’re going to continue to get divisive politicians who use polarizing language to rouse their base. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is an American citizen issue. Most people in this country lack the thinking skills to process what ‘pandering’ is. And so it’s exploited.

  • John says:

    He was clearly talking about MS-13. You are disseminating fake news and you are a domestic terrorist.

  • Patricia Lindsay Douglass says:

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Trump has made many remarks about people that doesn’t lift them up as “image bearers”. This is one reason I could never support him.

  • steve says:

    Trump is a white supremacist, and appeals to a right-wing base of supporters. He does not care about anyone outside of this group, in fact, he only cares about himself.

  • SamHamilton says:

    I am loath to sound like a defender of the President, but in this case I think he was talking about gang members. His language is often inexact and/or sloppy, and he should be more careful. His spokesperson clarified later that he was, indeed, referring to members of MS-13, who were the subject of the original question to which he was responding. However, I can understand how some people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt considering some of the things he’s said in the past.

    In our town, gang members from Central America slit a young man’s throat and left him under a slide on a playground near our home. “Animals” is too good an adjective for people who would do such a thing.

    That being said, this is an interesting thought experiment. Couldn’t Mr. Corey’s same points be made even about violent gang members? Aren’t they, too, human? Shouldn’t Christians react with just as much frustration to characterizing convicted murderers in dehumanizing terms? Should it matter whether the President was talking about any undocumented immigrant or just MS-13 members?

    Mr. Corey’s sentiment, though I think he misinterpret’s the President, is accurate. His comments are a good reminder about dehumanizing language or attempts to make people different than you into people who can be dismissed. Comments like “people who cling to their guns and religion” or using labels like “commie, hater, bigot, fascist, terrorist, socialist, fundamentalist, etc.” People use these terms less as true descriptors but more as slurs to imply “these people can be disregarded.” Politicians from across the political spectrum are very good at this. Christians should eschew this behavior.

    Addendum: Another example of dehumanizing language to further political goals is “it’s just a clump of cells,” “no different than getting your appendix out or sloughing skin cells.”

  • Dean Daniels says:

    I wasn’t aware that Anabaptists or Progressive Christians were Full Preterists proposing Postmillennial theocracy. Historical accounts of the Anabaptists peg their eschatology as Premillennialist. But aside from that curiosity, do we see any such New Testament raging against emperors and governors? Paul engages murderous tyrants of Jerusalem, Rome and Asia and he does so with respect and grace and without fear and panic that “Christian foundations” are under siege and in danger of eroding under their reign. Additionally, there are no such attitudes or diatribes found in the Patristic writings. We cannot propose that God will judge Christians as to a vote in error in a democratic republic or blind support of a maniacal despot – so to judge them ourselves is clearly stepping out of the bounds of His mercy and Grace. I submit that the only “Christian foundation” under assault here is this particular construct of Theology which is lacking continuity in debate. Unless of course, this written ‘condemnation of other brethren’ truly is from the consensus of Full Preterist Postmillennialism – then it is just a heretical error; but even then I am not aware that heretical error in eschatological matters is worthy of condemnation.

  • David White says:

    I think most anit-Trump folks hear only what they want to hear in order to reinforce their preconceived conclusions. As in this case, when placed in context, Trump was talking about brutal inhumane gang members who act like “animals” not humans. In this context calling them “animals” is equivalent to saying that they are acting like animals.
    It would be very nice to hear from anti-Trumper’s when the President talks about the importance of loving one another, the uniqueness of America as an incredibly positive influence on the world. That is not to say that America is perfect, but no country on earth, in the context of history, has come to the aid of other in need like the USA. To talk about our goodness with pride while talking about our mistakes with regret inspires people to goodness. Let’s get some balance here eh?

  • Kyllein MacKellerann " says:

    One needs to understand that Donald Trump has only one God, who happens to be named Donald Trump. Other diverse creeds may be tolerated, but at the end of the day, the POTUS will only worship at the altar of Donald J. Trump and his divine avatar, Mammon.

  • kaydenpat says:

    Supposedly Trump’s remark was about MS-13 members. However, given Trump’s past comments which are racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc., he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. He’s a bigot and proudly so.

  • Realist1234 says:

    ‘You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.’ I think its obvious he is not talking about immigrants in general, but people who have done very bad things. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that Trump was referring to MS-13 gang members. Per wikipedia:

    ‘In an interview with Bill Ritter in late 2017, Nassau County, New York District Attorney Madeline Singas, referring to crimes committed by MS-13 gang members, stated: “The crimes that we’re talking about are brutal. Their weapon of choice is a machete. We end up seeing people with injuries that I’ve never seen before. You know, limbs hacked off. And that’s what the bodies look like that we’re recovering. So they’re brutal. ‘

    According to the same article:

    ‘On July 28, 2017, one day after 113 suspected MS-13 gang members were arrested by Salvadoran authorities,[32] President Donald Trump declared his goal of “eradicating” MS-13, calling them “animals” whose victims “die slowly because that way it’s more painful.”‘

    Assuming Ben is reporting what Trump said within the last few weeks, then this quote from nearly a year ago is strong evidence he was again specifically referring to MS-13 gang members.

    It is hard not to come to the conclusion that on this occasion, Trump is being falsely accused..

  • JB Watkins says:

    You moron, he was obviously talking about MS-13

  • Elca says:

    White Evangelicals and the Religious Right supports and enable such divisive rhetoric.
    When we taught that Trump had hit a new low with his racist comment about ” S…Hole people” and his preference for white people from Norway, Evangelicals simply slap him on his orange hands and gave him a wink, a nod and a smile so he can continue his divisive ,bitter and offensive tirade against God’s Children.
    We will never hear Trump be so out spoken against white supremacists and white terrorist, killing kids in schools…
    I look forward to Trump going to a new low, because Trump knows this is what the base ( Evangelicals, the Religious Right and the deplorables ) wants to hear to be fed.

  • otrotierra says:

    Dr. Corey: over at his Patheos blog, Morgan Guyton just announced that Patheos Evangelical shut down Dr. Throckmorton’s blog. Dr. Throckmorton, you likely know, has courageously spoken out against serial abuser Mark Driscoll and other fraudulent evangelicals who continue to lie, deceive, obfuscate, and bear false witness. Is there any kind of support that you and other Jesus-following Patheos bloggers can offer Dr. Throckmorton?

    More evidence that U.S. Evangelicals are earning their national and international reputation as self-centered, self-serving, abusive bullies with a deep hatred for truth.

  • Chuck Johnson says:

    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.

    Not true.
    You, Benjamin and other modern Christians made that up and then pretend that it’s the original intent of Christianity and Judaism.
    Making things up an then pretending that they are true is a hallmark of religious people.

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