The Election Battle over Imago Dei

Imago Dei, from the Latin for image of God, is the doctrine from Genesis 1 and 2 that God made humans in His image in a way that He did not make even the most intelligent animal. This foundational Judeo-Christian value is why we put away for life someone who murders a human with intent and forethought, while we likely only fine them for similarly harming an animal. This doctrine links the glory of God to the dignity of humans. And this is the doctrine that has been most at stake in this election cycle.

When the DNC refused to allow any pro-life language in their party platform and primary voters decided on Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, all choice for those who believed in Imago Dei was taken away. Understand that there were no options left, and all who voted in any way (and for that matter didn’t vote) somehow contributed to our current climate of disdaining fellow image bearers.

Some have attributed non-votes, third party votes, or votes for Trump as sin, because he has and will continue to set our country back on civil rights issues. Some attribute votes for Clinton as sin, because she would have actively sought to end the ban on partial-birth abortion, a horrible procedure that murders the most vulnerable image bearers of God, image bearers who are viable outside of the womb.  In contrast, I don’t believe votes are sin and deeply value the right to vote according to your own conscience.

If as a believer you voted for Clinton and she won, I hope you would have adamantly committed yourself to correcting the party platform to include protections for life. But she didn’t win, so now we need to channel our battle for the doctrine of Imago Dei and its practical implications to the reality of a Trump presidency before us.

Donald Trump’s language throughout the campaign has been anti-Imago Dei. Clinton’s “deplorable” comment was too, but she was at least embarrassed and apologetic afterwards. Trump instead embraced such comments as essential to his campaign. And now someone who despises the essence of Imago Dei in folks who disagree with him is president, communicating that such a stance is OK and will actually get you promoted in today’s America.

Folks, we must cry out against that. And I speak particularly to white readers. Many of us have loved ones who voted for Trump with distress, wrestling over what to do. But some of us have loved ones who voted for Trump with delight, adopting his anti-Imago Dei rhetoric and continuing to do so after the election. We must rebuke racist language and actions whenever we see them and stand in the gap for friends, family, and even strangers who are under attack. In the past, I have mostly looked away when I have heard racist comments from friends or family. I thought the fact that I didn’t say it or live it was enough. But I no longer think that. Often, a simple “that’s racist and offensive” will do when calling out friends, coworkers, or family. But sometimes, you need to put your body between an abusive person and someone they are attacking in a way that may get you harmed. But, you know what? You need to do it anyway.

Here’s the thing about the doctrine of man created in the image of God. It first humbles us. We are not God. And then it lifts our heads back up. We are not dogs. We are not pets. We are not expendable. Our lives matter, and not because of what we contribute to society. This is why Jesus came to die for us. He didn’t die because lions now eat lambs or winds destroy mountains. He came to die for HUMANS, to reclaim the image of God in their lives. They were the pinnacle of creation and STILL ARE.  For all the talk of Christ dying for “such a worm as I,” that’s actually not it at all. You are not a worm. And your dirty (or scary or poor or anything) neighbor of another color or religion most certainly is not either.

Is God working to restore creation? Yes. Will one day the lion lay down again with the lamb? Yes. But that is a secondary result of God’s primary purpose in Jesus’ death.  He first came to redeem mankind.

People are crying out after this election, and many of them are oblivious to or even down right reject God as their Creator. It matters not to the inherent dignity they bear as a flawed and marred image bearer of God. Hear their concerns, and if you believe Genesis 1 and 2 (or the first chapters of Isaiah or a myriad of other passages on God’s care of the poor and oppressed), then stand in the gap for them. Seek justice. End oppression. Rebuke malicious words. And in the truest sense of the phrase, do it all for the glory of God.

When you protect mankind made in the image of God, you reflect the worth of the God who made them.

13 Responses to The Election Battle over Imago Dei

  1. Laura November 11, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

    Thanks Wendy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had thoughts in my head that I somehow could not articulate, and then I read one of your posts and you have expressed it.

    “Many of us have loved ones who voted for Trump with distress, wrestling over what to do. But some of us have loved ones who voted for Trump with delight, adopting his anti-Imago Dei rhetoric and continuing to do so after the election.” – I voted 3rd party, but can understand the first thing here. What disturbs and concerns me greatly is the later – evangelicals who voted for Trump with delight. Many of such have lost their gospel witness and can’t even see it.

  2. Anita November 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm #


  3. Lynn Betts November 16, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    You have some good thoughts here, thanks.

    You seem to choose an interpretation of the “Judeo-Christian value” of Imago Dei (sometimes referred to as “personhood”) that it is given by God at, or very soon after, conception. So it appears you are discounting the “Judeo-Christian” interpretations kthat it is given later in the development process (such as at viability, or physical birth). This latter view seems common in the medical community and in practice among the Jewish community. It is held by many Democrats who are Christian, as well.

    Have you engaged the various aspects of this view in a blog post?


    • Wendy November 16, 2016 at 11:36 am #

      I haven’t, Lynn, but that is a good thing to talk about. I think of Imago Dei being conferred (though not sure that is the right wording) when fully formed human DNA that has the ability then to form a human is made. So, conception. That is not to say that I would claim that forms of birth control that make an inhospitable uterus so that fertilized eggs are discarded is murder. I think there is a mystery in the early days and weeks of conception. But as Piper once eloquently put it, I may not be able to tell the exact moment that day becomes night, but I know night when I see it. In other words, we may not agree on the moments exactly that life starts, but I think most agree that once a baby is viable outside of the womb, there are serious moral obligations to it.

  4. Lynn Betts November 16, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for the reply, Wendy.

    As important as the issue of abortion is, too many conservative Christians are not even aware of alternate views and of their biblical, historical, medical and theological case for support. As with our other key doctrines we are willing to debate and respectfully disagree about, this should be added if we’re interested in representing Truth as best we understand it, and in respecting our brothers and sisters who may disagree with our interpretation of the data.

    If you’re interested, you can find more good information at some of these links (which I hope do come through correctly):

    The view from an MD who is also an ordained Assemblies of God minister:…

    A standard Jewish perspective, from an MD and professor of medicine:

    A survey of historical Jewish perspectives on abortion:

    A good sketch of the difference in the United Methodist Church view (which is held by Hillary Clinton) and the view held by Bill Clinton (which is essentially the Jewish view, but also held by some Christians):

    A similar survey of perspectives on “when personhood begins”:

    A survey of a movement regarding “Personhood Laws” in U.S.:

    Finally, a philosophical exploration is handled in a paper by Margaret Olivia Little titled “Abortion and the Margins of Personhood” – do a search for the PDF.

    I might add that the idea that personhood develops in a process culminating in viability or birth is similar to the doctrine that many Christians hold that humans acquire their moral accountability over a process of several years following birth. (Some call the arrival of moral accountability an “age of accountability” or “condition of accountability”, as I’m sure you know.)

  5. Liz November 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    My question is not of personhood (as Lynn’s was) as I agree with your stance, Wendy. But I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to encourage you to look up some information on “partial birth abortion.” I found this old NPR enlightening:

    But! I was reluctant to make your excellent post into an abortion debate. I’ve honestly been really disappointed in the Christian community’s overall response to this election season, and I’ve been relieved to follow your thoughts on social media. So many marginalized groups already feel abandoned, condemned, hated by the church. And this election has only confirmed those feelings for so, so many.

    Not only are people hurting, but they’re not experiencing any response from the church.

  6. Margaret November 19, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this post. I’m a white teacher at an urban public middle school in MA. Many of my students are members of one of the groups Trump has denigrated during his campaign, and it’s hard to see their discouragement and fear after his election. Almost as hard is listening to many of my white Christian friends say that racism is not a real problem in this country anymore, and anybody protesting Trump’s win or fearful after it is just a crybaby.

  7. Beverly December 5, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    One thing about this past election that is certain is that it STRETCHED all of us!

  8. Beverly December 5, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    I am struggling with what to say as a result of how ‘sensitive’ audiences seem to have become. I saw the word, marginalize, in Liz’ comment and wonder. When you compliment one in a group, do you not marginalize or totally negate all others? Is there not a time when we have to say that it is OK to talk about a topic without being all inclusive because there is a time or a place for everything? All do not deserve the ‘trophy’. Isn’t personal strength and the fortitude to know that life is not ‘all about us’ something that we all need to learn? It seems that if we don’t we may just implode with self-importance and the thought that if we aren’t always included in what is going on, we are marginalized and we have a fight on our hands, when if we just have the confidence and know that God truly loves us and it is not a love that everyone has the ability to convey to us (though they may be working on it).

  9. Beverly December 5, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    In a message by Robert Morris, he questioned living by our conscience as opposed to living by the Word of God. As a Christian, I believe that God is still alive and doesn’t communicate with us in many ways. That said, is ‘voting our conscience’ less effective since we have been given the Holy Spirit as a gift that lives in us after we become ‘born-again’? Should we not all the more be listening to what the Spirit is saying to us and voting in that Light???

  10. Beverly December 5, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    Sorry, the above comment should have said, “God is still alive and DOES communicate…”