We have blogged about Liberty University’s Falkirk Center before. The more I learn about this center the more I am convinced that it does not represent the teachings of Christianity. Recently someone on Twitter pointed out this paragraph in the Falkirk Center mission statement:
Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough, and turning the other cheek in our personal relationships with our neighbors as Jesus taught while abdicating our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield is no longer sufficient. There is too much at stake in the battle for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic action and initiative is needed, which is why we just launched the Falkirk Center, a think tank dedicated to restoring and defending American ideals and Judeo-Christian values in all aspects of life.
You read that correctly. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk, the leaders of the Falkirk Center, are suggesting that we should ignore Jesus’s teaching to “turn the other cheek.” Just for the sake of clarification, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” (Mt. 5:38-40).
Any why are the words of Jesus “no longer sufficient?” Because the “soul of the nation”–the United States of America– is more important. Later in the mission statement, Falwell and Kirk say that the Falkirk Center was created to defend “Judeo-Christian” principles. What is more Judeo-Christian than the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me”? (Exodus 20:1-3).
ADDENDUM (8:50 pm, January 16, 2020):
Several smart people have suggested that I may have misread Liberty University’s statement. They have said that the Falkirk Center was not denying that Jesus’s call to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individuals. Instead, the Falkirk Center is saying that we should not “abdicate” (the key word here) our responsibilities to engage on the “culture battlefield.”
I think this is a fair criticism, and I indeed may have misread the statement. For that I am sorry. But I don’t think I want to back away too strongly from what I wrote above. While several have correctly pointed out that Liberty University is not saying Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individual Christians, the Falkirk Center does seem to be suggesting that it is “insufficient” for culture engagement.
A few thoughts:
First, it appears that Jerry Falwell and Charlie Kirk believe that Jesus’s call to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for engaging the larger culture. If I read them correctly, they are saying that we should “turn the other cheek” in “our personal relationships with our neighbors,” but we should “not turn the other cheek” on the “cultural battlefield.” This assumes that our interaction with “neighbors” does not count as cultural engagement, as if the people we encounter everyday at our workplaces and in our communities are not part of culture.
Second, some have suggested that Falwell and Kirk are promoting a “2 Kingdoms” view of the relationship between the church and government. Those who espouse this view might say that we cannot expect the government to act in accordance with the Sermon in the Mount. In other words, according to this view, the idea of “turning the other cheek” is something individual Christians should do, but certainly not governments.
But even if we allow for such a 2 Kingdoms view, we must remember that such a view, which is often associated with Martin Luther, is about the relationship between Christians and GOVERNMENT. Liberty University’s Falkirk Center IS NOT the government. It is the product of a private Christian school–Liberty University.
Third, and finally, is it possible to engage public life in such a way that upholds the spirit of “turning the other cheek?” The statement’s use of the term “cultural battlefield” seems to champion an approach to public life–for an individual Christian or a group of Christians such as the Falkirk Center–that is antithetical to Jesus’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
Don’t get me wrong–I am not making an argument here against public engagement. Instead, I am making an argument here for a kind of public engagement that might take seriously the idea of “turning the other cheek.” (I will let the Christian political and moral philosophers wrestle with what this might look like). I am not sure if I am willing to “abdicate” the idea of “turning the other cheek” as a useful idea for Christians engaging in public life.