Liberty University’s Falkirk Center Says “Turning the Other Cheek” is No Longer Sufficient

Liberty U

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.

What the Court Evangelicals (and some others) are Saying About Mark Galli’s *Christianity Today* Editorial

Trump Beleive me

Out in paperback on January 7, 2020

Here is Robert Jeffress:

Franklin Graham here.

Ralph Reed:

Ralph Reed also really likes Franklin Graham’s comments:

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center‘s at Liberty University retweeted Trump.

A spokesperson for the Falkirk Center is upset at Jim Acosta of CNN:

Here is one of the so-called “Falkirk Fellows”:

A former leader of the Assemblies of God is not happy with Mark Galli:

Jack Graham thinks, Christianity Today is out of touch with American evangelicalism, as if public morality is some kind of popularity contest.  This makes me wonder who is on the narrow road and who is on the broad road.(Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s always good for the court evangelicals when alt-Right website Breitbart is on your side:

Laura Ingraham of Fox News:

Jerry Falwell Jr. blocked me a long time ago, but this morning he tweeted: “Less than 20% of evangelicals supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 but now CT Magazine has removed any doubt that they are part of the same 17% or so of liberal evangelcials who have preached social gospel for decades! CT unmasked!”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council trashes Christianity Today:

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network shows how crazy this is getting and how Trump is not driving the white conservative evangelical narrative.  He  thinks that Christianity Today is now somehow the magazine of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Eric Metaxas is apparently engaging on Twitter, but I can’t read his tweets because he blocked me.

 

I’ll End This Debate Right Here: Jesus Was Not a Socialist

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It looks like Liberty University’s Falkirk Center wants to stage a debate between Charlie Kirk and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove over whether Jesus was a socialist.  Here is a taste of Jack Jenkins’s piece at Religion News Service:

Charlie Kirk says no. But the Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove says Jesus is more complicated than that.

Kirk and Wilson-Hartgrove may square off soon at a proposed debate to be hosted by the new Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty at Liberty University. 

On Thursday (Dec. 12), the Twitter account of the newly created conservative think tank posted a challenge to Wilson-Hartgrove, a progressive faith leader in North Carolina, offering to host a debate over whether Jesus was a socialist.

The tweet stipulated that the debate would be conducted between Wilson-Hartgrove and Kirk, the 26-year-old co-founder of the Falkirk Center and head of the conservative group Turning Point USA.

The tweet said both parties would also include one other participant of their choosing.

Wilson-Hartgrove, a pastor and author of “Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good,” responded by accepting the challenge and offering up prominent progressive activist the Rev. William Barber II as his partner.

However, he also appeared to reject the premise of the debate.

“Socialism emerged in the 19th (century) as a critique of capitalism, which didn’t exist in 1st century Palestine,” he tweeted. “But if (Charlie Kirk) & Falwell are up for a public conversation about what the Lord requires of us in public life, (the Rev. William Barber) & I are ready.”

Read the entire piece here.

Was Jesus a socialist?  No. Socialism did not exist until the 19th century.  I thus agree with Wilson-Hartgrove.  The entire premise of the debate is flawed.  It looks like the Falkirk’s Center’s attempt to re-educate Americans about United States history is off to a good start.

Rudy Giuliani’s Spokesperson is a 20-Year-Old Ambassador for Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Falkirk Center

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Christianne Allen with “Falkirk Fellow” David J. Harris Jr.

The Falkirk Center is Liberty University’s new “think tank.”  Read more about it in these posts.

One of the Falkirk Center’s “ambassadors” is a 20-year old Liberty online student named Christianne Allen. She is also the spokesperson for Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.  I am assuming that Falwell Jr. chose Allen as an ambassador of the Falkirk Center because she has become popular as a Giuliani spokesperson. She is the kind “influencer” Falwell Jr. likes.

And how can we say that the embrace of Donald Trump by leading evangelicals is not damaging the witness of the Gospel in the world?

Here is a taste of Daniel Lippman and Tina Nguyen’s piece on Allen at Politico:

This much is undisputed: Allen soon left public high school to work for the campaign without pay, enrolling in Liberty University Online to complete her high school degree.

But she quickly gained a reputation for inflating her importance.

“I forget all the titles she told me she had. She was ‘millenials for something’ or ‘teens for this,’” one former official said. At one point, her social media accounts claimed she was an official spokeswoman for the Trump campaign. She was not, according to these officials. (In a text, Allen explained that she referred to herself as a campaign spokesperson “only because I spoke at a couple rallies.”)

“I think she made it to a point where she made [volunteering] untenable,” said one of the former Virginia campaign officials, citing Allen’s apparent disinterest in performing basic campaign tasks. “She wasn’t productive, but she was attempting to insert herself into everything. If there’s an event, she’s showing up to help whether or not she was invited to [it].”

Lee Allen described one speech she gave at a Trump rally in front of an old battleship in Norfolk with a crowd of thousands of people. “Hats off to my daughter. She has made her opportunities,” he said.

She did not elaborate further, but Allen’s Twitter bioLinkedIn, and old personal website list an array of suitable credentials: representative of the Trump Victory Finance Committee, the official joint fundraising committee for the re-election campaign; and video columnist for the Daily Caller. Spokeswoman for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Executive director of the Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition.

According to representatives of these entities, these titles are embroidered at best, and completely untrue at the most. She is, however, an “ambassador” for both Turning Point USA and Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, titles she gained this year. And there’s no question she enjoys Giuliani’s confidence.

Read the entire piece here.

How Have Things Been Going at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center?

Liberty_University_Flames_stadium,_Lynchburg,_VA_IMG_4118

In case you missed it, Liberty University recently opened a “think tank” to stop the media from converting Americans to socialism.  It is called the “Falkirk Center.”  Here is what we know so far:

  • Like any good think tank, the Falkirk Center has fellows.  But these are not scholars or public intellectuals, they are “influencers.”  The first group of fellows includes a former beauty queen and a cast member on the ABC reality show “The Bachelorette.”
  • American history will be a focus of the Falkirk Center.  According to founder Jerry Falwell Jr., the think tank will counter the teaching of American history “as some sinister, you know bourgeois, white man, taking advantage of everybody else” that is “totally opposite of what happened.
  • The Falkirk Center will also promote “History 101” because this brand of history “has not been taught in recent decades.”  (At Messiah College my U.S. survey history course is HIST 141.  Does that count?)
  • The Falkirk Center will defend religious freedom because attacks on religious freedom have caused young people “to abandon their faith in Christian roots in droves.”  (This is a new one for me.  I’d like to see evidence to support such an idea).
  • The Falkirk Center affirms the notion that those on the Left offer an “unfulfilling and outright dishonest attempt to provide a purposeful life.”

So far, it appears as if the Falkirk Center is little more than a Christian Right Twitter feed that:

Promotes Liberty University football:

Attacks those who will impeach Donald Trump:

Promotes Liberty University football (did I say that already?):

Retweets Dinesh D’Souza:

Retweets stuff from its “fellows”:

Promotes Liberty University football (oh, wait, I think I already covered that):

Will “take back the narrative”:

Endorses Sarah Huckabee Sanders for a Senate seat:

Liberty University Falkirk Center Announces “Falkirk Fellows”

Liberty U

What is the Falkirk Center?  Get up to speed with these posts.

This new center at Liberty University, which is designed to promote a Christian nationalist view of the United States, has now chosen its first group of “Falkirk Fellows.”  They are:

Erika Lane Frantzve: She was Miss Arizona USA.  I am not sure what qualifies her as a “fellow” at a think tank.

Josh Allen Murray: He apparently was a winner on the ABC reality show “The Bachelorette.”

Antonia Okafor Cover: She runs a non-profit organization that teaches women how to use guns and advocate for their Second Amendment rights.

David Harris Jr.: He is the author of a book titled Why I Couldn’t Stay Silent: One Man’s Battle as a Black Conservative

Jaco Boovens: Runs a film company

I am sure all of these people are good Christians and generally nice people with some degree of influence in their given professions, but if these are the five inaugural “fellows” of the Falkirk Center I would probably stop calling it a think tank.

The bottom line is this: no serious Christian intellectual would sign-up to work in such a think tank because it is built on a faulty view of the American founding and its implications for contemporary American life.

There will also be 60 “ambassadors” who “have joined the project to educate high school and college-age students about the “inseparable intersection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and American first freedoms and liberties.”

“Inseparable?”  I think it’s time for a third edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Learn more at the Lynchburg News & Advance.

ADDENDUM: After I published this post I came across a similar one from Adam Laats.  Read it here.

More on the Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and How It Will Approach American History

Here is Charlie Kirk and Jerry Falwell Jr. on One News:

So it looks like the Falkirk Center:

  • Will attack the work of outstanding public school history teachers, the kinds of teachers I have worked with over the years through my relationship with the Gilder-Lehrman Institute and elsewhere.
  • Will attack teachers unions.
  • Will oppose an approach to American history as taught, to quote Falwell “as some sinister, you know bourgeois, white man, taking advantage of everybody else.”  (Yes, that is an exact quote). Falwell claims that this view of history is “totally opposite of what happened.”
  • Will be a center to promote Christian nationalism, the “intersection” of the Gospel with the American founding.
  • Is a culture war institution, not an educational institution.
  • Will apparently be teaching students that Alexis de Tocqueville visisted America “in the 1700s” (Toqueville visited America in 1831).

See our previous posts on the Falkirk Center here and here.

Liberty University’s “Falkirk Center” Will Focus on American History

What is the Falkirk Center? Get up to speed here.

Watch Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk talk about their new center on Fox News.

Falwell Jr. says that the center will teach “History 101” because such American history “has not been taught in recent decades.”

Perhaps David Barton, the GOP activist who uses the American past to promote his political agenda, will be the first visiting scholar at the Falkirk Center.

I also wonder what the Liberty University History Department, which recently started an online Ph.D program in history, has to say about this center?  Were they consulted? Will they be involved in any way?  How does Falwell Jr.’s comments relate to the claim that the Liberty University Ph.D program will teach students how to “apply a Christian worldview to the study of history?”  I can’t imagine that Falwell’s blabbering will help Liberty history students–undergraduate and graduate–in their attempts to find jobs in the field.

At the end of the interview, Fox host Ainsley Earhardt says, “The Atlantic says that “Christianity is in crisis” so we need you guys.”  I am assuming she is referring to Peter Wehner’s July 2019 Atlantic piece titled “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity.”  Perhaps Earhardt or her producers should have read the subtitle of this piece: “Support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness.”  In other words, the piece she is referencing is an anti-Trump, anti-court evangelical piece.  This is just one small example of how Fox News manipulates the facts and reveals its incompetence.

Liberty University Opens a Think Tank to Stop the Media from Converting Americans to Socialism

Senator Bernie Sanders Speaks At Liberty University Convocation

Falwell Jr. has teamed with conservative pundit Charlie Kirk to form “The Falkirk Center” at Liberty University. (The name comes from a combination of their names).

Here is Liberty’s rationale for the new think tank:

“The need for the Falkirk Center has grown as powerful voices and institutions are increasingly seeking to eliminate Judeo-Christian principles from American culture and society. The news media, elected officials, academic institutions and special interest groups have used their platforms to deny America’s legacy of foundational Judeo-Christian principles and replace them with the creeds of secularism, influencing upcoming generations of Americans at alarming rates.”

It’s official:  Christian nationalism now has its own think tank.  And I am sure there will be a lot of Liberty University online-education tuition money available to fund it.

Learn more at The Washington Examiner.