Political Exegesis: On Mulligans and Turning Cheeks

What Tony Perkins gets almost right and Jerry Falwell Jr. gets wrong.

We at CT are reluctant to enter the political fray on most issues because they rarely touch on core causes or issues for us. But when fellow evangelicals start exegeting and applying Scripture in the public square, we think we have something to add to the conversation. Two recent comments by evangelical leaders deserve comment.

The first comes from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins in an interview with Politico reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere:

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

What happened to turning the other cheek? I ask.

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

This has received a fair amount of criticism, including from Christians like this:

As I understand Perkins here, there is a limit to Christianity. You can follow it so far, but when it doesn’t work to get power in the situation, you resort to whatever tactics might be necessary.

To be fair to Perkins, however, the call to turn the other cheek is not a universal guideline for Christian behavior. It is a very good guideline in many, many situations, and one Christians should instinctively start with. But it doesn’t take deep imagination to recognize that Jesus does not call us to simply absorb evil in every instance. He certainly didn’t. He called out the Pharisees in the strongest language—“hypocrites,” “blind fools,” “sons of vipers” (Matt. 23)—and he turned …

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