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This IS a credible reading of the cheek turning teaching, and not far off what is proposed by at least some theologians. I’m an atheist, but I am good terms with my father, who is a retired minister of religion and is still very interesting in reading and studying theology and biblical exegesis. We often talk about what we are each reading.
There are two ways of reading to admonition to turn the other cheek. One is to see it as advising one not to resist evil; to submit. But that is probably quite inadequate. The better reading is to see it a way to resist evil but without resorting to violence in turn… non-violent resistance, or a form of “passive aggression”. The details are interesting.
My Dad’s recent reading on this is from a book by Walter Wink, who is saying that Jesus’ teaching is properly understood as the latter. Hence your cartoon is probably more accurate that taking the admonition as simply submission.
You can also see a brief online account of this interpretation at Turning the other cheek: what did Jesus rally mean?, from Catholic New Times, Feb 13, 2005 by Walter Wink. The idea is that Jesus actually says that if you are struck on right cheek, you should offer your left. Wink argues that to be struck on the right is to be struck backhand; as a slave or inferior. He suggests Jesus’ is providing a non-violent response declaring yourself NOT to be a slave or inferior, but an equal. The response is thus “Don’t strike me as if I am a slave. Here is my left cheek. Strike me here, for I am not a slave or an inferior.”
There’s more background on Wink at his home page. He is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.
By the way… Dad also bought, on my suggestion, your book on Selling your Soul on EBay. He enjoyed it and appreciated it very much. Of course, as my father, he’s used to dealing with a friendly atheist.
I’d call it nonviolent aggression rather than passive aggression, but yeah, this translation is non unreasonable. Though, I gotta say, a rougher looking Jesus would not go astray. This one looks to meak and mild.
And very American, but I guess that’s the idea!
I agree with what Duae said, and likewise recommend Walter Wink on this issue (especially his book “Engaging the Powers”). This cartoon actually captures fairly well one aspect of why Jesus said that – in fact, the Apostle Paul, speaking on the same topic, goes on to say something remarkably similar to this cartoon in Romans 12:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.“
The “burning coals” thing could very well be another way of saying “your enemy will feel like a total dick.” 🙂