You’ll have to forgive my sounding like something of a broken record by this point, but I couldn’t let this news pass without flagging it for Mere O readers:

Tim Farron has announced his resignation as Liberal Democrat leader after he was repeatedly pressed during the general election over his personal beliefs on issues including homosexuality.

Farron issued a statement on Wednesday night saying he felt “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with leading his party. It is understood several senior figures in the party had visited Farron in recent days to attempt to persuade him to step down, though he was initially reluctant.

There is a certain class of evangelicals in the US, mostly young, middle class, and white, that dismisses things like Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and other related books as alarmist. While I am sympathetic to concerns about Rod’s tone, I am much less sympathetic to the idea that Rod is over-stating the challenges confronting the western church today.

Consider: Tim Farron actually supports same-sex marriage. On policy issues, he was blameless in the eyes of progressives. But even that concession was not sufficient. He was consistently grilled during the campaign season about his personal beliefs regarding homosexuality. One member of the party resigned over his views and many have speculated that part of the reason the Lib Dems underperformed in this election was a general mistrust of Farron because of his religious beliefs.

Pair this with last week’s Bernie story and, well, you understand why American Christians who are paying attention are a bit anxious. The issue in at least these two cases does not seem to be anything about the actual policies a person supports or how they would do in their specific job within the political system. The issue is personal convictions informed by traditional religious beliefs. There are all sorts of bad ways that Christians might respond to this fact, but denying that this is happening does not help us either.

I did want to take note of one other thing about this story. One line that Farron and some of his supporters have taken is to hit out at their opponents for being illiberal. This is a fair critique and a familiar one to many on the American right. But I do not think it a particularly effective line for two reasons.

In the first place, due to the general belief system of many progressives, the line is basically useless as a persuasive tool. But there’s a second issue: If the move that western Christians attempt to make in response to all these challenges is to simply rebuild liberalism, then whatever victories we win will be short term. Liberalism is the soil from which the current regime has grown. It’s emphasis on individual autonomy and self-definition and the illegitimacy of unchosen authorities is precisely how we ended up where we are today.

So, two points: First, trying to Make Liberalism Great Again is probably no more realistic than trying to return America to the 1950s. In both cases, the order in question was the unique product of historical circumstances that our own era does not share. Thus any attempt to recreate said order is doomed to fail. Second, we need better language and concepts to make our case to both those within our church communities and those outside the church. Liberalism is not the way forward. It is the way toward further and deeper darkness. If we start thinking about common goods, shared life, and the neighborly arts, then we may be onto something. But all of these things, of course, assume a sort of communitarian sensibility that has always had a hard time reconciling itself to the deeply democratic, egalitarian nature of American Christianity. Therefore, whatever our project ends up being, it figures to be a long-term thing.

Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy, and son Wendell. Jake's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

  • Physiocrat

    I think the point about his opponents being illiberal was the fact that the party is called the LIBERAL Democrats. That said you’re right that the progressive paradigm ultimately eradicates a liberal pretence.

    I’m also with you on building substantial communities as it is necessary for human flourishing. All that said you need to answer the question, which I haven’t seen you answer, is in what situations is a legitimised threat of violence, the power of the state, justified.

  • Joe S

    Tim Farron is, as the Brits say, a bit wet. When hounded by the press he appeased, backed down, looked and acted as if he was intimidated.

    The Conservative party now have to form a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who are far more socially conservative than Tim Farron’s Lib-Dem Party and some of their leaders won’t shy away from saying that same-sex sexual activity is sinful. The media won’t give the DUP an easy time but the DUP also won’t roll over and plead for mercy like Farron.

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  • BDash76

    If Tim farron is a Christian then no one is going to hell…

    • BWF

      You sound pretty sure of that. Any reasoning to support your post?

      • BDash76

        Supporter of feminism and Gender androgyny and baby murder

        50/50 on same sex marriage
        None of these ideas are from the bible

        if you or he thinks this is biblical he is doing some serious manipulation

        or we come to
        as long as one beliefs in Salvation , one can promote any other sin and it is irrelevant because he /she is saved.