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.

  • Apparently, the article above did not get all of the pertinent information on what Tim Farron and and did not say (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/19/absolute-disgrace-tim-farron-fire-refusing-answer-asked-gay/ ).

    But should we be surprised at the reaction of some of his liberal colleagues? Should we feel a coming persecution there or here? We should remember all the years when Christian held sway and homosexuality was marginalized through legislation that criminalized homosexuality and other means. And then we need to ask ourselves if the current treatment of people like Tim Farron is something new or a imitation of how we acted in the past.

    The key question regarding LGBT rights and Christian beliefs is not whether homosexuality is sinful. The Scriptures are clear that it is. The key question is how will we share society with others since society is made up of various sorts of Christians and non-Christians. Will we share society as equals or will we seek a privileged position in order to exercise some degree supremacy over others?

    The 1st Amendment gave us a spoiler alert to the question above. If we truly have the right to worship God freely, then the answer to the above question must be that we should share society with others as equals. But centuries, we Christians have not actually done that. So should we be surprised if those who find our past threatening, show the same intolerance to our beliefs that we have shown to theirs in the past? Are they oppressing us or merely imitating us?

    • Scott Tenerman

      I don’t agree with your reasoning. “We did it first to them…” Not really. Homosexuality is generally criminalized behavior throughout history and even throughout the world today, regardless of which religious faith dominates. It is strange and destructive. Nor were beliefs penalized; rather it was acts. In no way is it analogous to the criminalization of our age-old faith which has stood atop Western Civilization (what was for far longer called “Christendom”) for a millennia. Where Christians erred, as far as I can tell, was 1) misclassifying homosexual acts as a Very Great Sin while perhaps downplaying worse ones such as idolatry, and 2) failing to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. That is probably due to the fact that, with most sins, we can and have been guilty ourselves or could see ourselves committing a particular sin in different circumstances, but homosexuality simply baffles the straight man. This leads to self-righteousness, I think (I am not gay; therefore I am more righteous than this person who is gay.) But again, this is not indicative of Christianity, but of all people, at least until the modern Western homomania began.

      Now, should we be surprised that an increasingly wicked, secular, materially-blessed-but-spiritually-impoverished will move to persecute Christ by persecuting his Church? Not at all. This is a community that dresses up its male children in drag and haves them spout disgusting anti-sermons on the righteousness of depravity and brokenness on stage and on camera. Not our fault.

      • Scott,
        Name the area of the world where homosexuality was criminalized which was not heavily influenced by religion. In America, yes, we did that to them. Remember that America was started by mostly Christians who brought over their faith from England. And with the Church dominating England, guess what was criminalized? In fact, even masturbation was criminalized. And what we need to distinguish are those sins that should be criminalized and those that should not.

        Yes, the Church has been persecuting the LGBT community for centuries. That other faiths might have done so doesn’t change that fact.

        • Scott Tenerman

          “Name the area of the world where homosexuality was criminalized which was not heavily influenced by religion.”

          OK, the USSR. Not easy to find any region in the world that wasn’t heavily influenced by religion on any matter whatsoever, and only in the modern West is the asking of such a question possible. You seem to think there was no sexual revolution, no Alfred Kinsey. Before that, homosexuality was universally regarded as a psycho-sexual disorder and a mental illness. Christians were one group among many who believed this. And somehow this is chickens coming home to roost? Homosexuality MUST be a mental illness or psycho-sexual disorder, whether God created the universe 6,000 years ago or we evolved over a billion years by the impersonal forces of time and nature.

          • Scott,
            You are forgetting the presence and power of the Orthodox Church in Russia.

            BTW, your psychological assessment of homosexuality is behind the times. Note that the past times here was heavily influenced by Christianity.

            There is no doubt that the Scriptures condemn homosexuality. But that condemnation carries no implications regarding how society should view homosexuality.

          • Scott Tenerman

            Yes, the influence of the Orthodox Church did not disappear overnight. But you asked for an example of an area of the world where homosexuality was criminalized which was not heavily influenced by religion. So few places exist or have existed where religion does not regulate sexuality, and now we see that even when we replace religion with a non-supernatural type, as with Bolshevism then or Western progressivism now, the forms of religion remain, and so too does the governance of sexuality, twisted though it becomes. To say “religion” is to blame for how homosexuals have been treated is no different than saying that “humans” are to blame for how homosexuals have been treated. Which societies don’t have religion? Very few, and as you point out, it never really goes away completely.

            As to my views being behind the times, current psychological assessment of homosexuality was shaped by militant gay activism, not research. It is obvious that homosexuality, until the late 60s considered a “pathological deviation of normal sexual development” by the APA, remains exactly that. The fact that a new majority of Westerners newly disagree is irrelevant, and history will one day look back on this curious development with amusement. There are hundreds of possible deviations of mental and physical development our cursed race has to endure; why have so few been re-categorized, and why do those that have all relate to sex? Psychology is not the only science where the pursuit of truth has been replaced, in part, by acquiescence to cultural pressure, but its one of the most notorious fields.

          • Scott,
            You still haven’t shown any example. The Orthodox Church never died out in Russia. In fact, it strongly tied to Russian Nationalism and exerts a significant influence on the Russian government. And the recent ban on homosexuality occurred after Putin came into office. There is a significantly friendly relationship between Putin and the Orthodox Church.

            If you had answered that Stalin and post-stalin Soviet Union provided an example, you would be correct. But, again, how much of that influence came from the Orthodox Church is unknown because of the degree of influence the Church had over other sources of influence.

            The subject of legalizing homosexuality came up during Glasnost under Gorbachev. Finally, Yeltsin received foreign pressure to legalize homosexuality. You should note that Lenin greatly liberalized laws regarding homosexuality during his reign whereas it was outlawed under the Tsars.