Peter Lynas: Farron tried to prove his liberal credentials and his broad support for gay rights but it was not enough for the illiberals

Tim Farron was repeatedly asked a theological question (is gay sex a sin?) by people who don't believe in God, sin or theology
Tim Farron was repeatedly asked a theological question (is gay sex a sin?) by people who don't believe in God, sin or theology

A week is indeed a long time in politics.

After increasing his party’s seat share, Tim Farron has now resigned.

A Bible reading and a prayer is a reflection of who we are as a society

A Bible reading and a prayer is a reflection of who we are as a society

He found himself ‘torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader’, after being exposed to an intolerable media campaign about his faith.

Earlier in the week, the DUP had some under intense media scrutiny for the role of faith in some of their policy positions.

They were branded extremists by some, who fail to realise that casually throwing that accusation about, will have implications on any future counter-extremism strategy.

During the election campaign, various candidates in GB were targeted with unsavoury media criticism and activist protests based the Christian beliefs they held.

Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

The same beliefs that drove people such as Hannah More, William Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Gladstone and Kier Hardie.

So what has changed?

Perceptions of the Christian view on marriage and sexuality. Not the Christian view on marriage and sexuality, which has remained largely unchanged over centuries and across cultures.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians are not fixated on these issues but many in our rapidly changing culture, are obsessed with what Christians believe on these issues.

Tim Farron tried the ‘my faith is private’ line to no avail.

He tried with patience to prove his liberal credentials. His voting record was largely in favour of redefining marriage and gay rights, but this was not enough for the illiberals. He was pursued for what he thought and believed.

He was relentlessly asked a theological question – is gay sex a sin – by many people who don’t believe in God, sin or theology. In the end he gave in and said ‘no’, but that still wasn’t enough.

The supposedly liberal media were no more tolerant of the DUP.

Their crime was to stand on a platform that included a pro-life position on abortion and objected to any redefinition of marriage.

The coverage that followed has been justified on the basis that such views are so ‘extreme’ and intolerant that they should not be tolerated. The alternative was a patronising – well that’s just Northern Ireland. Ruth Davidson, who leads the Conservatives in Scotland, weighed in saying she wanted to protect LGBTI rights in the GB and campaign for change in Northern Ireland.

However, she wanted to prevent the DUP protecting marriage in Northern Ireland or campaigning for change in the rest of the UK. That apparently is equality – do as I say, not as I do.

The reality is that most politicians stand on policies which accord with their personal beliefs.

This is a very different thing to a politician ‘forcing beliefs’ on anyone else.

There is no doubt that this election has taken the UK into new territory.

A new ideology has dominated whose advocates take every opportunity to imply the normality of their views by challenging, delegitimising and ultimately silencing dissenting voices. My colleague has labelled it ‘sextremism’.

And so it ended with Tim Farron resigning because ‘to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me’.

He went on to say that, ‘we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.’

But there is a silver lining.

Neither liberalism nor conservatism may be able to secure a society where difference and diversity are respected, but freedom of thought and belief is unstoppable. In the end faith won.

The resurrection changes everything and so Farron put faith first and finished his statement with the words of Isaac Newton’s great hymn - ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’

• Peter Lynas is NI director of the Evangelical Alliance

News Letter editorial: Tim Farron exposes the illiberalism of modern liberalism