I feel real sympathy for Tim Farron. He is a decent man and a Christian who comes across as sincere, intelligent and passionate. Because of his Christianity he has been hounded for years. And although I profoundly disagree with his support of same-sex marriage, I have defended him many times.
After years of deflecting the question of whether gay sex was sinful, he has now publicly stated that it is not. In this he was joined by Theresa May, who did not hesitate to answer “no” when asked the same question by Andrew Marr on his BBC One show.
Did Farron give in to the media pressure? Or perhaps the media advisors in his own party? He had previously tried to defend and exemplify the traditional liberalism that allowed diversity of views and freedom of expression. But by caving in to this pressure to ‘say the right thing’, one can sense that even the Liberals have headed down the increasingly totalitarian thought-police route of our culture.
Note that this was not about policy, or politics (Farron has repeatedly voted in favour of LGBT rights). This media storm was only about Farron’s personal thoughts. Nowadays it seems that unless our politicians think what our society deems to be ‘correct thoughts’ they are liable to be outed and condemned. That’s hardly the essence of a liberal society, is it?
An increasing number of evangelicals are changing their mind on homosexuality. Whether it is the liberals who say that the Bible has got it wrong, or the post-truth evangelicals who say that we have got the Bible wrong, it leaves the rest of us being viewed as some kind of out-of-touch Westboro-Baptist-wannabes. It feels as if those of us who hold to a traditional biblical view of sexuality are being picked off one by one.
I can only imagine the struggle and pain that Farron has gone through – and I know how easy it is to snipe from the side-lines. I also know how easy it is to give in to the pressures. So let’s not be too quick to rush in to condemn. We need to pray for Farron as we do for all our political leaders. If our hearts are heavy because we regard him as an errant brother, then we must pray all the more. And let us be aware of the price that Christians are asked to pay as they are increasingly targeted by the illiberal secular thought police.
When so many Church leaders are caving in to the demands of contemporary culture, it’s hardly surprising that Christians like Farron follow. But let’s not circle the wagons, retreat into the bunkers, or shoot our wounded. Instead, let’s confess our own sin, look to the Lord and endeavour to serve him with new obedience. May the Lord raise up those who will stand in the gap, who will be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. And may he have mercy on us all.
David Robertson is the minister of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee and director of Solas Centre for Public Christianity For more opinion on the latest trends, topics, news and culture from a Christian perspective, visit premierchristianity.com/blog