You might have thought Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats stand to do quite well in the upcoming election.
Since becoming leader, Farron has skilfully played on fears of what's been termed a 'hard Brexit' and has shamelessly taken advantage of Labour’s malaise to position the Liberal Democrats as the party best placed to hold the Government to account. With recent by-election victories and a surge in party membership, it is not completely unrealistic to expect some moderate success for the Lib Dems in the upcoming election.
Except there’s a problem. And one so serious in the eyes of our liberal media that it could badly derail Farron’s bid for votes.
Does Farron have a murky past? Has he been fiddling his expenses? Is he a Russian agent in a very bad disguise?
Well, actually none of the above. No, Mr Farron is guilty of being a Christian.
On Tuesday, Farron was hauled over the coals yet again by Cathy Newman at Channel 4 News as she repeatedly asked him whether or not he actually thought homosexuality was a sin.
Ms Newman has form in this area. Back in June 2015, the day after Farron became leader of the Lib Dems, he was grilled on his personal views on homosexuality. So at the very moment he wanted to talk about the Liberal Democrat pitch to the nation and their policies, instead, his faith in Jesus was being used as a stick to beat him with.
Given the storm generated on Twitter by his answers, it is highly probable that this whole episode will have cost the Lib Dems some votes.
Much of our media opposes traditional Christianity
Let’s be clear about this: Farron was treated in this way because of a fundamental opposition in much of our media to traditional or evangelical Christianity.
I have no issue with Farron’s views being questioned. But I have a profound problem with the sheer inconsistency of it all: When was the last time a Muslim MP was asked to explain Islam’s views on the death penalty for homosexuals? Or the teaching of the Quran in respect of multiple marriages? When was an atheist ever asked on the national news whether their belief that humans are basically over developed animals negatively impacted their ability to make moral decisions?
Christians are demonised in the media because they do not conform to the new orthodoxy
For all the talk of living in a pluralistic society, it really is no such thing. Everyone’s views are tolerated providing they do not disturb or contradict the prevailing wisdom of the day. All too often Christians are demonised in the media because they do not conform to the new orthodoxy, especially when it comes to sexuality.
What the media do not understand or conveniently forget is that the Bible teaches that all forms of sexual behaviour outside of a marriage between one man and one woman are wrong. They also fail to reckon with the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which re-orientates us away from living solely for our lusts and instead, it gives the power and the desire to live for Christ.
Honest in the face of hostility
The gospel is the good news that our sins, including those of a sexual nature can be completely forgiven because of what Jesus did on the cross. Freed from sin’s dominion and power, we can live the Spirit-filled life, growing in our knowledge of God and in love towards him. Christians believe that life is not solely about sex. It is about following Christ and pursuing Christ-likeness. It is about praising and enjoying God.
Faced with hostility over our views on sexuality, we must be honest about sin and persuasive about why God’s ways are better than those of the world. If we truly have a concern for our nation, our response would not be to abandon the Word of God, but to pray for the courage to boldly proclaim God’s truth into our increasingly hostile society.
The early church was given grace to withstand huge pressures once the Roman Empire realised it was something bigger than a Jewish cult. Can we not expect God to give us the same grace to remain faithful to him?
James Mildred is the co-founder of the Holy Political Podcast, a new podcast exploring faith and politics from a Christian perspective. He tweets at @JamesMildred
Last month, Tim Farron said in order to be taken seriously in UK society, you have to "hide your faith". Was he right? Read our analysis here.