In resigning as LibDem leader, Tim Farron put it in a nutshell: “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”
It felt impossible because it is impossible – and not only for Mr Farron but for any mainstream politician. All major parties everywhere in the West are progressive and liberal, with both terms meaning exactly the same these days.
Yes, some politicians may practise Christianity in their spare time, and conservative ones must pretend they do, especially in the US. But woe betide any politician who dares to let Christian commandments interfere with his day job.
Christianity is thus reduced to a hobby: some politicians play golf on Sunday, some have a lie-in with the supplements, some go to church. None of those pastimes has the slightest effect on what they’re going to do on Monday.
While applauding Mr Farron’s integrity, one may still wonder how he has managed until now to reconcile his faith with socialist politics – and until Corbyn’s communists took over Labour, the LibDems had been Britain’s most socialist party.
Reflecting on the virulent attacks on his faith, Mr Farron said that “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.” But we do, Tim, we do. It’s all a matter of definition.
Anyone, never mind a politician, must know that nowadays words with even remote political connotations mean the opposite of their real meaning. Thus liberal means illiberal, and tolerant means intolerant. Understood that way, nobody has to kid himself: we indeed live in a tolerant, liberal society, modern style.
It’s in the spirit of such tolerant liberalism that the paragons of modernity are never satisfied with people just meekly toeing the line. Like their communist cousins they demand not passive acquiescence but enthusiastic support. And if that comes belatedly, the culprit is supposed to debase himself by public recantation.
Mr Farron found that out the hard way in April, when sadistic inquisitors, otherwise known as reporters, subjected him to days of public torture. Time after time his tormentors demanded he acknowledge that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
Now no Christian can accept homosexuality as a valid, morally neutral option. However, no politician may these days even hint that he regards homosexuality as anything other than a normal, moral option.
But of course Mr Farron, who’s on record as having said that “abortion is wrong”, thereby attacking another ‘progressive’ article of faith, regards homosexuality as a sin. His religion is unequivocal on the subject.
He knew it, his torturers knew it, he knew that they knew, and they knew that he knew they knew. Hence their inquiries weren’t a genuine request for information but a demand for recantation.
To Mr Farron’s credit, he held out for days under a constant barrage, refusing to answer the question, while his tormentors refused to talk about anything else, including LibDem policies.
In the end Farron had to hiss through his teeth words to the effect of “Fine, fine, homosexuality isn’t a sin. Now will you leave me alone? Please?”
By now resigning Mr Farron proved he’s a good Christian. But his thinking appears to be jumbled.
In his resignation statement, he said he’s a “liberal to my finger tips” and, as such, would never impose his Christian views on others. If by imposition he means proclaiming the truth of his views, he doesn’t quite understand how his faith relates to quotidian life.
The founder of Christianity certainly didn’t expect his followers to keep their views to themselves: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He demanded not tacit reticence but fiery proselytism.
That’s why Christ’s temple is neither a social centre nor a self-help group. It’s the Church Militant: “For we wrestle… against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Not much room for relativism there: spiritual wickedness exists. Rather than being confused or equated with spiritual good, it must be wrestled against. There isn’t a hint at the modern ethos of share-care-be-aware diversity.
The founders of the first modern and therefore atheist state, the USA, were perfectly aware of the fundamental incompatibility of newfangled politics and Christianity. As Christianity was the essence of the old order, it had to be shoved aside.
The US Constitution coyly eschews the phrase ‘separation of church and state’. Instead the First Amendment states only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
But in his comments both before and after the ratification, Thomas Jefferson was unequivocal: this amendment, he gloated, built “a wall of separation between Church and State”. He could have been more emphatic: modernity built a wall of separation between Christianity and politics.
Hence Mr Farron has made the right moral choice. Now he should make the right intellectual one and realise that he can’t be both a Christian and a “liberal to my finger tips”.
I hope he does, but meanwhile he must be congratulated on having already gone further than any other so-called Christian in Parliament.