Former LibDem leader Tim Farron delivered the Theos Annual Lecture last night, entitled: ‘What Kind of Liberal Society Do We Want?‘ The whole speech is worth reading, because it is packed with nuggets of political insight and Christian truth.
…Christianity is deeply counter cultural. It offends us because it tells us that we are not our own, that we belong to God. It tells us that we are not good, that our biggest need is not food, water, money, relationships, success or acceptance by society… our greatest need is forgiveness from the God who made us. Christianity is a two–fingered salute to your ego.
…British Liberalism is founded in the battle for religious liberty. The non–conformist, evangelical Christian groups that were persecuted by a society which favoured adherence only to the established church, built a liberal movement that championed much wider liberty, for women, for other religious minorities, non–religious minorities, for cultural and regional minorities, for the poor and vulnerable.
…Look through history. Where the gospel is preached, other freedoms follow. The abolition of slavery led by evangelical Christians most notably Wilberforce, the laws to prevent industrial exploitation led by committed Christian Lord Shaftesbury, the ending of the cruel practice of Sati in India after campaigning by Christian missionaries especially William Carey.
And it gets better:
…If our values are relativistic, if they are shifting, if they depend upon the temporary norms of this age, then the freedoms you bank upon today, cannot be guaranteed tomorrow. Our liberties are in the hands of unstable forces, we cannot have confidence that our rights will still be our rights from one generation to the next because we cannot call upon any authority in support of those rights.
Christianity provides the values that permit liberalism to flourish.
In discarding Christianity, we kick away the foundations of liberalism and democracy and so we cannot then be surprised when what we call liberalism stops being liberal.
My experience is that although liberalism has won, it is now behaving like the established church of the empire in 4th and 5th centuries. It has gained ascendancy and lost itself in the process. It isn’t very liberal any more.
So many who declare themselves to be liberals, really aren’t.
And quite personal:
The questions to me came thick and fast during those seven weeks of the campaign, mostly they went along the lines of…’ but how can you believe what the Bible says and lead a liberal party?’ Answer: easy, you just need to be a liberal. That people asked that question, makes me seriously doubt that they understand liberalism even though they may preach it. Liberalism has eaten itself.
When Jacob Rees Mogg declares his views on the application of faith, he gets mocked, but no one is surprised or confused – he is a traditional conservative, of course he believes those things. Or so the thinking goes.
When a liberal turns out to be an evangelical Christian, people are surprised or confused. If you are one of those who are surprised and confused… then you are a victim. A victim of liberalism’s comprehensive triumph… where the main loser, is liberalism.
He’s slightly wrong (or outdated in his understanding) about this:
I believe in pluralism, I am not a secularist but I believe in a secular society where there is no ‘state faith’. That in Britain we have a church trapped as part of the furniture of the state is a waste of a church. A boat in the water is good. Water in the boat, is bad. A church in the state is good, the state in the church is bad. Really bad. It pollutes the message of that church. It compromises it. Weakens its witness.
But we’ll let that go – the man’s been hounded enough. He said he no option but to resign as LibDem leader: “I was right to do it. I don’t regret it.” Because there’s a manifest upside: “It now gives me the chance to challenge the tyranny of opinion, to seek to redeem liberalism.”
He might start by asking the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum about the fervent support they offered him while he was being harassed and hounded by the media about whether or not gay sex is a sin. This is what they issued when he stepped down as leader:
And this is what they issued in support of their leader while he was being hounded about his orthodox Christian beliefs on sexual morality:
All the main political parties have a Christian contingent of support – there’s the Conservative Christian Fellowship, and Christians on the Left, for example – and they’ll talk readily about Jesus and salvation, and be very encouraging about Christians entering politics. But they only want certain types of Christians: they don’t want those who might talk about Jesus being the only way to salvation (ie Islamophobic, or racist), or those which believe in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage (ie homophobic), or those who oppose abortion (ie misogynistic), or those who believe in the virtues of the Protestant Constitution of the United Kingdom (ie anti-Catholic, or bigoted). No, the only types of Christians which these groups seek to encourage into public life, and to whom they will lend public support, are those who subscribe to the prevailing illiberal statist orthodoxy of the apparently immutable doctrines of equality and diversity.
If Tim Farron really wants to challenge the tyranny of opinion and redeem liberalism, he might start by cleansing the Liberal Democrat Christian Temple (established), and praying that his reformation might spread to the other political parties, and then to Parliament, and then to the country, and then to… well, all the earth.