The Farron Conundrum: Is it Really the End of Christians in Political Life?
The most painful thing about watching Tim Farron crash and burn during the election campaign - when asked by the naturally anti-Christian media about his views on the sinfulness of same-sex marriage and abortion - was watching a politician do what we have come to expect politicians to do. It is always painful to watch politicians live up to our low expectations of them and leave us believing they lack integrity and credibility. Of course, it was most disheartening to see a public Christian deny Christ before Angels and men, but there is also an acute political angle to the Farron collapse which concerns the trustworthiness of those in public life and the confidence that we can place in them.
As to the question of whether a 'committed Christian' could lead a national political party, I expect that Mr Farron is correct up to a point, but there is a degree of uncertainty that clouds such a statement. The reason for this is that we are still waiting for a 'committed Christian' to arrive and accept the nomination of leadership of a political party. Since Farron wasn't the 'committed Christian' he would like to be during the election and admits he wasn't, we cannot know for sure whether a 'committed Christian' could lead a national party or even 'rise through the ranks' of a political party to lead it because we do not see it happen in this country.
It is ironic that a party which during the election was led by a man who feared losing votes for standing up for his beliefs finds itself far away from political influence, but a party led by figures who virulently oppose both abortion and same-sex marriage from Northern Ireland, the DUP, find themselves well-placed for a power-sharing deal with the Conservatives.
Without doubt, any political leader who claims the name of Christian will come in for some unwelcome interrogation from the media, more from the media than the general public and more so now than ever, for their private beliefs and the moral code that they live by and believe in. However, the politically correct agenda, if it was all-dominant in the United Kingdom among voters should really by now have seen off figures who do not 'play the game'.
One exception is Nigel Farage, who retains a measure of respectability and popularity in the United Kingdom not always for his beliefs (many of which offend the politically correct dogmas of our time) but for his tenacity in sticking to those beliefs no matter what the opinion polls say. He has been saying the same things about the EU bureaucracy for years now. The same can be said for 'Red Jez', Jeremy Corbyn. I have heard priests from the pulpit say such things as, 'You may not agree with what he says but there is no doubting his passion and conviction'. Indeed, this country remains a place where no Labour candidate has managed to achieve political office on a 'Socialist' platform for a long, long time, but that doesn't stop dangerous commies coming close to office simply by impressing people with the passion with which they communicate their views, if not always because of the views themselves.
|You don't agree with me. Do I look like I care?|
Somewhere, at some time, perhaps a Catholic with an attractive personality and the courage of his convictions will step forward who will advance convincing arguments in defence of his religion in the public square within a mainstream political party, retaining both the integrity of his conscience as well as fulfil his role of public service to a nation in political leadership.
Hillaire Belloc, while not a leader of a party, did precisely this at a time in British history when suspicion of Catholics was still very great. As noted in 'Liberal History', Belloc was keenly aware of the spiritual pitfalls of public political life. Knowing the irritation his religion caused to the establishment and media of his own day, as well as the prejudice of ordinary citizens, he told a packed public meeting in South Salford:
'Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This is a rosary: as far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that he has spared me the indignity of being your representative.’
Against the odds, Belloc won that constiuency, if not the leadership of a party, and received thunderous applause from the hall. The odds are always against Christians in every age and have been against Catholics in the United Kingdom for centuries. Let us not pretend that Christianity will easily be accepted in our society in any age. It rarely is. Some people, however, have a rare capacity to attract people without repelling people simply because of their beliefs. Passionate and committed politicians who care for justice and truth, who obviously are more interested in justice and truth than in advancing their political career are, whatever their private beliefs, as revered as and often more revered than they are reviled.
The calibre of today's political leaders is not high. It is frustratingly low. There is a clear vacancy there for just such a Christian. Perhaps he or she won't be universally liked but politicians are not there to be liked and whoever is popular today is despised tomorrow anyway. Politicians are there to serve the nation of Great Britain and further the common good. It is about time people had the opportunity to elect someone who serves God first, puts his conscience first, puts the good of the people of Great Britain first and worries about people's opinions of him much, much later.