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.

So it remains to be seen whether a politician can lead a political party and uphold the teachings of the Christian faith at the same time. My instinct tells me that Farron is correct, since Christianity is particularly misunderstood and discriminated against, but he should not be allowed to rewrite his biography or imply that where he failed, others will naturally always fail. Hope tells me to think otherwise.

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.


Patricius said…
In all fairness to Mr Farron it must be said that, as a Protestant Christian, he has a particular problem in that Protestant belief is various and ultimately every Protestant is "his own pope". What he believes is just that: what HE believes. By contrast as Catholics we are part of the Communion of Saints - in believing and professing all that the Catholic Church teaches and professes we come with a complete package, so to speak. We are surrounded, as Saint Paul says, "by a whole cloud/crowd of witnesses".
You have a problem with what I believe?
Then you have a problem with the Catholic Church: tough!
While not wishing to minimise the personal courage involved, that was where Hilaire Belloc was coming from. Poor Mr Farron was on his own. He can believe one thing one day and something else the next. He was adrift and the bullies in the media could smell that.
Left-footer said…
Patricius: How changed is the Church since Belloc and Chesterton's day! Unfortunately, under the captainship of the current Pope, many of us feel adrift. It is difficult to defend our Catholic beliefs when he and his coterie of wreckers are busy undermining them.
Oakes Spalding said…
Two points:

1) In the US, having a "personal Christian faith" or "personal Christian belief" in whatever, is looked upon with respect, as long as you don't try to make it more than a personal or private thing, and tow the zeitgeist imposed line on all matters of "public" politics. Of course, this somewhat maps the theory and practice of the current Catholic Church in terms of "doctrine" vs. "practice.' I don't hold much (okay, not really any) respect for that position, but still. Yet, in contemporary Britain, it appears that even this is not good enough - you must proclaim immediately and every time, that your personal views adhere to the secular standard. For example, if, when you're asked, if homosexual sex is a sin, you don't immediately answer "No," each and every time, then you are immediately suspected of being a homophobe, even when you have answered "No" in the past, and even if the policies you support track the pro-gay line 100%. Or so the recent Farron kerfffle makes it seem. I find this sad.

2) That said, your post gives me hope, and it turned my mind around somewhat on the issue. Perhaps what the UK (and the US) needs is an unapologetic Christian, unafraid of what the media and others would say. And perhaps many people, Christians and non-Christians, would respect that, in the same way that they "respect" the socialist Corbyn for seemingly being consistent and uncaring of how they are perceived. That magnificent Belloc anecdote is precisely apropriate.
Blotto said…
I may be just a pessimistic realist (or a realistic pessimist) but I can't see a committed Catholic getting anywhere near the top of the greasy pole any time this millennium in this post-Christian and increasingly anti-Christian society. Let's not forget that 70% of voting M.P.'s backed same-sex pseudo marriage in 2013 and in the four short years since, we've seen the insidious growth of the 'transgender/half-man,half-biscuit' agenda leading to among other things, the insanity of mixed toilets. This moral decline isn't going to be arrested, never mind reversed, anytime soon (short of a supernatural event) by our politicians who are quite content to keep galloping along while towing that cart in which Britain is going to hell.

Our only hope is for Cardinal Nichols to start speaking out consistently and unequivocally about eternal truths - which admittedly may be slightly less likely than any Catholic politician reaching a position of power. If His Eminence does start doing just that though, we may have to wait until after ramadan as he was busy during the week tucking into an "iftar" which is apparently the evening fast-breaking meal, with the pseudo-marriage supporting muslim mayor of London
Anonymous said…
Optimism is plastic, but hope is real.
Like Oakes Spalding, I see much to hope in whenever I visit That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill.
Like Patricius, I too sensed that the media could smell Mr Farron's uncertainty. But Mr Farron was honest enough to admit the inconsistency of his position.
Hilaire Belloc lived in a pre-media age, and his theology was chiselled in stone.
Isn't it fascinating to imagine what he and Chesterton would have made of the Second Vatican Council? Where would Newman have stood?
Pope Pius XII had thought of calling a council, then changed his mind.
Maisie Sheed, Chesterton's biographer, thought it was unfortunate there had been no church councils between Trent and the First Vatican Council.
I think her husband Frank Sheed held to a similar position, though by 1975 Frank thought the Church was somewhat rudderless. The 'runaway church' indeed.
Regarding the gay movement, remember that it is highly organised. The leaders in the USA modelled their campaign after the Civil Rights movement.
One prominent gay spokesman said, 'We will close churches which disagree with us.' Anyone who questioned the movement's aims was to be termed 'homophobic'.
As Christians we must show active compassion, and recognise there is no going back to a pre-gay movement time.
We failed to convince people that marriage in God's eyes is only between a man and a woman.
This must be said however.
Men and women are being tortured and executed all over the world for being caught in same-sex relationships.
In the Middle East the stoning of a male homosexual usually lasts two hours. It is done to inflict the maximum of pain.
Jesus of Nazareth intervened to save the woman who was being stoned for adultery.
Christ's statement 'Let him who has no sin cast the first stone' is a reminder that we all stand condemned before a holy God.
Os Guinness on YouTube has much good advice on strategies Christians could adopt regarding the adoption of same sex marriage in Europe and the USA.
As an Evangelical and former Roman Catholic, I see no need for Papal endorsement.
My theology is Reformed. We have the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Visit a blog titled Ex-Catholics For Christ.
Sola Gratia. Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Scriptura.
Protestants and Catholics can work together to win back a lost Europe for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
J Haggerty

Anonymous said…
Erratum. I referred to Maisie Sheed when I should have written Maisie Ward.
Maisie's husband Frank Sheed wrote about the future of the faith in his 1974 memoir, The Church and I, well worth reading.
The son of Maisie and Frank, Wilfrid Sheed, wrote a book about his parents. See, Fred and Maisie - A Memoir With Parents (1975).
Wilfrid's witty first novel, A Middle Class Education, stands comparison with Lucky Jim. I am not sure if it's still in print. I read it as a schoolboy in 1968.
I am sorry if I sounded as if I had no interest in Papal encyclicals. This is far from the case.
The Catholic Church's informed reflections on issues as wide-ranging as Third World poverty, human trafficking, globalism, the depradation of our eco-systems, bio-ethics, and the possibility of intelligent life on distant planets is surely of interest to everyone.
Catholic moral theology is admired all over the world.
I am currently reading Moral Choices - The Moral Theology of Saint Alphonsus Liguori by Theodule Mermet. This book has opened many doors which would have remained closed to me.
I shall now be looking for a full-scale biography of St. Alphonsus, a fascinating man.
Recently I gave a very reformed Protestant friend a copy of Mysterium Paschale by Hans Urs von Balthasar, published in 1990 by T and T Clark of Edinburgh.
I'm sure there must be a useful study of Balthasar and Karl Barth, both of whom lived in Basle.
There are interesting discussions of Barth on YouTube, one of them from Harvard, and you can see him being interviewed in both German and English.
Pius XII said Barth was the most important theologian since St Thomas and John XXIII invited Barth to open sessions of Vatican II.
Barth wrote an introduction to Hans Kung's book, Justication.
J Haggerty

Anonymous said…
R U still with us?
Anonymous said…
Hello, Anonymous.
I don't know whether your comment is for me - 'R U still with us?'
In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I suggest you watch two videos on YouTube.
The first is:
'5 Dirty Secrets of the Catholic Church Exposed'.
The second is:
'Many Catholics Converted to Christianity After This Video'.
Then listen to the online preaching of the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur and John Piper.

Try to get a copy of a Christ-centred little book by Iain H Murray titled 'Evangelical Holiness' published recently by the Banner of Truth.
J Haggerty

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