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The death of liberalism in the West

16 June 2017

The news item was perhaps overlooked when the headlines were dominated by the Grenfell Tower fire and the shooting of a politician in the USA. But The Guardian told the story Tim Farron quits as Lib Dem leader | Politics | The Guardian:

Farron says ‘remaining faithful to Christ’ was incompatible with being party leader after repeated questions over his faith

He made a statement, which is worth reading in full, which shows just how anti-Christian the British media have become.

Farron resigns as Lib Dem leader:

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

There have been similar things in the USA, where Christian groups have been cold-shouldered from anti-war marches because they are anti-abortion, and from anti-abortion marches because they are anti-war.

Tim Farron goes on to say:

I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

So it seems that there is no place for liberals in the Liberal-Democratic Party in the UK.

Tim Farron

The Wikipedia article on Tim Farron notes “Among political observers, Farron is widely seen as being of left-leaning political position. In a September 2016 interview, he identified the Liberal Democrats under his leadership as being centre-left.”

It seems that what the journalists questioned him on was not his political policies, but his religious beliefs. The Guardian article cited above noted that such things might be asked of someone of any religion, but I wonder if London’s Muslim mayor faced similar questions.

The anti-Christian attitude of the British media seems also to be reflected in recent statements by US  politician Bernie Sanders. I think that is rather sad, because I thought that Bernie Sanders would have made a better US president than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Is It Hateful To Believe In Hell? Bernie Sanders’ Questions Prompt Backlash : The Two-Way : NPR:

A low-profile confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill this week raised eyebrows when the questioning turned to theology — specifically, damnation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont pressed Russell Vought, nominated by President Trump to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, about his beliefs.

This is somewhat different from the Tim Farron case, because Russell Vought is no liberal, but if this report is to be believed, Bernie Sanders is no liberal either.

Bernie Sanders

It is difficult to know how accurate media reports are, but according to reports I’ve read, Vought supported his institution, Wheaton College, in its decision to sack another teacher for supporting Muslim civil rights. If Sanders had questioned Vought on that action, I’d have no quibble with it, but he didn’t, he chose to attack Vought’s theology and to misinterpret it, and it is doing that that he is similar to those in the UK who attacked Tim Farron for his theology.[1]

All this shows up the biggest flaw in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis. Huntington maintained that civilisations were based on religion, and that the religion of the West was Roman Catholic Christianity, but these events show that it is not: the established religion of the West is Secularism. I’ve said more about this in other articles, where I explain why I believe that Secularism is a religion, and why I think it has become established in the West: Christianophobia and Secularism in Europe, and Militant atheists, Christianists, and the idolatry of the West.

As a missiologist (student of Christian mission as a phenomenon) I’m well aware of the history of Western Christian missions to other parts of the world in the 19th century, which very often involved cultural imperialism, cultural clashes, and destruction of cultures. One result of missiology (mission studies) is that many Christians have become aware  of the errors of the past, and are much more sensitive about such things. Not so the 21st Century missionaries of Western Secularism, who go barging into other people’s cultures with the same crass insensitivity, and alienate people as a result.

In the history of England (and later Britain) conformity to the Established Church was enforced by laws which only really began to be relaxed in the 19th century. And now they are being reintroduced to enforce conformity to the new Established Church of Secularism.

Here’s a comment on Tim Farron’s stepping down from a Muslim liberal leader:

People of faith might think that their values can’t coincide with liberal values. But the truth is that liberalism is the most likely to uphold their right to practise any faith. As someone who defines themselves as both Muslim and liberal, I believe that our freedoms extend to anything as long as they don’t violate the freedoms of others.

As far as I’m concerned, for example, you can wear whatever you want: face veil, miniskirt, burkini, bikini. It really is your own choice. In fact, this shows in the Lib Dem manifesto, which was the only one of the main three to mention upholding the freedom to wear cultural and religious dress.

I’m a liberal, and once I was a Liberal, a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party of South Africa, which was forced by the South African government to disband in 1968 because it was non-racial. It was also non-denominational. It espoused a political programme and policies which people of different religious, cultural and linguistic backgrounds could support and work for together, regardless of their reasons for supporting those policies.

My reasons for supporting those policies were theological. I was a liberal because I was a Christian, not in addition to being a Christian or in spite of being a Christian, for reasons I have explained here and here. And that is why the story of Tim Farron saddens me. That he felt he had to step down indicates that the Lib-Dems in the UK are both anti-Christian and anti-Liberal.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 June 2017 5:58 pm

    I think Farron had to step down as leader because he failed to revive his party’s fortunes due to a strategically weak election campaign. During the campaign he also blundered during an interview where he failed to appear to support liberal social values. He suggested that being gay was sinful, then that only having gay sex was sinful. This might be acceptable as a religious belief, but if you want to lead a government which has a duty to protect young (& other) gay people from abuse and persecution, it is an unacceptable position and you cannot expect widespread support. He tried to recover from this by pointing out that as a liberal he had always voted in favour of equal rights for gay people and other minorities but the damage had been done. By then people had dug into his detailed voting record to discover that at an ammendment level he had a record of voting to try to water down the rights of women and minorities. I feel sorry for him at one level, particularly as he was attacked by many people with a worse record than his. On the other hand nobody likes a hypocrit: his failure to reconcile his political and religious beliefs is his own failure, nobody else’s. As a Muslim, Sadiq Khan has consistently fought for gay rights and the rights of all minorities, as have many Christian politicians in the UK. Other religious politicians have abstained when their personal beliefs clash with those of their political platform/mandate. They are generally respected. What people don’t respect is the dishonesty, or equivocation, displayed by Tim Farron.

  2. Matth permalink
    27 June 2017 5:49 pm

    The Sanders incident was slightly different than you made it out, chiefly because it was almost entirely theological and only tangentially related to civil rights.

    In three sentences, I’ll give a recap.

    Wheaton College, which requires all employees to sign a statement of faith in evangelical Christianity, fired a professor for the theological implications of a statement that said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (The legal right of the college to do this has never been questioned.)

    Vought wrote to support Wheaton’s position, stating that since Christians affirm the divinity of Christ and Muslims explicitly deny it, the college was in the right.

    Sanders then took Vought to task for the phrase, “Muslims stand condemned”, which Vought had used in his opinion piece.

    It’s unclear to me whether Sanders had a problem with Vought’s theological convictions, or whether Sanders misinterpreted (or over-broadly interpreted) the statement to imply a civil condemnation as well as an soteriological one.

    In either case, the exchange was shocking to many Americans because, while religion is ever-present in political life, it is universally in positive statements from politicians rather than in negative lines of inquiry. We’re much more accustomed to hearing a politician state, “I believe X,” rather than someone ask a politician, “Surely, you don’t believe Y?” And in the rare cases when the latter is used, it’s generally not been from a politician but rather a reporter, and the question hasn’t been followed up on in any depth.

    • 27 June 2017 8:20 pm

      Concerning the theological question of what Wheaton College did, I’ve commented here Do Muslims, Jews and Christians worship the same God? | Khanya, The main point here is that Bernie Sanders was questioning Vought about his theology, and making a hash of it.And in any case, his theological views had little to do with his capability in management and budgeting.


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