One British politician has come to the conclusion that progressivism and Christian theology just don’t mix, and it’s led him to resign from his post as leader of the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrats.
In fact, Tim Farron, head of the Liberal Democrats, said it is “impossible” to be simultaneously committed to his evangelical convictions and his party’s increasingly progressive platform. The politician said he has been “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.”
Farron, who has led the Liberal Democrats since the resignation of Nick Clegg in 2015 but faced intense scrutiny during the recent general election campaign, made the comments during a Wednesday speech to staff at the Liberal Democrats’ London headquarters, Sky News reported.
“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment,” he explained.
But it was what Farron said next that will most assuredly undergird his legacy as a public servant: “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.”
While Farron’s decision to resign — and the reasons that catalyzed it — is certainly unsettling to many progressives, it is not surprising. In recent weeks, he has faced a myriad of questions from reporters and constituents about his personal views on issues like homosexuality and abortion.
During an appearance earlier this month on LBC radio, Farron was confronted on the issue of same-sex relationships. A listener who called into the program accused Farron of thinking “homosexuality is a sin” — a reference to a two-year-old interview during which the liberal politician sidestepped the question by simply concluding, “We are all sinners.”
Farron again dodged the question, telling the LBC radio listener: “My personal faith is my personal faith.”
“A person who is a leader of a political party, it’s their job, as someone who is passionate about LGBT+ rights, prove it by your actions, not by your words,” Farron asserted. “And my actions are absolutely, 100 percent about defending LGBT+ rights.”
It should be noted, however, that a few weeks prior to the LBC interview, Farron did tell BBC News he doesn’t believe gay sex “is a sin.”
“I take the view though, that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters,” he said at the time. “[A]nd it occurs to me really that this had become a talking point, an issue.”
Nevertheless, Farron’s statements were not satisfactory to his progressive counterparts. Brian Paddick, who served as home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, resigned from his position because of Farron’s “views on various issues.”
Paddick, who is openly gay, had been on the party’s leadership since October.
Farron faced similar scrutiny for his personal views on abortion, though — despite his Christian faith — he has remained an advocate for pro-choice policies. During the general election, Farron’s 2007 comments on the issue resurfaced.
“Take the issue of abortion. Personally, I wish I could argue it away. Abortion is wrong,” he said at the time. “Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong at any time.”
However, he argued against the idea of abortion being totally outlawed because “women would still want abortions and they’d have them illegally.” Instead, he said abortion is “too widely available” and there need to be “tighter restrictions” on the practice.
Nevertheless, Farron was grilled last month by a Sky News reporter who wasn’t interested in the party leader’s political views, but wanted to address his personal views, and whether or not he believes abortion is wrong.
After being intensely questioned on the matter, Farron said: “The measure of a liberal is someone who protects other people’s rights no matter what your personal position is.”
With all the threats facing the U.K. and the world, Farron told the reporter most will find it “bizarre that journalists and others spend their time banging on about someone’s faith.”
At the end of the day, Farron said while delivering his resignation speech, the endless questions about his Christian faith showed “we are kidding ourselves” if people believe the U.K. is a “tolerant, liberal society.”
“I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me,” he said. “[E]ven so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.”
Farron said he would serve as leader of the Liberal Democrats through the parliament’s summer recess, then trigger a leadership election.