Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has told Christian Radio that he regrets saying during the 2017 general election campaign that gay sex is not a sin; that it had been ‘foolish and wrong’.
There is something grating about hearing the ex-leader of socially progressive party pontificating on such a fundamental question. The idea that homosexuality is ‘sinful’ is, after all, the very basis of so much discrimination, violence, and statutory oppression aimed at queer people over the past few centuries. One would imagine that someone in his position would recognise the importance of rejecting the idea outright. But just when the whole sorry episode seemed to be over, Farron has chosen to reopen old wounds.
As a Christian myself, it has been deeply frustrating to listen to his special pleading. He claims to have been unfairly targeted for his beliefs; that was the centrepiece of his resignation announcement after the election, and now, when asked whether there is a glass ceiling for Christians in politics, he responded: ‘I don’t know. There was for me.’
To even entertain this idea strikes me as absurd. The prime minister and the majority of the cabinet are Christians. Both Houses of Parliament are dominated by the devout. We have an established church, and a Christian monarchy. 26 bishops sit and vote in the House of Lords. Christian places of worship are ubiquitous. National ceremonies are held in a Christian cathedral. Put simply, if there is a glass ceiling specifically hindering Christians, we have yet to find it.
When Farron talks about the hard time supposedly given to Christians, it is not remotely clear who the victims are. It doesn’t seem to impede Theresa May, but then that is largely because she did not need to be prodded repeatedly before stating that gay sex isn’t a sin. Perhaps Farron is thinking more specifically about evangelicals. Even then, however, he is conflating being an evangelical with holding bigoted views. A glass ceiling for bigots sounds like a good idea to me, but recent events would seem to indicate that it doesn’t currently exist.
But most importantly of all, for Farron to imply that he was treated unfairly because of his religion misses the point: it is, after all, our religion that has historically been responsible for so much real pain inflicted upon LGBT+ people in Britain and across the globe. A healthy dose of perspective would not go amiss. There are genuine glass ceilings about which we should concern ourselves – those faced by women, BME people, LGBT+ people, disabled people, and so many others. Farron’s inability to win an election is, in comparison, a derisory and inconsequential matter. He can spare us the heartache.