The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Tim Farron had been constantly questioned for his Christian view of homosexuality. “A 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.”
The leader of the Liberal Democrat Party in the UK, Tim Farron, announced that he is stepping down. He said is was no longer able to balance his faith in Christ and the pressure he was receiving from media and political adversaries.
The result in the recent general elections was not the cause for his resignation. The Liberal Democrats won 4 more seats and came third with 2,300,000 votes.
Farron renounced to his position after his Christian faith was scrutinised in the media for months, and his personal views were used against him and the party he led.
“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”, he said in his last speech at the party’s headquarters.
Surrounded by staff of the organisation, Farron said: “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.”
PRESSURE IN THE MEDIA
During the election campaign, Farron tried to attract the votes of young people portraying his party as the most pro-European Union option. But since the beginning, he was entrangled in a controversy about his personal Christian views on sexuality.
After an interview with British broadcaster Channel 4 in which he was repeteadly asked to clearly state if he believed homosexuatlity is a sin, his political rivals (some inside his own party) used this issue to attack him, accusing him of being homophobic and saying he was “unable” to lead a Liberal party.
Farron always said he was fully commited to his party’s policies, which defends the rights of LGBT people. He also said politicians should not "pontificate on theological matters".
While announcing his resignation on Wednesday, he emphasised the same idea again: “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.”
A TOLERANT SOCIETY?
“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”, he said in the statement through which he was announcing his resignation.
“Liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me”. But his views clashed with reality, the rights of Christians are not always upheld in the same way.
“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.
Farron closed his statement quoting a hymn to explain that his identity in Christ is more important than his ideological identity. “Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something 'so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all'.”
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE: ‘FARRON'S CRIME, BEING A CHRISTIAN’
The representative body of evangelical Christians in the UK, the Evangelical Alliance (EAUK) responded to the news about Farron's resignation with an article published at Christian Today, written by its director of advocacy, Dave Landrum.
He defined the continous criticism of Christian politicians as the “coronation of a new ideology, the proponents of which take every opportunity to infer the normality of their views by challenging, delegitimising and ultimately silencing any dissenting views and voices.”
Landrum said the words of Farron show that “contemporary liberalism is no longer liberal. It also suggests that this new authoritarian ideology is no respecter of plural society and democracy – to which Christianity has contributed so very much.”
Farron and other politicians with a Christian faith are increasingly put under pressure. “Their crime? They are Christians. Or more precisely traditional, mainstream, theologically orthodox, practising Christians. No more. No less. Just Christians.”
After the resignation of Tim Farron was made official, key figures like former leader Nick Clegg praised his work.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, responded to the news by describing the evangelical politician as “honourable & decent”
The Anglican bishop of London, Pete Broadbent, said: “Nobody should be forced to choose between their faith and their politics.”