Flat White

Christianity, public life and the Thomas Moore option

23 April 2017

3:13 PM

23 April 2017

3:13 PM

I’ve always had a soft spot for Britain’s Liberal Democrats. Our tryst began in 2014, when ex-leader Nick Clegg sent out a tweet about school lunches: ‘As we’re talking about food in schools, what was/is your favourite school meal? Mine was apple crumble and thick custard.’

That’s the Lib Dems in a nutshell. They’re not a serious political party, and hardly anyone treats them as one. They’re a sad hangover from a better Britain, when parliament was dominated by old boys who reminisced fondly about all the delicious custards they ate at school. That’s why I’m dead certain Prince Charles would, in another life, be an enthusiastic supporter. He might’ve even stood for them in an election for president of his local co-op.

Britain’s left-wing media never forgave the Lib Dems for forming a coalition government with the Tories. They’ve suspended party leaders’ immunity from close scrutiny. To make matters worse, Clegg’s successor Tim Farron is a Sydney-style evangelical Anglican. And the media has spent two years trying to beat him to death with his views on human sexuality – views he never actually spoke about in public.

The latest round of questioning came after Theresa May announced an early general election. With Corbyn’s Labour happy to fall in behind Brexit, the Tories will tout their inevitable victory as a second referendum on Brexit. (This lady’s not for Remoaning.) Yet, rather than coalescing behind the Lib Dems – the last of the three major parties to be led by a Europhile – they’re punching down at poor Tim, too.

‘This is an important issue for your voters,’ Cathy Newman said to Farron in an interview on Tuesday. ‘I asked you three times if homosexuality was a sin and you said, “We’re all sinners”. Is that still the answer?’ Farron replied, ‘As a Liberal, I’m passionate about equality, about equal marriage and about equal rights for LGBT people, for fighting for LGBT rights, not just in this country but overseas. Just because I’m Christian, it would be a bit boring for everybody to spend the next weeks asking me to make theological announcements that I’m not going to make.’

Well! This just won’t do. Farron’s refusal to celebrate gay sex was taken as a tacit condemnation of it. Strictly speaking, that’s incorrect. Qui tacet consentire videtur is the law: he who is silent is understood to consent. But the Left isn’t much for legal precedents, especially ones rendered in Latin. Owen Jones called him a ‘disgrace’. David Williams said Farron is ‘definitely a sinner for [his] continued intolerance and prejudice.’ The classic Trudeauism ‘Because it’s 2015’ made a huge comeback for (trigger warning) anno Domini MMXVII.

In a way, this is bigger than the bombing of the Australian Christian Lobby’s HQ. It’s bigger than the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission decision not to identify the boards of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute and the ACL, fearing that making their identities known ‘could endanger public safety’. These men and women are active dissenters. Their stated aim is to stop the advance of Cultural Marxism in the West. Farron’s case is a different beast altogether.

A few weeks back I wrote in these pages that secular progressives would stop at nothing to completely destroy the traditional, Christian worldview. They can’t brook private dissent from their ideology, even from a man who enthusiastically promotes secular progressivism in his political life. They know that any remnant of the old order poses a fundamental threat to their brave, new world. And they’re not above publicly interrogating him to extract an admission of thoughtcrime. Farron’s persecution shows that it’s no longer possible for Christians simply keep our head down, or even to gladly serve the paranoid Stalinist regime. Its inquisitors will hound us even to this last and most sacred sanctuary: our own minds.

Readers of this magazine will remember Rod Dreher’s excellent cover piece last week explaining his idea of ‘The Benedict Option’. ‘How, then, should believers adapt to a society that is not just unsupportive but often hostile to their beliefs?’ Dreher asks. His answer: we must

Build resilient local communities… They will have to recognise themselves as outsiders, and cease to care about conforming to the norms of secular society. They will have to live with far more spiritual discipline regarding prayer, worship, study, work, and asceticism, radically re-ordering their lives around the faith.

I wish that were possible. But we can’t simply stop caring about conforming to society’s new ‘norms’. The authorities won’t allow it. We can’t oppose or even stay silent on the question of whether homosexual activity is acceptable or not. We have answer enthusiastically in the affirmative.

Qui tacet consentire videtur: he who is silent is understood to consent. Thomas More used this defence when English authorities charged him with treason for refusing to accept Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church in England. He hoped that, by simply staying out of the Crown’s way, his life would be spared. He chose the Benedict Option. And, when it failed him, he made the ultimate sacrifice. Are we willing to do the same?

Farron’s not. Following the outcry, he took to the floor of parliament and recanted his Christianity. When asked, ‘Does the Honourable Gentleman think being gay is a sin?’ He replied, ‘So, I do not. So, I do not.’ Even if he was pulling a Bill Clinton and speculating what the meaning of ‘is’ is (Christians don’t believe being gay is a sin – only acting on the impulse), it was gutless. But would you or I do otherwise?

Christians who embrace the Benedict Option will eventually be forced to choose between the Thomas More Option and the Tim Farron Option. It’s not a question of if, but of when. I recommend you resolve in your own minds right now what your answer will be, and pray it’s the right one.

Michael Davis tweets at @KermitLaphroaig

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