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Tim Farron just can’t escape gay sex

10 May 2018

4:52 PM

10 May 2018

4:52 PM

What does Tim Farron think about gay sex? Like Ken Livingstone’s repeated reluctance to discuss Hitler, the former Lib Dem leader has never really offered his views on the subject. This time a year ago, for instance, he was so busy talking about all the things his party was putting into its general election manifesto that there was just never time for the matter to creep into interviews.

He’s never avoided questions on gay sex, or changed his views on gay sex, or offered formulations which sound as though he loves gay people (just not in The Way) but actually mean he doesn’t think they should be having gay sex. So what a surprise that gay sex has cropped up as a problem for Farron this week. It’s not like it’s ever been in an issue before.

In Part 500 of Tim Farron And The Gays (a budget comedy TV series in which a slightly eccentric politician whizzes about, Basil Fawlty style, telling everyone not to ‘mention the gays: I mentioned them once but I think I got away with it’), the Lib Dem MP has announced he is pulling out of a speaking appearance at the Northern Men’s Convention after people started pointing out some of the promotional material. To be clear, the Northern Men’s Convention is not a big gay festival in Manchester, but a conservative evangelical Christian conference. That’s not to say that the Northern Men’s Convention doesn’t touch on the gays (not in that way, of course); in fact, the reason Farron pulled out is that this event is worried about the ‘gay lobby’.


In one of the leaflets for this year’s convention, entitled ‘Men standing alone: holding the word of God in the worst of times’, there is a complaint that ‘the leadership from those in authority in the denominations who should be the guardians of biblical truth has been muted to say the least and even in Bible teaching churches many appear to be wavering under the onslaught of the gay lobby’. It also frets about ‘the increasing problems associated with immigration, and Islam in particular’. This leaflet then turned up on Twitter, whereupon Farron pulled out, saying he was ‘deeply concerned and saddened’ by its content.

Now, it’s not exactly Farron’s fault that this event published a leaflet moaning about the ‘gay lobby’, immigration and Muslims. He won’t have been involved in the marketing, after all. But it is rather odd given the Christian Conventions, which take place across England, and have a Scottish wing, are pretty well-known in the circles in which Farron moves as being very conservative in their views, not just about gay sex but also about heterosexual relationships, including taking the lines in the epistles about wives submitting to their husbands very seriously (there are separate women’s events, though the organisers stress that all conventions are open to both sexes). Not all evangelical churches get involved, because they either view these events as being too narrow in their focus, or because they fear they are the sort of churches who are being criticised in the offending leaflet.

Farron may not agree with all the views of the convention. After all, he didn’t always agree with all the views of his own party, as this is impossible in any political movement, let alone one with such a spread of beliefs as the Lib Dems, and still he kept on turning up to party conferences. What’s more interesting than whether he knew that the Northern Men’s Convention was going to have a particularly anti-gay, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agenda this year is the fact that in this instance, it seems to be the Christians who have made life more difficult for Farron as a Christian in the public eye. It is this sort of hyperbolic language that Farron did always avoid in his many interviews about gay sex, no matter how ridiculous his answers were. He clearly struggled with the clash between being true to his beliefs about the Bible and his desire not to offend people, and while the gaps in his answers offended people anyway, he never banged on about the ‘gay lobby’.

He has perhaps pulled out of the engagement only because a non-Christian audience saw its promotional materials, or perhaps because he was genuinely not comfortable with taking part in it, regardless of whether the wider world knew. If it is the former, then Farron is still struggling with the liberal intolerance that he encountered in the election campaign last year.

But even though we live in a society where people with non-liberal views on sexuality and so on are given a much rougher time than those who adhere to the prevailing worldview, we also live in a society that likes to be kind. There is a difference between what it is permissible to say and what is wise, and this leaflet is not a wise one. Of course Christians have the freedom to stand by their convictions about what their holy text says – indeed, if Farron had managed to have the courage of his convictions last year, he might not have had to spend the entire election campaign talking about gay sex – but those who demand to be treated with respect by society might want to set a good example by showing respect back to those with whom they disagree. This lack of respect is what feeds our intolerant culture. If Farron had turned up to speak at the convention about the difficulty of being a Christian in today’s political scene, then he might have had to suggest gently to those present that they too weren’t making it much easier.


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