They were different times, times when men and women sometimes paid with their lives for their disagreement with the political establishment – or for trying to swim against the spirit of their age because of the evil they perceived in that spirit.
Such was the time of Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, whose head rolled from the block on Tower Hill because he would not say that his king’s marriage to his wife, Catherine of Aragon, was invalid. Driven by pride and his lust for another woman, that king, Henry VIII, did away with More.
Tim Farron will not be taken to the Tower of London, tried by a kangaroo court and judicially murdered. Nevertheless, nearly 500 years after Thomas More suffered that fate, Farron has had his political career sacrificed on an almost identical pagan altar as his Christian predecessor.
Farron could not bring himself to say that human acts which Judaeo-Christian morality has deemed to be sinful for thousands of years, were not so. Farron refused to answer a politically irrelevant question – as to whether he thought gay sex is a sin. He also thinks abortion is wrong. For that, hounded by the agents of the sexual revolution and assisted by the neo-Cromwellian interrogators of the libertarian media, Farron has now been consigned to the margins of the public square.
The High Priests of the Sexual Reformation – call them the gay lobby, the abortion lobby, the gender benders, call them whatever you like – are now in control. They are the apostles of intolerance and their spies are everywhere. Their agents are policing thought. If those whose thoughts do not measure up to the new moral standards step into the public square they will be trampled on.
Farron has written in less dramatic terms than what has been outlined above about the predicament he faced. But the reality of his position is the same. He has been crushed by the thought police. In this week’s Spectator he put it like this:
From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser. At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.
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. 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.
The conclusion Farron has had to come to is a chilling one:
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. That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
At every turn he found himself the subject of suspicion because of what he believes and who his faith is in. He says we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.
Despite the sadness of this story, despite even the sordidness which lies at its root, in Farron’s concluding words in his Spectator piece, something beautiful, something ineffable shines through:
I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party. 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’.
Those words come from Watts’ 1707 hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Michael Kirke writes from Dublin. He blogs at Garvan Hill, where this article first appeared. Republished with permission.