The Tim Farron gay sex saga has resurrected itself: what should we think now?

Some stories are like the Terminator and simply refuse to die. You sometimes think they have gone away and then, boom! Back with a vengeance. The whole Tim Farron gay sex saga is one such story.

You may remember some of the comments from this blog. First, there was the defence of a man clearly trying to toe a careful line in a bid to maintain the truth. Then, when the hounding began in earnest by those seeking to push him into absolute statements, there was more defence of his carefully chosen words. Following his shameful capitulation, it was difficult to defend a man who had openly chosen to lie in order to kill the story whilst asking us to believe his election pledges. Then there was the all too predictable aftermath that placated no one, leading to his inevitable resignation. This was compounded further when Jacob Rees-Mogg – albeit not as a party leader – handled the same questions with much less fuss and much more directly.

Once again, the story has been resurrected thanks to an interview on Premier Christian Radio. You can read (or watch) the full interview here. You can see how the Guardian offered a highly spun version here. The two make an interesting comparison. Below, however, is a section of video of the offending portion (as posted on the Guardian website):

Interestingly, the Guardian video cut off a crucial part of that final quote. I shall quote from the video and include the crucial final comment from the full transcript:

Maybe I could have explained the biblical teaching on sex and sexuality. Maybe I could have done that but let’s be really brutality honest – with the exception of programmes like this you don’t get more than 20 seconds to get your message across and the idea that anybody asking me those questions was interested in the theology is naïve in the extreme. [my emphasis]

The point being made was not, as the Guardian imply with their selective quote, that Farron only had 20 seconds to make his point so lied in order to make it. Rather, the point he was making was that because you only get 20 seconds to make a point and the question was intentionally formed to lead him into politically damaging comments, after much pressure, he felt forced into giving a false answer that he now claims to regret. That this interpretation is correct is supported by the immediate follow-up question from the interviewer, ‘What do you think was behind those questions? Who was setting the agenda?’

So, what are we to make of this whole thing now? First, it bears saying that – despite some pouring serious scorn upon me for saying so – my analysis of the situation proved right. Farron did, indeed, lie about his view and misled the public in order to kill off repeated questions about homosexuality. My prediction that this would placate nobody was quickly realised and, soon after, Farron was forced to resign. Had he stood his ground and continued to toe the line he took from the beginning, or had he borne the wrath that comes with stating a simple ‘yes’, the questions would have died off in time.

Second, one thing that tickled me during this discussion was the raft of Secular Atheistic Lib Dems desperately defending the right of Farron to hold views that they happily castigate as abhorrent from any other source (rightly or wrongly). I, early on, was very supportive of Farron as he sought to hold his position without saying anything politically damaging. I empathised with the pressure he was under whilst seeking to maintain his integrity. However, I lost sympathy when he capitulated and simply lied to kill the story. It showed a lack of resilience to the pressure (which doesn’t bode well for those elected to public office) and made it extremely difficult to believe any of his election pledges in the run-up to a General Election when he had so blatantly tried to mislead the public. It amused me how those who are most vociferously anti-Evangelical and least willing to even countenance other views on same-sex relationships were lining up to defend a man on these issues when, more often than not, they show zero such liberal support for others who hold Farron’s views.

Third, though Farron has repeatedly noted his ‘regret’, I am yet to hear him actually apologise for misleading the public. Regret rather implies consequences are regrettable; it isn’t quite the same as openly admitting one erred and apologising for it. I am truly not into forced apologies – I am interested in what people really think and mean not what they have been made to say – but I would love to hear Farron simply say that he is sorry for misleading the public, that his decision to lie (and calling it such, rather than dressing it up as something else) was wrong and, most of all, that he is sorry for disowning the teaching of the Lord Jesus himself.

Nobody doubts that Farron ‘regrets’ what happened, the question is whether he is repentant. I hope he is, the fact that the word ‘sorry’ hasn’t left his mouth doesn’t mean he isn’t, but it would help his reputation if he would apologise; not least as a ‘Christian with a profile’ who now wants to ‘use it’. If he really wants to show people what Evangelicalism is about, open repentance (and the subsequent forgiveness and reconciliation from other Evangelicals who feel a wee bit let down) would not be a bad public witness.

Fourth, and perhaps most significantly given where we are, Farron is a high profile Christian. What is more, he seems to be enjoying the relative freedom he has been afforded apart from the party leadership. Farron rightly notes that his resignation sends the signal that ambition isn’t everything (and aptly quotes Jim Elliot to make his point). He also makes clear that his desire is to see the gospel go out and wants to use his profile to send as good a message as he is able. Clear up point 3 above and he may be very well placed to do just that.