Farron: don't exclude faith from public square
Faith is an important part of the public square and shouldn’t be excluded from it, according to Tim Farron MP, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats
Mr Farron stepped down from the leadership after two years at the helm in 2017, citing the tension between his faith and political career. During his time as leader he was repeatedly quizzed about his beliefs on homosexuality and Christian faith in general. In his newly released memoir A Better Ambition - Confessions of a Faithful Liberal, published by SPCK, he explains his decision to resign in more detail.
‘To continue’, he writes, ‘seemed to mean either that I’d compromise my faith, or else remain faithful but have my party damaged by the incessant focus on my beliefs. I wasn’t prepared to tolerate either.’
Speaking at the launch of his memoir at Westminster on Tuesday night (3 September), Mr Farron said that he hoped to give readers the opportunity to understand the relationship between faith and politics, and how the two can work together.
He explained that a significant number of people in the country believe Christianity is an irrelevance. However, many people still hold a Christian faith, and more widely a majority around the world hold religious beliefs. Politics which doesn’t take into account these worldviews is a poorer one, and will affect the quality of decisions being taken, he said.
‘If you obliterate all points of view, you will have a worse outcome. If you allow 1000 views to bubble up, there’s a better chance of finding the best solution.’
Quoting the Bible extensively in his launch, and referring to the present day, Mr Farron said that all empires eventually crumble. The book of Revelation is full of references to the Babylon, he explained. Its first readers were marginalised, persecuted Christians in the Roman world.
'Why talk about Babylon? Because it's a reminder that oppressive, powerful, overbearing Rome would go the same way.
‘Whatever you are worried about at the moment – Brexit, Trump, the European Union – I promise you this: they are temporary, and will be in ruins at some point.
'That being the case, maybe it's important to live for something even better.
In his book, which traces his early years as an MP, the coalition years, his time as leader and the subsequent years, Mr Farron says politics is offering 'bitter, unpalatable extremes'. 'In the absence of something better, we will have to build it,' he writes.
Mr Farron joined the Liberal Democrats before he became a Christian, but spoke of how his faith would subsequently inform his politics and his passion for social justice.
‘We are all made in the image of God, which makes us not just special and different, but awesomely different,’ he said. He told those gathered that he loves being an MP and being able to serve people, even more than being a leader. ‘Being the leader was a privilege – but being an MP is even better,’ he said.
Mr Farron confessed that he had not shared his faith enough with colleagues, and would have liked to have done more. However he said that it is possible to be a Christian in public life, stating that even using himself and the difficulties he encountered as an example, 'the ceiling is pretty high'.
Asked how he sustained his faith, he spoke of discipline in prayer life and going to church, but also highlighted the comfort in knowing the strength is his faith paled when compared with the strength of the One he had his faith in.