Christians Should Be 'Alarmed' At Rising Intolerance Of Religious Thought Says Tim Farron

Tim Farron
Tim Farron, former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat Party, addresses the media after Britain's election, at his party HQ in London, Britain June 9, 2017 Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Christians should be "alarmed" at a growing intolerance of different worldviews fueled by social media, former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has warned.

Farron said the inability of politicians and other elites to understand perspectives alien to their own had helped to fuel the Brexit vote and the rise of Donald Trump.

In a speech to the religion and society think tank Theos, Farron, who resigned as leader of his party earlier this year after admitting that questions about his faith had put him at an electoral disadvantage, said that "tyrants of opinion have their secret police behind millions of keyboards."

"Today social media fuels groupthink, pack mentality and depressing conformity—not to mention a disgraceful lack of civility and decency," Farron said, "Christians have more reason than most to be alarmed."

Farron stressed that he is "grateful" for the protections Britain offers for people to practise their faith, but nonetheless said that he had become "an uncomfortable case study" for the discomfort many in the country now feel about Christianity.

During the campaign for this year's snap election, Farron was repeatedly asked about his private beliefs relating to homosexuality, leaving many in his party frustrated that he was unable to get across key election messages during sparse media opportunities.

"As Liberal Democrat leader I spent much of the time I should have been using to set out the party's case, batting away questions to do with my faith," Farron said, "'Yes, we see how you've voted Mr Farron, and we hear what you say...but what do you think...?'"

"Well, as a Christian, I hold to the Bible's teaching. I also hold to my liberalism, to the need to treat every person as equally valuable and equally deserving of freedom.

Farron said that "To believe in the Bible's teaching and to also believe in people's right to reject it and to live as they choose, is about as close to a pure application of liberalism as you could get."

"The questions to me came thick and fast during those seven weeks of the campaign, mostly they went along the lines of... 'but how can you believe what the Bible says and lead a liberal party?'

"Answer: easy, you just need to be a liberal. That people asked that question, makes me seriously doubt that they understand liberalism even though they may preach it."

Politicians and other elites had in recent years sought to impose one set of values on society, Farron said, with disastrous consequences.

"People talk about shared values today—I've done it myself," Farron said, "But when they do, what they mean is 'these are my values—and I am going to act as though they are also yours, and will demonstrate contempt for you if you depart from them.'"

He continued: "the cultural leaders of our day have made the arrogant and fatal assumption that we have these shared liberal values, and have sought to enforce them... and the consequences are, well, Trump and Brexit, to name two."

Though most people in positions of power in our society would think of themselves as liberals, Farron said, "In discarding Christianity, we kick away the foundations of liberalism and democracy and so we cannot then be surprised when what we call liberalism stops being liberal."

"My experience is that although liberalism has won," he continued, "It has gained ascendancy and lost itself in the process. It isn't very liberal any more. So many who declare themselves to be liberals, really aren't."