The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, was asked to clarify his views on homosexuality. Mr Farron, who says he’s a Christian, was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. He chose not to answer immediately, then did answer. This is how Christopher Hope put it:
‘Tim Farron has finally clarified his view on gay sex after admitted that it had come a distracting “issue” for his general election campaign. The Liberal Democrat leader said in a BBC interview that gay sex is not a sin, after five days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue. Mr Farron had faced criticism for days for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality. Mr Farron refused to say four times in an interview with Channel 4 News last week whether he believed being gay was a sin.’
The most interesting story is missed.
Consider the debate between writers Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson on the question of same-sex marriage. Douglas Wilson is significantly Christian. Andrew Sullivan claims to be a Catholic while being significantly homosexual.
In their debate it was asked of Wilson what his position would be if, for instance, his son told him he was gay. Sullivan – after Wilson offered the slippery ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line, asked an odd question. (The question was odd because if Sullivan is a Christian, one wonders why he didn’t already know the answer to a question which relates directly to his own sexuality.)
He asked Wilson:
‘What if he said “I’m gay and I’ve never had any sex with any other man”? What sin did he commit?’
‘I don’t believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.’
This reasoning should be obvious as sitting under the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line. Wilson’s reasoning seems to come straight from the Bible, specifically Leviticus (20:13) which states:
“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
It is plain that homosexual acts are the problem. This formulation gives the Christian (if they know their Bible) the ‘get out’ clause which allows them to state, no, they do not think ‘being gay’ is a sin.
This is why the fuss made about Tim Farron is missing the point.
Why didn’t Farron immediately state that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin? Why refuse, four times in an interview, to answer this question using the get-out clause above? It would have ended things right there.
Days later, he says that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin – something the significantly Christian Douglas Wilson knew straight away.
Why didn’t Farron close the entire line of questioning down immediately by saying the same thing? It was Farron’s refusal to answer which got the press excited. By the time he popped up saying ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin, the hounds have worked out that isn’t the same thing as homosexual acts being sins, which is why the hounds sharpened their question to ask about ‘gay sex’.
And now Farron has been forced to state that he doesn’t think ‘gay sex’ is a sin, when the Christian book states it is. What of Farron’s position now?
Is he lying about his views to avoid being battered by the press as a homophobe? Would a professional politician do that? If he would, what does that say about his Christian convictions?
And the answer to that might be why Farron didn’t immediately play the sin/sinner card to begin with.