‘Liberalism isn’t very liberal anymore,’ says ex-Liberal Democrat leader
Farron, an evangelical Christian, stood down as the party’s leader after two years following a number of occasions on which he was asked whether he considered gay sex to be a sin. He avoided giving a direct answer, saying his views on personal morality did not matter and “we are all sinners.”
Scrutiny of his religious beliefs persisted during this year’s election campaign. He resigned in July, saying: “To be a political leader and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible to me.”
Speaking at an event run by religious think tank Theos on Tuesday, Farron will say that active Christianity is widely deemed as “dangerous” and “offensive.” He will say: “If you actively hold a faith that is more than an expression of cultural identity … you are deemed to be far worse than eccentric.”
In a comment piece for The Guardian ahead of his talk, he wrote that British liberalism was founded in the battle for religious liberty. “The non-conformist, evangelical Christian groups that were persecuted by a society that favored adherence only to the established Church built a liberal movement that championed much wider liberty, for women, for other religious minorities, for cultural and regional minorities, for the poor and vulnerable.”
While liberalism has won, he says - with politicians from across the political divide and journalists calling themselves liberals - its triumph is “hollow.” It has “eaten the very world view that gave birth to it, that makes it possible,” he added.
“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, it is now behaving like the established church of the empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. It has gained ascendancy and lost itself in the process. It isn’t very liberal anymore.” He added: “So many who declare themselves to be liberals really aren’t.”
Farron added that the idea of Britain having “shared values” is a myth. “People talk about shared values today. But when they do, what they mean is ‘These are my values - and I’m going to act as though they are also yours, and will demonstrate contempt for you if you depart from them.’”
The cultural leaders of our day have made the “arrogant and fatal assumption” that we have shared liberal values, he says, saying the consequences are Trump and Brexit.
“Because every tyrant feeds and inspires the resistance that threatens to overthrow them, as a result of their own arrogance. The hand-wringing elite in our politics, media, education and business are as guilty of creating the reactionary politics of populism as much as Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. Why? Because they/we assumed everyone thought the same, and dismissed with ridicule and contempt any sign of eccentricity,” he said.