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Biblical sexuality and public life | Camilla Olim

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Considering that the message of the gospel is all-encompassing and Christians should have a lot to say about every aspect of life, it is disheartening that society not only takes such a disproportionate interest in our views on homosexuality, but increasingly seeks to make our views on this issue the measuring stick of our fitness for public office.

This week, Christian Legal Centre client Felix Ngole was granted permission to challenge his dismissal from his university social work course, after he expressed the biblical view of sexuality on Facebook.

In the same week, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, after a bloodthirsty hounding from journalists, has caved into pressure and said he believes that homosexual activity is "not a sin".

'Dangerous thought-policing'

Felix had expressed support for the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who famously refused to sign same-sex 'marriage' certificates. His quoting from the Bible in a Facebook discussion saw him barred from the social work profession, before he had opportunity to prove his fitness to practise.

Felix's wish to become a social worker was motivated by a desire to be a light to those in difficult circumstances, and he would have mixed with people with all kinds of struggles and vices. A sinner saved by grace, he would have been extending support to other sinners in need of the same grace. No-one is better placed to love people than those who have been transformed by the love of Christ.

But the University of Sheffield demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity and its outworking, ruling that Felix's views made him unfit to step into his profession. This is hardly a small matter. It is another example of the dangerous thought-policing creeping into our culture. If you cannot air and debate personal views at university, where can you air them?

Our 'liberal' society cannot tolerate dissenting views

The treatment of Lib Dem leader Tim Farron over the past couple of weeks has been similar, as Parliament and the media have made it crystal clear to him that holding the biblical view of sexuality would make him unfit to lead.

It is extraordinary how eager society is to catch Christians red-handed on this one issue. Surely the biblical belief that all sex outside of marriage is wrong; that pornography is wrong; that lying is wrong, should cause equal concern. The gospel challenges all of human nature.

But Mr Farron's ambiguity about his stance on homosexuality outraged the media.

Writing in the Spectator, Stephen Daisley commented: "This is not journalism, it's bloodsport for secularists. Farron is not proposing a single policy that would adversely impact LGBT people. He is not being asked to clarify his political principles so much as repudiate his faith."

The irony that our 'liberal' society increasingly cannot tolerate dissenting views never fails to strike me, but what is most disturbing here is that, similarly as in Felix's case, it was decided that Mr Farron could not possibly reconcile a biblical stance on sexual ethics with his public role. One wonders what the media's response would have been if he had answered the question differently.  

Yet the media's views do not correlate with those of the general public: A poll commissioned by the Christian Institute showed that 64% of those surveyed support the right of a politician who believes homosexual acts are sinful to express that view.

67% of those surveyed believe that a politician should be allowed to hold office if he/she believes homosexual acts are sinful, but seek to keep that view private.

The cost to standing firm

The 'gay question' is used time and again to target Christians. Many, like Felix Ngole, and a host of other Christian Legal Centre clients who have faced discrimination and/or a bar to office because of this one issue, have stood firm when challenged. There is a cost to standing firm; it exposes us to ridicule and derision. Sometimes it costs us our jobs. In some parts of the world it would cost us our lives. Jesus warned that it would be so. Sadly, it seems Tim Farron considered the cost to be too high.

Capitulation to secular norms

When Mr Farron was asked last week whether he thought 'being gay' was a sin, he answered 'no'. Most Christians wouldn't disagree – there is a difference between the desire and acting upon it.

But the media continued to prod and harass him until he gave them the only answer that would satisfy.

Given that Mr Farron was asked about homosexuality in 2015 and replied with the truthful but evasive "we're all sinners", it is unlikely that he has always held the view he expressed this week. More probably, over time, (like David Cameron, Nicky Morgan and others who lay claim to a Christian faith), his views have moulded to fit his party's political agenda; or, he lied about his personal convictions to save face.

Jesus said that if we deny Him, He will deny us in front of the Father. It seems that Tim Farron has sacrificed his faith on the altar of personal ambition and reputation, and though his capitulation may be understandable, in the face of such harassment, it is tragic nonetheless. We should pray for him, as we pray for our other political leaders who profess Christ.

And more importantly, we must ask ourselves whether, placed in the same position as Felix or Tim, we would count the cost and stand firm. Let's pray that we would. 

Related links:
Tim Farron says gay sex is not a sin after he admits that he had allowed it to become an election 'issue' (Telegraph) 
Thrown out of uni, Felix Ngole’s ‘crime’ was using Facebook to express a common ‘Christian’ view on gay marriage (Rod Liddle, The Sun) 
Christian Institute: Politicians' private and public views 
The cruel hounding of Tim Farron is bloodsport for secularists (The Spectator)