Tim Farron’s religious belief and two distinct strains of secular liberalism…

First, Nick Cohen

The media complain about ‘career politicians’. Yet when politicians come along who aren’t Oxford PPEists, who have progressed via think tanks and spadships to safe seats without their feet touching the ground, journalists are shocked by their failure to conform to contemporary mores.

Then, “His Grace”

…when Jeremy Vine asked questions of Tim Farron’s Christianity and voting record on his Radio 2 show, he allowed him to answer and then quickly moved the conversation on. The difference is that Vine is a Christian too, but more than that, he knows how difficult it is to be open about your religious beliefs in the media.

Back in 2009, in an interview for the United Reformed Church’s Reform magazine, he said: “One of the things I think, which may sound bizarre, is that Christ is who he said he was. I don’t think I’d put that out on my show; I suppose there is a bit of a firewall between thinking that and doing the job I do.” He added that “blurting out” his religious beliefs would be “destructive” to his job because it is now “almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God”.

Cohen again:

It would be very easy to denounce Farron as a hypocrite. Perhaps he is just waiting until he takes power (a wait that may be a long one, I hear you say) to unleash his prejudices on gays, women, who want abortions, and anyone else who transgressed this or that Biblical prohibition. He clearly believes in the literal truth of Leviticus and thinks homosexuality is a sin, but lacks the guts to say so openly.

Whatever else I may think of his doltish credulity, I do not think Farron is a danger to gays or that his public statements hide a malevolent purpose. He is just making an argument for tolerance, which anyone can make regardless of their beliefs. We don’t hear it too often because modern culture insists that we ‘passionately’ endorse the ‘life choices’ of others. Farron’s case is less phoney, and more likely to convince doubters because it does not ask them to lie, and feign an enthusiasm where none exists.

And finally, “His Grace”:

…it is the print media and broadcasters who have developed the opinion that faith is a hindrance to politics, and that anyone who has strong religious beliefs should be treated with suspicion.

So much of this is due to nothing more than ignorance and prejudice. Politicians, like all of us, get their values and motivations from somewhere: we don’t just wait for then to fall into our laps out of thin air.

And anyone who thinks that a secular outlook on life is more advanced and in some way benignly neutral has bought themselves a set of the Emperor’s new clothes. Too many attitudes toward religion are simply wrong because they are based on false perceptions.

The most valid journalistic approach would be to take the time to learn and understand what drives those with a faith, but it is far easier (and entertaining) to patronise them as a deluded minority who deserve both pity or ridicule.

Hard to think he could make it far in Northern Ireland these days, given the feverish levels of passion around marriage equality issue. [No one expects the Liberal Inquisition! “Cardinal, the rack!” – Ed]

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty