People are sometimes surprised that I can be an evangelical and charismatic Christian and also a member of the Liberal Democrats. After all, they say, the Lib Dems support all kinds of anti-Christian policies like abortion and gay marriage. Well, that is true, but they have a greater number of policies that I can and do support – and there were even more of them until they were abandoned by a leadership that seems over-anxious to get cosy with the Conservatives. But I digress here from my main theme.
So it is good to know that, although the party leader Nick Clegg MP is an atheist, the party president Tim Farron MP is a Christian, as is the party’s deputy leader Simon Hughes MP.
Tim Farron is also Vice Chair of Christians in Parliament, and in this capacity one of the three signatories of an interesting letter to the Advertising Standards Authority concerning the HOTS Bath controversy, as reported by Gillan Scott.
It is hardly a surprise that Tim Farron has come in for some criticism such as this, within his own party and elsewhere, for signing the letter. So I thank the Church Mouse on Twitter for a link to an article which Tim Farron has written for Liberal Democrat Voice, entitled The ASA and me – a response. In this response he distances himself from the letter he signed:
It’s not a well-worded letter – the reference to the ASA providing indisputable evidence is silly, and the implication that people should seek faith healing at the expense of medical intervention is something that I just don’t believe in. For what it’s worth, I also think that the Fabrice Muamba reference is crass. So on all those fronts, I should just say sorry and not bother defending myself. I shouldn’t have signed that letter as it was written …
Where does the letter imply that “people should seek faith healing at the expense of medical intervention”? As far as I can tell everyone in this controversy has rejected that suggestion.
But Tim Farron continues by reaffirming his opposition to the ASA ruling, not permitting any claims that God can heal physically. He gives these reasons:
a) The ASA genuinely do a brilliant job, but they really aren’t appointed to be the arbiter of theological matters, I think they’ve overstepped their remit
b) As a Christian I believe that prayer helps – although my belief is that God mostly heals through medicine, surgery and human compassion and ingenuity.
c) Freedom of speech – an organisation that makes a faith based claim that is clearly subjective (in the same way that a political party makes subjective claims) should be able to make those claims within reason.
I completely agree, except that I would go further than saying “prayer helps”: I believe that God can and does heal today, sometimes apart from medical or other intervention, but medical help should also be sought where available.
So well done, Tim Farron, for sticking to your position and witnessing to your faith, even in the den of liberal and democratic lions.