An addendum on the Tim Farron ‘gay sin’ witchhunt

Yesterday, I commented on the ongoing campaign of Channel 4 News to implicate Tim Farron as a homophobe. I noted the standard Evangelical view on homosexuality, why it is almost impossible to answer the question in the form put by Cathy Newman in a simple and straightforward way and went on to argue that, whatever Farron’s views happen to be, it frankly didn’t matter politically. You can read that piece in full here.

Today, in parliament, Farron was asked a similarly direct question by Nigel Evans MP.

This exhange led to the following tweet from Cathy Newman:

But it is just worth pointing out the difference in the question. In Cathy Newman’s original interview with Farron, she specifically asked whether homosexual sex was a sin. The question by Nigel Evans was a similar, but different, question: ‘is being gay a sin?’

Farron offered an unequivocal ‘no’ to Evans’ question. As I noted in yesterday’s post:

Nobody believes existing as a person is sinful of itself (gay or otherwise). If that were the case, Jesus Christ himself would have been sinful; a point deemed heretical in orthodox Christian thought. Most do not believe same-sex attraction is, of itself, sinful. Just as most of us do not choose to be generally attracted to the opposite sex, we just simply are, so people generally attracted to those of the same-sex did not necessarily choose it to be so. The question is not whom you are or are not attracted to nor whether you identify yourself as gay. The issue is to do with how one responds to such urges – it is the identical issue for heterosexual people. Heterosexuals are not inherently good because they are attracted to the opposite sex, and nor are homosexual people inherently bad simply because they are attracted to the same sex. Both are equally sinful when they act upon, or dwell upon, sexual activitity outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage (the only form of marriage the Bible recognises as marriage at all).

The two questions are, therefore, entirely different. One related to active participation in homosexual sex which is entirely within the control of the participants and the other related to being homosexual, that is being a person attracted to those of the same sex which is not necessarily within the control of the individual. It was an important distinction that does impact the answer to the specific question being put.

As I noted yesterday, even the more blanket ‘is homosexuality sinful?’ is difficult to answer because we must be clear on what is being asked:

Does the term ‘homosexuality’ refer to inherent same-sex attraction, gay people as people themselves or specific acts of sexual activity between people of the same sex? Are we addressing whether we think the existence of such people is sinful, their desires (wanted or unwanted; sought or shunned) are sinful or that their sexual activity is sinful?

Having been asked a direct question by Nigel Evans, which really was quite specific on the nature of being a person attracted to others of the same sex, ‘being gay’, Farron was clear such is not sinful. He has neither transgressed standard Evangelical orthodoxy nor committed political suicide in his answer. It just bears saying, that is specifically not the question put to him by Cathy Newman.

Nonetheless, we can all delight in the fact that Newman has now promised to stop asking. I would have said if she had been more specific in the first place, we wouldn’t have had the problem. But, as it happens, the issue was not a lack of specificity. She asked about sexual activity when what she really meant was ‘being gay’. Perhaps asking about what she wants to really know is the key.