Tim Collard was one of our men in Peking for many years before becoming HM Consul-General in Hamburg until his retirement. He is fluent in both German and Mandarin and now forms a part of the Oxford Union in exile which meets up every Wednesday evening in an Edinburgh swill shop to discuss matters of great weight and drink beer. He has resolved to enjoy a long retirement at the expense of the hard working family taxpayers of Nuneaton.
Tim Farron, the newly-elected Liberal Democrat leader, has been targeted with an obvious and predictable cheap-shot. Mr Farron is a declared Christian, with his roots in the evangelical tradition. It is well known that that tradition upholds a fairly conservative line on sexual morality, one into which homosexuality does not – to put it at its mildest – fit comfortably. To sum up, orthodox evangelicals believe that sex outside heterosexual marriage is a sin, though – like other sins – one which is readily forgiven by a merciful God. Knowing this, certain cheap-shot merchants thought it would be funny and/or ‘challenging’ to ask Mr Farron the blunt and crass question “Do you believe that gay sex is a sin?” in the hope that this would make him wriggle amusingly.
Mr Farron, to his credit, refused to take this rather stodgy bait. He was not prepared to answer. Of course this is a game the shit-wit media can’t lose: if he’d answered, they’d be able to twit him with his answer till Kingdom Come: if not, they could bray “POLITICIAN REFUSES TO ANSWER QUESTION!” until they got bored. (Personally, I’d have asked them precisely how a trend-crazed liberal atheist defines the word “sin”, and persisted until I got a coherent answer: but I, thank God, don’t have to try to get people to vote for me.) Of course Mr Farron made it clear that he did not see it as any part of his faith to force his views on others, and had no intention of changing his party’s impeccably liberal policies: but that wasn’t enough. He was portrayed as sounding homophobic, censorious and, worst of all in Zeitgeistworld, ‘outdated’. (May I solicit the help of all right-thinking persons in expelling that word, and anyone who uses it seriously, from the public discourse? It’s not as if the world of the 21st century is anything to write home about.)
A few years ago, the generally sensible Matthew Parris got his knickers into a fearful twist over precisely this issue. The Italians, who tend on the whole to be not entirely free from Catholic influence, had nominated as a European Commissioner a man with the delightfully appropriate name of Buttiglione. Signor Buttiglione, more candid than Mr Farron felt able to be, said quite simply that he personally endorsed what he saw as the orthodox Catholic belief that homosexual activity was a sin. Not unreasonably, he was then asked whether or not he supported any kind of legal sanctions against homosexuality. Equally clearly and candidly, he stated that he did not, and made a clear distinction between a sin and a crime. This was not enough for Mr Parris, who started to eject the playthings from the perambulator. “I won’t tolerate anyone in authority who won’t tolerate me!” he bawled, completely ignoring the fact that Signor Buttiglione had explicitly committed himself to toleration. What Mr Parris actually meant was that he wasn’t prepared to tolerate anyone disapproving of any aspect of his activities and lifestyle.
Well, one might say, surely it is understandable to resent people disapproving of one’s private beliefs and actions, particularly in such an intimate sphere? How would I like having my sex life disapproved of by people in positions of authority? Well, I wouldn’t. But then, to be honest, I don’t want anybody, in or out of positions of authority, approving of my sex life either. It is none of their business, or anybody else’s either, apart from mine and that of those with whom I choose to share it. There may be accounts to be settled on the Day of Judgment. All I require in the interim is to be left alone and not subjected to any externally imposed sanctions.
Let’s get this straight: tolerance involves not interfering with others when they behave in a way of which you disapprove. If you don’t disapprove of anything, you can’t claim to be tolerant. (You’re just one of those people whose minds are so open their brains fall out.) ‘Liberals’ – by which I mean slaves of the Zeitgeist rather than members of Tim Farron’s party – don’t understand tolerance. They think that if you just “tolerate” something that is not enough. You have to approve of it as well. And so, your pukka Zeitgeister liberal approves of everything – except, of course, things that cannot be approved of. And if you disapprove of something, such as smoking tobacco, mentioning the name of God in the public sphere, or using words that someone somewhere has declared taboo, then you jolly well don’t tolerate it either.