Tim Farron took over our party after we had fallen off a cliff and landed amongst particularly dangerous rocks underneath with a team of crocodiles having a good chew at our ankles.
He was exactly what we needed at that time. A passionate liberal and Liberal. A fighter. Someone with bags of energy and a great, charismatic speaker. He is also a man of great honesty and integrity.
You have to remember the appalling state we were in on 8th May 2015 and then compare it to 8th June 2017. We went from being absolutely gutted to having our highest membership ever, a revitalised campaigning structure and 50% more MPs.
That last one may receive moans from some. As I often say: “When I started supporting the party we had six MPs – we now have 12, so that’s a 100% increase over 47 years!”
But there is some truth there. When you go back to under ten MPs, it takes generations to build the party back up again.
Tim Farron made a fantastic start to that rebuilding process. I would like to pay tribute to him with a few of his marvellous photo tweets from his current summer constituency tour (above and below) – they really do lift the spirits, particularly given what a tremendous and distinctive area Westmorland and Lonsdale is.
But lastly a word on “doing God”. As someone who has read the Bible (both testaments) from end to end at least once and probably the best part of three times, one gets an overview of the thing. Leviticus forbids wearing clothes of mixed fabrics, eating shellfish and having tatoos. Exodus (which I am currently re-reading) has the “word of God” coming to us via Moses telling us precisely how to build a tabernacle with mind-boggling detail such as:
Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. All the curtains are to be the same size—twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide. Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set. Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit.
That is just a small excerpt of the pages and pages and pages of detailed instructions which “The Lord said to Moses”.
So with all those sorts of “words of God” in the Old Testament, it really is crazy to focus on one verse in Leviticus about desert sleeping arrangements, particularly as it is balanced later by the story of David and Jonathan.
I apologise for the amateur theology here, but the whole point of God sending his son to live on earth was for him to speak directly to us through him. And he said nothing about homosexuality but a lot about love, forgiveness, not judging others and blessing the down-trodden. I am not rejecting the Old Testament at all, I read it a lot and it has allegorical truth in it, written, as much of it was, for a tribe in danger thousands of years ago. But the key straight-forward stuff is in the New Testament.
So it is just ludicrous that poor old Tim got stuck down a blind alley on the concept of sin. I am very sorry that he did. But, as an antidote, I can only offer my hero in the Christian clerical firmament, the wonderful Archbishop Desmond Tutu as reported by Pink News:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that he “didn’t choose” to become a defender of gay rights, but that God urges people to “live amicably” and reject homophobia.
Asked by Ann Curry of NBC News why he chose the issue of gay rights as the basis for his campaigning, he answered: “I didn’t choose it, it chose me.
“It’s not a choice; I mean, you don’t say, ‘I choose to be white’. It’s a given. You don’t choose your sexual orientation.”
The former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Prize winner emphasised his position, which he stated last year, that he would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven.
He said: “I am absolutely, utterly and completely certain that god wouldn’t be homophobic. I really would much rather go to hell than go to a homophobic heaven.”
He dismissed claims that the Bible can be used to attack homosexuality, saying: “The Bible says quite a lot of things, many of which I do not accept at all. The Bible is… the word of God, but it is the word of God through the words of human beings.”
He finished by saying: “God sits there and weeps, because God is saying: ‘Do you know what? You are all my children. You are all members of one family. My family. And when are you going to learn to live amicably together?’