Tim Farron's resignation is a victory for the new puritans
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In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman has the cosmos ask, ‘Do I contradict myself?’ ‘Very well then’, it concedes, ‘I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)’ It is a truth we would all do well to acknowledge. We are all large, we all contain multitudes. This is not to make a virtue of hypocrisy and self-contradiction; rather, it is simply a call for recognition. Intellectual consistency requires that we acknowledge our failure to meet its high standard. If we are generous, and grant that Tim Farron’s decision to resign was a purely personal matter, then we might afford him some semblance of respect. He seems to have recognised his own irreconcilable inconsistency. (Though I am not sure we should be so generous; his resignation comes after Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem peer and Home Affairs spokesman, resigned ‘over concerns about the leader's views on various issues that were highlighted during GE17.’ It follows days of speculation about leadership challenges, and a general election in which Mr. Farron only retained his seat by the slimmest of margins, having lost some 300 votes to a man dressed as a fish finger. All of which suggests party pressure influenced his decision.) Or, rather, he has almost recognised it. His resignation statement is not consistent on this point. He begins by saying that he ‘found [himself] torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader’, which must surely be true. He then laments his relative lack of wisdom, for a wise man might have been able to ‘[remain] faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment’, which is opaque by comparison with the preceding. Theological hermeneutics is a form of alchemy; a ‘wise’ man might have convinced himself – and others, which, to a politician, counts for more - that squares are circles, but persuasion and truth have little claim to familial ties. One detects some particular emphasis placed on the phrase ‘in the current environment’, which is a shifty and dishonest manoeuvre. It suggests that one cannot remain ‘faithful to Christ’ because of the current environment, thereby pinning the blame for his difficulties upon said environment. Given his well-documented opinions about certain constituent elements of the current environment – abortion, say – we return to the fundamental disagreement, between liberalism and Christian teaching, something Mr Farron almost acknowledged before misplacing the blame.
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