Diversity and Inclusion is a powerful pairing of concepts in our workplaces today. What does the resignation of Tim Farron add to our understanding of diversity of thought in 2017?
However carefully Tim Farron may have chosen his words, many people (including the sub-editor at the Guardian) will simply have heard “I do think gay sex is a sin if I’m honest.” If that is the case, who could possibly defend the man or argue that he was fit to lead a liberal political party?
This development worries me for two reasons. The first is because I find it difficult when, in the workplace or public life, a single legitimate narrative develops through which any dissenters are demonised. The second is how comfortable we have become with reducing hugely complex systems of thought and belief – of which we know next to nothing – down to a black and white soundbite. Whether the ‘organisation’ is public life or the workplace, we should be far more worried about these two directions of travel than 90% of the so called ‘HR hot topics’.
On the first point, let’s assume that Tim Farron does have a view of gay ‘sex’ that is differentiated on a semantic, ethical or religious basis from heterosexual ‘sex’. Whilst I understand why that can be problematic – if not downright offensive to many – it is what the man believes. Do we really want to reduce discourse to a point where somebody either keeps their true thoughts secret or else is obliged through some form of extreme peer pressure to misrepresent them for fear of reprisals? Did we learn anything from BREXIT, Trump, Farage and Corbyn? Non-mainstream beliefs exist and, when they are forcibly silenced, the only thing that grows is division and resentment. There is an irony that those whom for so many years were forced to conceal their true thoughts and feelings should be so quick to demonise ‘others’ who don’t fit the template of the times.
On the second point, there may not be a definitive definition, but the concept of sin for many Christians is not in fact that of many non-religious people. Tim Farron, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope would all consider themselves sinners. The New Testament does not in fact focus on what is prohibited but what is given. The good news is not that there is a list of things you can’t do but a model of what you can be. To express it in terms that may be easier to understand, consensual heterosexual sex before marriage, or extramarital heterosexual sex, is no less a ‘sin’ than gay sex. It is not what the behaviour is that makes it a sin, but what it is not.
I’m not attempting to make a religious case here (I’m neither qualified nor inclined to do that). The case I want to make is that where we are different from other people we owe them – whoever they are – more respect than to caricature or simplify a detailed, complex world view and reduce it down to a soundbite or headline. It is not fair to Richard Dawkins for a Chrstian to summarise his work as nonsense having never read more than a few pages. It is not fair to Tim Farron to demonise him for his views having never taken the time to listen to them or think about what they are.
Our power is in our diversity, not in our sameness, so beware the baying crowd and hurled insults when a point of view is from outside the mainstream.
Have a different view? Let me know!