Kate Forbes Is Done (or Why an Orthodox Christian Can Never Lead a Western Political Party Again)

Kate Forbes stands little chance of becoming the First Minister of Scotland. And this is due to her publicly stated religious beliefs.

You can’t blame her for being honest. It’s kinda refreshing to watch that level of dishonesty from my vantage point in Australia, where already there are so many up in arms around the new government’s dishonesty over superannuation laws. Said one thing before the election, gonna do another now that they are in power. Who would have thought?

Kate Forbes is young, smart, a woman (in the actual sense of the word), but fatally, an orthodox Christian seeking the top office in the land. Her problem of course, is not her Christianity, but her honesty. If only she were more dishonest about how she would vote, or indeed how she has voted, on major ethical and social issues. She’d be home and hosed if she’d kept her mouth shut.

Here’s what she said about her religious beliefs, as quoted in The Guardian newspaper:

Forbes said that having children outside marriage would be “wrong, according to my faith”, that freedom of practice for faith groups should be “defended” in Holyrood’s proposed ban on conversion practices and that she believes a trans woman is a “biological male who identifies as a woman”.

Crazy stuff really. But not crazy for orthodox Christianity. The trouble is, and it’s as true, if not truer of Scotland than many other parts of the West, is that that’s not how many in Scotland view it. Granted the mainstream media is telling us that that’s not how many in Scotland view it, but nonetheless.

Of course it’s a bit more complex than that, because she has to lead a party that is committed to pretty much the opposite of those things. Several of her party have made the observation that’s she is perfectly entitled to hold those views, but not perfectly entitled to hold the top job if she does.

Mind you, the last comment attributed to her in The Guardian quote above, become the last straw for the previous First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon dodged and weaved all sorts of scandals and stupidities in her days in office, but it was her government’s point blank refusal to back down over its transgender agenda that took her down.

In the end, when reality mugs you and you’ve built a whole cultural edifice on why we can self-identify in terms of gender, and then a male rapist who now identifies as a female and demands to be in a women’s prison comes along and your castle topples over, it’s pretty clear that the foundation was shonky. Perhaps more people agree with Forbes than those within the SNP think.

The best response to the whole debate/debacle came from a former political party leader in England who I admire greatly, Tim Farron. Farron was leader of the Liberal Democrats until he was hoist on the same same sex petard as Forbes is being hung out to dry on. When he was quizzed about homosexuality being a sin, on national TV, he kinda fudged it. But to his great credit, he decided in the end that Jesus is king and not politics, and he stood down as leader.

Now Tim can hardly be labelled as a conservative, in fact he’ not at all. He is, what that other Tim – Keller – would identify as the perfect example of a Christian in the public square: He is “unpinnadownable” (neologism, right there). In other words Farron holds to the sexual ethics, and end of life matters, of those who identify as socially conservatives. But equally he holds to the social ethics around matters of refugees, asylum, public funding of government institutions etc, of those who identity as social progressives. He is discombobulating, as Christians in public life should indeed be.

At the time of his own “outing” as beyond the pale, he said that it was clear that the days when an orthodox Christian could lead a political party in the West are over. The reason of course is that the shibboleth of our political culture is around what you think around sex and gender matters.

But Tim isn’t taking this lying down. His latest piece in The Spectator is entitled Faith Belongs In The Public Square, and was written in response to the Kate Forbes matter. As usual Tim was pithy and probing. He said this:

it seems that western liberal democracies have developed a blind spot when it comes to Christianity. Western progressives lack curiosity as to why a Christian might take a different, jarring position on issues such as refugees, sexuality, poverty, abortion, greed and gender. As it happens, I’d argue that the secular perspective is riddled with internal contradictions. For example, if there is no God or natural law, then human rights are surely an arbitrary, temporary fiction.

Preach it Tim, preach it!. And he goes on:

‘Have a private faith if you must, but don’t take it into the public square.’ I hear this a lot and it’s nonsense. The truth is that there is no such thing as a neutral place in the public square. If we want to live in a genuinely pluralistic society, we must avoid suspicion of individuals simply because they belong to certain groups. But for the same reason, we must ensure that we are not all forced to obey a uniform belief in the values of secular progressivism. The 1st-century church – just 7,000 people – lived in a pluralistic society. They didn’t march on Rome or denounce non-Christians. Rather, they loved their neighbours and lived Christian lives in front of a watching world. It should be no different today.

Great stuff. The key of course is that Tim assumes – or perhaps hopes – that hard secularists want to live in a genuinely pluralistic society. Most people do. Most people want “live and let live.” But those who hold the levers of power in government and culture do not. Tim is a genuine liberal in the way that most of the progressives no longer are. The revolution is there to be won, they can almost smell the victory, and they’re going to press on until the battle is won. When will that be? What will the body count be prior to that day? Who knows, but it’s just around the corner, right?

Kate Forbes, after getting a misogynistic shellacking from many quarters (it’s okay folks, she’s an orthodox Christian so she may be a woman, but she’s far enough down the totem pole of victimhood to deserve the derision and scorn), has qualified her statements, although it seems obvious to me that she’s simply saying what many believers assume:

Every leader’s identity is multifaceted – I am a woman, I am a Highlander, I have a faith. Of all these characteristics, the questions over the last few days have focused on my religious faith. I feel greatly burdened that some of my responses to questions in the media have caused hurt, which was never my intention as I sought to answer questions clearly.

I will defend to the hilt the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society. I will uphold the laws that have been hard won, as a servant of democracy, and seek to enhance the rights of everybody to live in a way which enables them to flourish. I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of each human being; that underpins all ethical and political decisions I make.

That’s it isn’t it? It’s that ability to disagree with someone and their lifestyle while still creating room for them to flourish in a pluralistic society. That’s confident pluralism. But that’s what we no longer have in the West.

Secular progressives may understand confident pluralism, but they don’t like and don’t wish to practise it themselves should they get their hands fully on the levers of power. Pluralism is a good, as in revolutions, as we all know, the good is the enemy of the great. And they are so, so confident that they are great.

So Kate Forbes will not be First Minister of Scotland. And there’s no shame in that. She is clear that she is not ultimately seeking the approval of humans and is seeking the approval of God first and foremost. She doesn’t need to win a popularity contest because she’s accepted and loved by her Creator and Saviour. It will sting a bit, and Scotland will lose the chance to pull out of the self-inflicted dive it is in, but politics is not god. Well it’s not god to those who have a God above politics. For everyone else, it apparently is. That’s why modern Western politics is fought with such religious zeal.

As Tim Stanley wrote (also in The Spectator):

No, it is not enough to tolerate equal marriage. The political class can only support Forbes if she is enthusiastic about it.

Meanwhile here in Australia, our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, made a point of saying that he was the first PM to march in the Mardi Gras Pride parade in Sydney. He won’t be the last. In fact there won’t be a last. There will never be a Prime Minister of Australia who becomes the first to no longer march in the Pride parade. That would be the equivalent of being the first Politburo politician to stop clapping after a Stalin speech. Thankfully – at this stage – that would only usher in political death, not actual death.