Will a convictional Christian be allowed to lead Scotland? | WORLD
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Will a convictional Christian be allowed to lead Scotland?

The swift rejection of Kate Forbes shows the answer was no

Kate Forbes speaks to reporters at St. Andrew's House in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 29, 2020. Wikimedia Commons

Will a convictional Christian be allowed to lead Scotland?
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One day, she was a rising political star, the next she was denounced by her own party and her career was essentially over. In February of this year, Scotland’s finance minister, Kate Forbes, announced her decision to stand for the leadership of the Scottish National Party after the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, the current first minister.

Initially, Forbes announcement was met with enthusiasm. She was quickly endorsed by several prominent party leaders and seen as a frontrunner. But in a matter of days, her political fortunes were reversed, not due to a scandal or a major faux paus, but because of the discovery that Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, which holds to orthodox Christian beliefs, including on marriage and human sexuality.

Forbes had the audacity to opposed new transgender policies and to tell a Scottish newspaper that she would have voted against the legalization of same-sex marriage, declaring, “I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

The reaction at the time was swift and severe. Politico Europe declared, “Stunned supporters saw no need for such brutal honesty on a hypothetical question.” Several party leaders abandoned their support of her campaign. One tweeted, “Kate had every chance to say that she would be prepared to come in behind the party’s social liberal agenda. It looks like she wasn’t prepared to take it. There’s only one place to go now.” Another thundered, “Kate is perfectly entitled to express her views, but party members are equally entitled to decide if someone who holds those views would be an appropriate individual to be SNP leader and first minister.” One leader denied he ever supported Forbes in the first place.

Forbes, to her credit, didn’t back down. She told one interviewer that she believes “a trans woman is a biological male” and another that she believes sexuality is best reserved for a covenant marriage between a man and a woman.

As a result, Forbes narrowly lost the SNP party election to Humza Yousaf and turned down an opportunity to serve in his government. Now, she is reflecting on her experience in an interview with the BBC and warns of the chilling affect her loss might have on Scotland’s future:

I talked at the time about fairly orthodox mainstream Christian teaching, but my following the teachings of Jesus—which is based on a belief in the Bible—means that I don't feel I'm in a position to just pick and choose what I believe is truth or not.

Nobody enters the public square completely neutral. We bring our faith to bear on our public witness.

Forbes’ fall has provoked continued conversation in the United Kingdom about the role of religion and politics, six years after Tim Farron, a member of the center-left Liberal Democrat Party, was essentially driven out of politics by a relentless attacking of his evangelical Christian faith. Farron, recently told a British radio show that the idea that everyone but Christians are allowed to let their faith shape their politics is ludicrous: “We are not tolerant liberals at all, are we?”

For American Christians, this debate may seem far off, a feature of a society more secularized than our own. But while our country seems more hospitable to Christian faith, the conversations are pertinent. Consider the way the presidency of George W. Bush provoked endless liberal handwringing about a looming American theocracy. Or the way former Vice President Mike Pence is regularly mocked by late-night comics as some kind of retrograde bigot. Or the way Russ Vought, Amy Cony Barrett, and other nominees have been grilled by liberals over their devout Christianity. There is a subtle religious test that can have a chilling impact on Christians who seek to serve in public office. This is most obvious during June, when even the smallest resistance to celebrating Pride month is met with charges of bigotry.

Tim Farron, in his defense of Katie Forbes, declared “Everyone has a worldview.” This is exactly right. One can be, like most American evangelicals, committed to liberal democracy and yet not leave our Christian faith at home. Nobody enters the public square completely neutral. We bring our faith to bear on our public witness. We can do this while also honoring and respecting the religious views of those with whom we disagree. Kate Forbes’s views on gender marriage, held by Christians for 2,000 years and held recently even by many left-wing elected officials, should not be disqualifying.

John Adams famously said of American democracy that it was made for “a moral and religious people.” Scotland is a country with a rich Presbyterian history. But history is all that it will be if they push out Christians like Kate Forbes for the crime of being Christian.

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.

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