Jimmy Savile’s molestation of minors was even recorded in his autobiography. It’s not even disguised, it’s right there on the page. He remembers an incident in the early ’60s when he managed a dance hall in Leeds. Police asked him to keep a lookout for an attractive 16 year old girl who was missing. He told the female PC if he found her, he would keep her for one night as his reward. She did indeed turn up at his club that night and, as he writes, it was ‘agreed that I hand her over if she could stay at the dance, come home with me, and that I would promise to see her when they let her out’.
This is precisely what happened and he ‘handed her over’ to the police at 11:30 the next morning. Jimmy adds, she ‘was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues, for it was well-known that were I to go I would probably take half the station with me’.
Scores more stories like these are emerging a year after Savile’s death. People knew. People were told. Savile even told us. But somehow we couldn’t quite allow the truth to confront us in all its stark horror.
Today is the day Jeremy Forrest appears in Eastbourne Magistrate’s Court. The 30 year old maths teacher, who’s been married for a year, ran off with a 15 year old student. They ended up in France before the authorities caught up with them. Back in May he wrote a blog post entitled “You hit me just like heroin.” After speaking of the difficulty of an unnamed moral decisions he concludes: “At the end of the day I was satisfied that if you can look at yourself in the mirror and know that, under all the front, that you are a good person, that should have faith in your own judgment.”
As the relationship with his student grew, you can imagine the secrecy and the insanity ratcheting up in equal measure. With no-one to break in from the outside and say “This is nuts!”, they end up fleeing to France. And then what!!? That should have been one of a thousand questions bringing them up short. But no. He ‘looked in the mirror’, was content with what he saw and acted accordingly.
The third story is about Lance Armstrong. The US Anti-Doping Agency has released “staggeringly voluminous supporting documents” for the decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. ESPN journalist, Bonnie Ford, writes “After today, anyone who remains unconvinced simply doesn’t want to know.”
But what’s fascinating is the admission by Ford that there would indeed be many who don’t want to know. She concludes her article saying:
Armstrong will always find a place to race and people who want to race with him, or at least come to watch. He is stubborn enough to be capable of existing indefinitely in a sort of parallel universe where he is still who he purported to be — a purveyor of hope on wheels. And there will always be people who loved those three-week travelogues every July and don’t want to give up on their longtime protagonist, either.
Sunflowers and lavender and Alpine switchbacks are far more appealing images than syringes and blood bags and a cult of personality channeled into coercion. Armstrong’s legacy lies now not only in the eye of the beholder but in the willingness of that beholder to take off the blinders and see.
Here’s the common thread… no-one wants to take off the blinders and see. With Savile, for Forrest and for Armstrong’s fans, we just don’t want to know. As the saying goes, there’s none so blind as those who will not see.
But that’s all of us, according to the bible. “All men are liars” said Paul in Romans 3. Calvin said this should be the first principle of Christian philosophy! And Thomas Cranmer’s anthropology was well summarized thus:
“What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” (Ashley Null)
Our minds are brilliant at justifying what we already love. We don’t see because we don’t want to see. This is part and parcel of our human condition.
When people pretend to a dispassionate appraisal of “the cold hard facts” and pledge to follow them “wherever they lead”, we can admire them. But we also have permission to smile and shake our heads. It’s just not how we tick.
So is there an answer to our universal flight towards fantasy?
Well Paul and Calvin and Cranmer would say Yes. The answer comes in the Word.
We need to be confronted with Truth from beyond. We need a Voice that contradicts us – that judges us and frees us. If it only judges us, we’ll flee it indefinitely. But in Jesus, we have a verdict that condemns us as sinners, but then raises us as justified. It tells us – Yes, Savile really could be this evil, but still there’s a way to confront it and deal with it. No, Forrest cannot look in the mirror and see a good person, but still there is a way back from this madness. No, Armstrong is not a hero but we don’t have to divide between truth-deniers and Armstrong-haters.
This is a problem that besets us all. We are all, continually, involved in justification. Either justification of ourselves or justification of our heroes and principles. Christ alone can free us. He brings truth and grace. Truth to judge our lies. And grace to raise us again on His footing. The only answer to self-justification is Christ’s.