12 Oct 2012

The good is oft interred with their bones: some thoughts on the Jimmy Savile Scandal

Jim'll Fix It was staple viewing when I was growing up, and how could it not be? The idea of people, often children, being able to write in to the BBC and have their wishes granted was spellbinding. I can't remember if I ever wrote in to the show, but I know that I had a wishlist of things I would like granted. Jimmy Savile was like a tracksuit and jewellery bedecked Santa Claus figure, with seemingly limitless powers in granting wishes. I had no knowledge of his previous life and work as a Top of the Pops presenter or disc jockey, to many in my generation he was simply a kind of fairy godfather, albeit with a highly annoying voice (was an adult really allowed to sport a cigar while presenting children's TV during my childhood?).

Now the reputation of Jimmy Savile lies in ruins and nothing, it appears, will be able to fix that. Numerous allegations are emerging of serious sexual crimes against children and young people, spanning a sickeningly long period of time. While nothing has as a yet been 'proven', it appears from statements from Metropolitan police spokespeople that there is substance to the charges now being levelled at the late TV personality. What lies behind this story may be yet more interesting, with allusions to institutional cover-ups and complicit onlookers who knew exactly what was going on.

It appears that Shakespeare's Mark Antony was correct in stating that 'The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones'. And it is precisely this issue which seems to most befuddle and perplex the pundits and commentators who are relaying this story to us. Savile is dead, and will now never have to face the inevitable arrest and investigation which would have befallen him had he lived longer. The frustration that this element of the story engenders is palpable, and has found some bizarre expressions, both in media and the real world. Prominent charities which bore his name have now severed any links with Savile, his iniquitously huge headstone has been removed and will now be consigned to landfill, and there have even been rumours of his body being exhumed (it is buried at a 45 degree angle so that Savile could 'see the view', and is encased in concrete).

It appears that people want consequences, and that the idea of a man seeing out his days in good repute without facing the ire and fire of the penal system is unbearable. The United Kingdom may have largely succeeded in persuading itself that 'there's probably no God' and that people can stop worrying and enjoy themselves, but it seems that it is sadly lamented when someone like Savile has managed to apply this principle to the full in life. People want retribution, even if on the bare bones of a long dead old man.

Such a story is salutary to the Christian and non-Christian alike. For the non-Christian there is the unbearable reality that life and death are lived without real consequences, and that injustices are just part and parcel of living in a random world. But for the Christian there is a challenge too. We might think that we are kind in downplaying God's judgement, of highlighting it seldom if ever in our public ministry, and that we are in some way charitable to whisper God's wrath while shouting God's grace. Such a position is not merely unfaithful to Scripture, but misses an important apologetic point for the Christian faith: we believe that God will right every wrong, and that while people might slip the net of judgement in life, His wrath will fall with all the certainty of the Godhead on those who do not repent. We are programmed for consequence, we are hungry for justice, and the Bible speaks powerfully to precisely these issues - just read Psalms 1-12 for a sample of precisely this truth.

Jimmy Savile has slipped out of life without a moment of time served for his alleged sins, but he, and all of us must face God - either to receive the punishment richly deserved, or to be ultimately rescued from it on the merits of Christ's finished work for us at Calvary; in which he bore the fullness of that wrath for us. As much as it might run contrary to the spirit of the age, and the calibrations our hearts, we ought to praise God for His justice, as well as for the fact that he is the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.


Gary Cousins said...

Yes Andrew we are a similar age and it was part of the Saturday night ritual to watch the A-team, the dukes of hazard and to hear those words "now then now then what do we have here"
Thanks for giving us an everlasting perspective on these truly shocking revelations. While the UK media struggles to found a moral point of reference.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there is no God. No heaven, angels or afterlife. This is your life. Make the most of it.

Andrew said...

Gary: many thanks. The coverage in the media is pedestrian at best, morals and causation seem to be outside of their grasp.

Anonymous: unfortunate is indeed the word if your statements were true, as your counsel seems to be exactly how Jimmy Savile conducted his life.

gillian rickerby said...

Really great post Andrew, As i have thought recently we all have to give an account of we do or say one day. Although he avoided it here he will get judged for what he has done

Andrew said...

Thanks for your comment Gillian. It is a fearful thing isn't it? But how good to be able to look to Christ and Him alone for salvation.