It’s with reluctance that I write this week’s bulletin blurb. That reluctance was motivated by some serious questions. Why drag up unpleasant things that have caused lots of people much pain? And why focus on someone else’s sin when we’ve all got our own faults and foibles? And yet… there are some important lessons to be learnt.
I’m talking about the iconic Aussie entertainer, Rolf Harris. Like many of you I watched the unfolding saga of the famous and now elderly entertainer being brought before the UK courts to answer to some twelve counts of indecent assault. Since his conviction on July 4th a number of other complainants in Australia and New Zealand have gone public and told of being molested in some way by Harris.
All of this has been a painful journey for the complainants and undoubtedly for Harris’ wife and family. But it is also painful journey for those of us, who as parents in the late sixties and seventies, upheld Rolf Harris, not only as a good singer and entertainer but also a wholesome role model. Like many of my generation we watched his shows on TV as a family and I still have the record album in which Harris sings his famous “Jake the peg” song. We Aussies were proud of this home-grown entertainer and my children just about wore out that “Jake the peg” recording.
So what are the lessons?
First this lesson that Moses spelled out so well in Numbers 32:23 “You may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Harris is not the only entertainer who has learnt that lesson in recent years. Just two months ago actor Robert Hughes, star of “Hey Dad” was convicted for sexual abuse and sentenced to ten years in jail. I am always amazed how long it sometimes takes for these matters to come to the surface. In the case of Rolf Harris the earliest of the charges went back to 1975 – that’s nearly forty years ago. And yet I understand why that happens. It takes a lot of courage for a woman to tell of being abused – and an awful lot of courage when that abuser is a famous personality. We could add into the mix the fact that so often women have been led to believe that maybe they were partly to blame and it’s often only much later – perhaps when they hear of a similar story from another victims of the abuser – that they work up the courage to go to the police.
A second lesson is that repeatedly we human beings don’t handle our sexuality very well. And that applies not only to famous entertainers. In Australia we presently have a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. That commission began its work by looking at the stories of paedophiles that have operated from within the Christian church. Many a pastor has been dismissed over sexual infidelity – sometimes after many years of unreported offences. In our sexuality God has given us a precious and wonderful gift but it’s a gift that we in our fallen world constantly abuse. That works itself out in a number of different ways. Rolf Harris told the courts that he was a “touchy feely” kind of person. Harris seemed to imply that what he saw as just personal warmth and closeness had been interpreted by others as sexual abuse. But sexual sin doesn’t come only with wandering hands and adulterous affairs. It manifests itself in the addiction to porn and – as Jesus said – in the lustful imaginings of our minds. The Rolf Harris saga is a call for us to guard well God’s wonderful gift of sexuality.
Allow me to mention one more lesson. We live in a society where hero worship is a daily idolatry. But so often we find that our heroes have feet of clay. The reality is that Rolf Harris is a sinner in need of God’s grace – just as I am and just as you are. The world is very unforgiving. In Rolf Harris’ hometown in Australia they have torn down his paintings. I can understand that. However I don’t think I’ll ditch that old “Jake the peg” recording that I kept for sentimental reasons. It’s a good reminder for me that all of us need Jesus. It’s my hope and prayer that Jake-the-peg-Harris will find forgiveness through the gospel of Christ – the same place where you and I need to find it too.