A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A Review of Les Miserables as a Picture of Redemption From Abuse

NOTE:  One of our readers submitted this review after being powerfully affected by Les Miserables, 2012.  Thank you Anon!

Just in case you don’t know, Victor Hugo wrote this story, because he was an oppressed and rebellious Catholic, who was sick of the oppression of the Church. So fitting today.  We may or may not be Catholic, but we are all or have been oppressed and we are sick of it.  Perhaps Mr. Hugo would stand with us today, if he were here, to say to the Church of today – enough is enough!

Les Miserables – the Movie

I was so moved with compassion, that I could hardly keep the tears from flowing.  My cheeks were wet, my eyes were blurry and the theatre was completely silent.  I watched as  “Jean Valjean” was changed by God’s redemption, given to him while he was a wretched thief. He had been sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread.  He served 19 miserable years, but at the end of those years, his physical strength was unbeatable.  He moves out of the prison and quickly returns to stealing, because, like me in repeating the mistake of choosing abusers, it is all he knows.  He lands, in the cold dark night on the doorstep of the bishop’s home.  He is offered food and warmth and a bed, but ends up stealing the silver.  He is caught and brought back to the haven he had been given.  I watched as the bishop showed him mercy and grace and it changed Jean’s heart, to see that God was loving and caring and merciful.  A far cry from anything I have been shown by those who call themselves the “priests” today.  But Valjean was not going to stay and keep the greatest gift he had ever received – Redemption – to himself.  He began a journey, like we all should, to give back to others, what had been given to him, namely Jesus.

He becomes the mayor of the town where Fantine is working and slaving away just to provide for her daughter who had been born out of wedlock, then abandoned by the father. Fantine sends money to a godless couple with whom her daughter is staying.  It is the only way that Fantine knows to provide.  The couple lie to Fantine and tell her the child is ill, so they need more money. In the meantime, the evil that lurks in the place where Fantine works raises its ugly head and Fantine is sent out by a dastardly man, one we are all very familiar with, to fend for herself, jobless.  She believes her young daughter to be ill and near death, and begins to weep and cry and look for a way to provide, lest her daughter die.  She is duped by the self-centered couple caring for her daughter, but like all of us have done, believes the lie.  Jean Valjean has no idea at this point, that she has been cast to the wolves.

The scene comes where Fantine is ravaged by her abusers. Being ravaged – whether physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, financially or whatever – we have all been there.  Once she has been cast out, her abusers become the people in the world.  There is an eery similarity going on here. Fantine is counseled by her peers who believe they know what is best, what is right, and what she needs to do (sound familiar?).  Their counsel just brings more trouble for Fantine. She is reduced to absolutely nothing, twisted and torn and given over to prostitution. She has sold her hair, her teeth and her body.

She declares that the man abusing her doesn’t know that she is already dead.  Somewhere in there, the tears begin to flow and I am caught between her statements of “already dead” and “this hell I’m living”.  Fantine is an example of what we have all lived in the past or what we are living now.  Her face shows her misery and confusion.  Her heart is scarred and torn because she did not choose this.  She is not bitter, nor hateful, but she is lost in it.  The pain overcomes her and she is so caught up in needing to do what is right to care for her child that she cannot see truth for the thorns.  Her pain becomes so real to me.  I feel the anguish and the scorn she feels.  I know that God is real and alive and there for her aid, but where is He?  Why does He let this happen?  It is all so close to my heart.  So different and yet so much the same; so far away and yet so familiar.  Faith comes to my mind.  Where is my faith?  Where is hers? God may appear hidden, but He is not.  He is ever so close, only like us, Fantine just cannot find Him.  Her world of confusion has left her empty and sick and dying.

God sends Jean Valjean to the area and he finds Fantine.  She is so angry with him because she views him as the one who did this to her.  He swears to her, as he tries to tenderly touch her and she pushes him away in fear and self preservation, that he did not know.  He takes her off and delivers her to care at a hospital.  He then swears to her, as she lies dying, that he will find and care for her child, forever.  This gives Fantine the peace she needs to rest.  Something we all want. Our Savior to come.  Who is left to care for the children of the murdered wife?  Who is there to care for us?  Who is there who will step in and take us away from the ravenous wolves; the wolves who are hidden where we are supposed to find safety?

The story goes on and Valjean finds Cossette, Fantine’s daughter, and pays the scoundrels for her and moves on, taking her with him.  During this scene, I thought to myself, “These people have chosen to live this way.  They have chosen to be thieves and take from everyone else.  But I have not chosen that way, yet it seems that I am being punished as a thief would be, sacrificed because of what someone else has done to me.”  Cossette is raised by Valjean and he tenderly loves and cares for her as if she were his own daughter and he protects and guards her as well – much like our Savior does for us.  However, there are always those who are trying to rip her away, but he cautiously guards her and makes a way of escape.

Jean Valjean remains alone.  He never marries.  He fights this fight alone. Javert, the officer from the prison Valjean was in at the beginning of the movie, is determined to destroy Valjean and return him to prison for a parole violation. (How familiar.) Javert resists and is jealous of all the good Valjean has done because of his redemption.  It seems Javert cannot grasp that Valjean is working for good.  As so many of us have found, those opposed to truth cannot stand for the truth to be revealed.  They fight us and refuse to budge, like Javert, because those not of Christ really do not want the oppressed to have their God-given freedom.  In the end, Javert gives himself what he really stands for – justice –  a strange yet darkly fitting form of justice for one who practiced such stringent and merciless justice to those around him. An act of mercy and grace led Valjean to repentance and redemption, and a similar act of mercy and grace led Javert to his damnation. He could not bear the thought that someone could show such compassion to him as Valjean did, and it felt so unjust that he could not bear it and drank the cup of his own justice.  Notice during this scene, that the song being sung is the same melody as the song Valjean sings when he comes to repentance and receives his Redemption.  Javert sings the same melody, when he receives his reward as well.

The rest of the film deals with the warring of the people trying to gain their freedom from oppression.  Oh, it is just so exhausting, as they stand and fight the good fight, only to lose – but they haven’t really lost.  This is how we victims feel: like ones who are warring.  Warring for our own souls and minds; keeping our hearts from being bitter, and deluding ourselves that we have forgiven.  Fighting so hard for what is right, and they take it away from us.  They come through our barricades, like we deserve to die for their cause – to keep us silent.  But we are the true Church and God awaits us.  He chose us for this fight – and fight we will.  Even if we lose, we have won.  Even if we stand on the other side of what they say is “right” and “truth,” we know what is really right and what is really the truth.  Why?  Because like Jean Valjean, we know our King and who our Redemption came from.  We know that our oppressors and abusers have defied His Redemption and claim on us.  But we must stand and we must fight, because there are those who are coming behind us, who will walk where we have walked, who will sing our same battle cry – and we must pound the path for them.

Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the song of angry men.

It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!

If we are to ensure that those who come behind us are not taken as slaves to abuse anymore, then we must stand.

We must wave Christ’s flag of freedom as we climb to the light,

Where we will live again in eternal freedom in the garden of the Lord.

Then, we will walk behind the ploughshare, and put away our swords.

For our fight will all be over,

But for those who come behind,

the ground will have a walkway,

that will easily be found.

The chain will be broken and we will all have our reward!

So, will you join in the crusade?

Pick up your cross and walk this way?

Will you stand with those who are weak; be strong and stand with me?

Beyond the barricade the Pharisees build for you and me,

lies the truth and world of Christ, the one we long to see.

Can you hear the distant drums?  Is there a future that you can see?

It’s the future that we bring to them, when their tomorrow comes.

Our tomorrow, at the end of this long, hard road, will bring the glory to God that He desires: freedom for His oppressed; but just as those that have gone before us, someone has to go to war and win the battle.  That is our purpose.  That is our fight.  That is our desire.  We all stand for freedom.  Freedom from the abuse that has enchained us and kept us the captive of one other than our Christ and King.

The tears are still flowing, I am singing the final chorus, along with the movie, the theater is now filled with quiet sobs and sniffles, and then – a breaking of the silence, as the entire theater erupts into long, hard applause, yelling, whistling, as if to say, “We are fighting your good fight now!  We are holding up the barricade.  We are waging the war, even if we lose. You went before us, but we carry on – your work was not in vain!  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!”

I hope you enjoy this moving and epic movie, as much as I did, and may your heart be just as strengthened and encouraged by it, as mine was.

Tearfully yours.

31 Comments

  1. I simply love this post. I have read the book and seen an earlier movie version and am going to see the current movie soon. I love the way this post’s author has modified the words of the song to bring in more Christianity. I think that was inspired.

    I’ll probably write more here later, but I’ll just share this song that Fantine sings, as it is so applicable to the experiences of many victims of abuse:

    There was a time when men were kind
    When their voices were soft
    And their words inviting
    There was a time when love was blind
    And the world was a song
    And the song was exciting
    There was a time
    Then it all went wrong
    I dreamed a dream in times gone by
    When hope was high
    And life worth living
    I dreamed that love would never die
    I dreamed that God would be forgiving
    Then I was young and unafraid
    And dreams were made and used and wasted
    There was no ransom to be paid

    No song unsung
    No wine untasted

    But the tigers come at night
    With their voices soft as thunder
    As they tear your hope apart
    And they turn your dream to shame
    He slept a summer by my side
    He filled my days with endless wonder
    He took my childhood in his stride
    But he was gone when autumn came
    And still I dream he’ll come to me
    That we’ll live the years together
    But there are dreams that cannot be
    And there are storms we cannot weather
    I had a dream my life would be
    So different from this hell I’m living
    So different now from what it seemed
    Now life has killed
    The dream I dreamed.

    • Bethany

      I am going to see it this weekend. I loved the older movie and the Broadway musical and own the sound track. I have always loved this song, but is speaks to me more deeply now.

      • Song

        Bethany, Bring tissue with you.

  2. It was wonderful, just wonderful. I had seen it on stage several times and was tickled to see that the original Jean Valjean I had seen on stage in 1991, now several years older, was playing the part of the Bishop in the movie. THAT moved me to tears and the story had barely begun ;-) What I didn’t know, and just learned from a friend who read the original text by Victor Hugo, was this (quoted from his blog thebiblicalworldblogspot.com):

    “One irony of the story that the musical mentions, but doesn’t unpack is the story of Javert’s past. Like Jean Valjean, his life too is connected to a prison. Not the one in which he worked, but the one in which he was born. In the book we learn that his mother was a Gypsy fortune-teller, and his father a galley slave. Javert, so repulsed by his own past, decided to become part of the system in order to help control, if not wipe out, the kind of people who gave him life. Javert, like Jean Valjean, wants to escape his past and he thinks that by hunting Valjean he is doing God’s work and will relieve his own suffering.”

    I’m taking two friends to see it again next week, and will try to see all the nuances I missed the first time, also taking to heart Javert’s own suffering.

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff.

    • MeganC

      Morven — I remember that from the book. And, when I watched this film, I thought long and hard about the people who think they are doing God’s work by crushing the weak . . . by keeping them in chains . . . by condemning them. That is the agony of “the law”. Mercy won in this story and it touched me deeply. Mercy will always win in the end.

  3. Healinginprocess

    Anon, I also saw the movie…and cried…it touched me so. Your review was beautifully written stating why it touched me so deeply. I hadn’t realized all the details because I was feeling very hurt, oppressed. My new pastor had recently asked me to leave the church because I would not reconcile with my abuser. It had been my family for 10 years and he had only been there a few months. A week after me leaving my abuser returned to the church after leaving the church several years earlier…. While stating how much he loved me and wanted to reconcile. We have all wanted the compassion the priest showed Valjean… Only to be shown we are not worth it. You are right we need to fight the good fight for those who come after us.

    • Anonymous

      Healinginprocess – I am very sorry for your pain. Know that God hates this kind of thing. I was excommunicated, simply for setting boundaries in my marriage and then not allowing the leadership to dictate my life and the safety of my family. I sort of think of the old saying “birds of a feather”, when I hear of pastors siding with abusers. I will pray that God will heal your open wounds and remind you of His constant love for you. It is actually good, that you are free from a “c”hurch like that, so you are free to come to Christ’s true Church. Anon

      • a “c”hurch like that,…..
        Anon, you’ve given me another gem for my sound bites file! Haha!

        But this one can’t be a sound bite, it can only be a typed-bite… :)

      • MeganC

        To both of you . . . I know the pain of rejection, as well. And I am so sorry you both have gone through it. For me, it was difficult to separate the church from God, at first. I was not sure if God had rejected me, as well.

        I believe I cried the hardest over the priest’s kindness to Valjean. And what it DID to the man. I want to be that to others. Show them that mercy that I so desperately wanted.

      • Anonymous

        Yes Megan. I too had a hard time discerning between what the “c”hurch was doing to me and what God thought of all of it. I can see clearer now, because I am removed by it and Ps. Crippen’s comment to me, “wear it like a badge of honor”, now makes more sense to me. I need to be thankful to God, for removing me from that spirit, before I ended up like them. The Pharisees always want rid of the true Christians, (Jn. 9) because it goes against their grain and like Javert, they cannot stand the mercy. It sickens them as much as the spirit of the Pharisee sickens us. Javert (the law) was constantly after Valjean (grace), chasing him like the wind, trying to make him pay. That is what happens, when we deal with Pharisees. They cannot grasp the grace, because they don’t have it, so you must pay – the law must have its entitlement.

        We are of no use to Christ, unless we can extend the same mercy we have been shown. I have struggled over how to handle the Pharisees in my life – but God showed me that I am to handle them, exactly as Christ handled them. We aren’t to “kill” them, but we aren’t to “save” them either.

      • MeganC

        AMEN, dear friend. Such wisdom here.

        Someone once taught me that Pharisees are vipers. He asked me, “What do you do with snakes? Do you chase after them? Do you put yourself in their path? Do you kill them? No . . . you avoid them at all costs.” That changed my attitude toward Pharisees altogether.

        John 9 spoke to me, as well. Deeply. I love what you said about being grateful that God divinely sifted us. I need to remember that. Thank you, friend.

    • Jeff Crippen

      HIP- No pastor, no church leader, no Christian — no one — has the authority to put an abuse victim on trial and render yea or nay as to whether they can divorce the abuser. None. Church discipline is given for issues of sin and for the guilty party. That pastor who put you out of your church knows full well that there is a wide difference of opinion as to the biblical teaching on marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. He knows this. Sound Christians are not totally clear on it. Some allow for no divorce. Some for adultery. Others for adultery or desertion and others, like us, for adultery, desertion, and abuse (which desertion really is). So just think about it. That pastor – so called – is SO haughty, that he will pronounce God’s condemnation on you for taking a position on divorce that is different than his position. You know what that tells me? That the pastor himself is an abuser! He is at minimum a spiritual abuser. And the reason that these guys end up siding with the abuser is because, as was said, birds of a feather stand together.

      I pity that church that has such a pastor.

      • Healinginprocess

        Jeff and Barbara It is definitely something to ponder and I have a feeling an accurate assessment.

      • Bethany

        Jeff your words make me want to shout “AMEN HALLELUJAH!!” from the roof tops :)

      • MeganC

        Shouting with Bethany!!! Amen!!

    • HIP, I agree with what Jeff Crippen said, one hundred per cent.
      Have you ever considered that that pastor might himself be an abuser? (don’t answer if you don’t want to)

      • Healinginprocess

        Thanks Anonymous. I was also divorcing him to protect my children. There is guilt when you’ve married and brought a stepfather who turns out abusive into their lives. It did help me to leave him more quickly I think since he wasn’t their father. I know in time the wounds will heal and I will not heal in that church with that pastor. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated.

    • Loren Haas

      HIP, this pastor’s ignorance is surpased only by his self-righteousness. You have suffered a significant injury in losing your church family, but it is not a healthy place in that man’s hands. It is not what you imagined it was. Shake the dust off your sandals, take a short rest from church life and then start to seek out a healthy church. Churches that sponsor divorce recovery ministries are good places to start. http://www.DivorceCare.com will direct you to churches in your area that offer their program.

  4. Song

    Anon, Thank you! You did such a brilliant job of a review of this movie. Singing that last chorus with you!

  5. Barnabasintraining

    Barbara,

    This is completely OT but I saw on Wartburg that Australia is having a serious heat wave. How are you doing over there?

    • Where I am we’ve had two or three days of about 40 degrees (Celsius) which is hot! Further north in Oz it is hotter, of course, and there are lots of bad bushfires in New South Wales, the state north of me. And in Queensland and the top end, the monsoons are very late so things up there are dangerous as well, fire-wise. The big fear in summer is bushfires.There was a 100 hectare grass fire about half an hour’s drive from here yesterday with strong winds, but they’ve got it contained now. I wasn’t afraid for my own house as I live in a reasonably big town and it’s most unlikely I would be caught in a bushfire. Thanks for your concern. :)

      • Barnabasintraining

        Glad to hear you’re alright, if a bit sticky. :)

        As they say of heat and humidity in our Southern states here, “at least you don’t have to shovel it.”

      • :)

  6. MeganC

    Anon — Thank you for writing this. I, too, was DEEPLY affected by “Les Mis”, even though I had seen the musical before and read the book. Somehow, this was more vibrant and touching than anything before that. Maybe it was the abuse I went through. I don’t know. But your assessment is beautiful.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Megan – and yes, I too had seen it before and I think this rendition, with the raw voices and emotion, just made it more deeply emotional and touching and better conveyed the depth of the agony of the victims/warriors and their victory at the end, as will be all of ours!

      No one wants to live in a “victim mentality”, and I certainly realize that I am a victor, because of Christ in me, but the truth is, we have to deal with life where and how we know it – otherwise we would live a lie. We are not victims, in one sense, but rather warriors, fighting against the evil and wickedness God hates. It is only warring, because there are so many who stand against us, who don’t have knowledge and who don’t understand. Much like the Pharisees of today, that have no real knowledge or understanding about God. They have missed Him completely.

      • MeganC

        Beautiful. Thank you.

  7. J. Ann

    Wonderful review and comments! I had not seen the musical version of the story before. It was a deeply emotional experience and so well done. l pray that God will use this movie to open hearts and minds to His true message of love and redemption. The truth will make us free!

  8. Just Me

    Thank you for this review! I’m going to wait until it’s available to rent so I can cry in privacy in my PJs. I think I’d feel too vulnerable in a theater. My counselor recommended this movie for me to see as well.

    • Anonymous

      I understand the crying part. The first time we went, there was so much crying going on in the theatre, that I felt right at home. So, be safe Just Me and rent it when it comes out, but if I were you, I would just buy it, because you are going to want to see it again…and again…and again. : )

  9. I saw the movie last night, Anon, and I felt like you were sitting beside me all the time. Thank you for sharing your inner experience of this movie so profoundly. You are a good friend.

  10. Forrest

    Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir.

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