We must be done with Harlequin or Mills & Boon romance notions of love
I (Jeff) have never read a romance novel, but I have watched a few movies of that genre—the Jane Austen type I suppose. Austen’s novels are way better than the pulp romance novels because she exposes more than one wicked character: she depicts how people can get duped by the wicked, and how they can resist the tactics of the wicked.
I’m talking here in this post not about novels by authors like Jane Austen (Barb says there is no author as good as Jane Austen, though Charlotte and Anne Bronte come close) but about the kind of novel which comes from imprints like Harlequin or Mills & Boon, or the princess stuff written for girls. Formulaic page-turners that are really just pulp.
We must never take romance novel ideas into the realm of abuse. You know the notions I am thinking of –
- He changed and they all lived happily ever after
- In the end, all of her friends awakened to the truth
- The moment she saw him, she was smitten and taken by his spell
Once again, you all can probably do a better job than me adding to this list, but you get the point.
Why did this subject come to my mind today? Because recently I was speaking with a smart, talented, really nice gal who has been targeted more than once by abusers. She is just coming out of the fog and growing wiser and wiser as to the reality and nature of abuse. Her worst enemy has been her “nice” parents and being brought up in a typical “nice” church, receiving really no true wisdom and instruction about evil, evildoers, the typical tactics of evil, and so on. The nicer and kinder and friendlier such a person is — well, as many of you have told me — your Christianity set you up to be the mouse in a room of cats.
And one of the recurring and in some ways most traumatic things that has happened to her, like so many victims, is the “counsel” and “love” she has received from her, you guessed it, family, friends, and fellow church members. The one that was fired at her recently was this:
- “Oh, Jane, please just go back to him. I talked with him at length and he really loves you. I just know that he has a soft spot in his heart for you.”
See it? Just what does “a soft spot in his heart” mean, anyway? The thing is meaningless. It is common, but it is empty romanticism. It totally ignores all of the abuser’s ACTIONS (wicked deeds of abuse carried out over years) and gives him a total pass because he has this “soft spot” in his heart for the victim.
Somebody has a soft spot alright. A soft spot in the head!
Think of it. A soft SPOT in the abuser’s heart is an admission that THE REST OF HIS HEART IS AS EVIL AND HARD AS STONE! So he habitually has carried out all this evil abuse—but there is this one little spot, way, way, way back there in the depths where you can’t hardly ever see it, that loves the victim. Have you ever heard such nonsense in Scripture? Of course not. A human being either has a heart of stone or a heart of flesh. Not a mixture.
Actually, scripture does talk about this… and it shows that ‘soft spot’ in the abuser for what it really is: just another abusive tactic the abuser employs to wheedle his victim back into his web and to manipulate the victim’s family and friends to wheedle her back on his behalf.
Judges 19:1-3 CEV In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a Levite staying in a remote part of the hill country of Ephraim acquired a woman from Bethlehem in Judah as his concubine. But she was unfaithful to* him and left him for her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She was there for four months. Then her husband got up and followed her to speak kindly to her** and bring her back. He had his servant with him and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him to her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he gladly welcomed him.
* LXX and Old Latin: was angry with him
** literally, speak to her heart
That wicked Levite ended up doing the most bloodthirsty wicked act of male violence against woman that is described in the whole Bible. And he then manipulated eleven tribes Israel into carrying out even more bloodshed, and more violence against women. Could such a man possibly have spoken with true kindness to his female partner? Could he have had a soft spot in his heart? No. He was designedly and skilfully destructive ever step of that story, it’s just that his destructiveness was mostly covert. In fact, we can’t even really say he had a soft spot in his brain. His brain was as sharp as knife in carrying out every choice he made in that narrative.
His speech was smoother than butter,
But his heart was war;
His words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords. (Ps 55:21)
So when some soft-headed romantic comes along, giving counsel and instruction on a topic they know NOTHING of, and pull this “he has a soft spot in his heart for you” business, let me translate for you what that person really is telling you:
Yes, I know, he has done some horrible things. He demeans you in front of people. He likes to destroy the things you love. He humiliates you sexually. He isolates you economically and socially. BUT BECAUSE HE HAS THIS THING, THIS SOFT SPOT IN HIS HEART, YOU ARE BOUND AND OBLIGATED TO IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE HE HAS DONE TO YOU AND RUN BACK INTO HIS ARMS WHILE THE ORCHESTRA PLAYS AND THE SCREEN SHOT OF “THE END” COMES UP.
You see, we all need to start calling people on the carpet when they pull this on us. They need to be confronted with the fact that what they are saying is worse than meaningless and that in fact their real motive is to prevent their own world from being shaken. Pastors don’t want their record of “no divorces in this church” broken. Some parents would rather see their own child stay married to a wicked spouse just so the Christmas holidays aren’t ruined. And they all need to be brought face to face with their selfish motives.
Watch or read romance novels if you will. Barb heard of one woman in a very demanding job whose work involved helping victims of domestic abuse. She said she read Mills & Boon every night to switch off and get to sleep. But never, never, never bring fiction into real life. Fiction gets people killed, deceives, and enslaves.
The Levite’s Concubine — a YouTube presentation by Barbara Roberts