Movie Reviews for Redeeming Love: What You Need to Know

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 102 comments

Merchandise is Here!

Everyday for the last month I’ve received multiple social media messages asking me to write a review of the Redeeming Love movie.

Redeeming Love was originally a novel written by Francine Rivers in 1991, and it quickly became one of the best-selling Christian novels of all time. This year Universal Pictures made it into a movie, and it opened in theatres last week.

It’s supposed to be the book of Hosea in the Bible put in the 1850s goldrush in California. Angel has been sex trafficked since she was 8  years old, and works in a brothel. Michael hears God telling him to marry Angel, and he does (well, he marries Angel; Angel doesn’t actually marry him, since she’s pretty much unconscious during the ceremony, but more on that in a minute).

She never wanted to marry him, and she keeps leaving, and he keeps pursuing, and then finally they end up together in the end.

I read Redeeming Love many, many years ago, and don’t remember much except that I really, really didn’t like Michael. He seemed never to actually see Angel and who she was, but only this ideal of what he believed she could be.

Anyway, I’m super busy right now and I didn’t really want to reread the book or watch the movie, so I thought I’d just link to some reviews that I thought made some important points, and give a bit more commentary on those!

But first, one observation:

I noticed while looking up Christian reviews that one of the big  criticisms of the book and movie is that they’re too erotic, and that can be a slippery slope.

I do agree with that. I know many teen girls especially who started on Christian fiction, then went to Nora Roberts type books, and then on to full-blown erotica. And that can do major damage to a sex life! So I agree that this can definitely be an issue.

However, in this case it reminds me of how Every Man’s Battle frames lust as a sin against a man’s purity, rather than a sin against an actual woman–or frames pornography as a sin against a man’s purity, rather than a contributor to sex trafficking.

Yes, erotica is bad, but I also think it’s important to ask, “what are we being prompted to get turned on by?” What else is going on? And it’s there that I see far more disturbing elements.

Redeeming Love romanticizes and eroticizes what is essentially an abusive, controlling relationship.

I’ll let Captain Laura Van Schaick from the Salvation Army in Ontario (my own province) explain from her review:

Despite its overwhelming popularity, there are elements of this romance that paint an unhealthy picture of love.

Throughout the narrative, Michael demonstrates some disturbing characteristics of abuse:

  • When Michael first meets Angel, he renames her Mara. Despite repeated requests that he call her Angel, Michael continues to bestow different names upon her. Abusers will seek to erase their victims’ innate sense of personhood, and renaming them is an often-used tactic.
  • Michael then announces his intentions to Angel. There’s no request made, only a command—you are going to marry me. Despite repeated refusals to his proposal, when Michael returns to Angel’s brothel one night and finds her badly beaten and nearly unconscious, he pays a hefty sum to the madam and promptly marries her without her full consent.
  • Angel tries to flee, finding work at a general store, then as a cook and finally opening a halfway house to offer hope to women wanting to leave a life of prostitution. Despite her attempts to hide her tracks, Michael repeatedly seeks Angel out and brings her back to his remote farmhouse

This is not a romantic love. This is not a holy love. It is a harmful abuse of power. And it does not model the type of love God offers to us.

Power and Consent

In light of the #MeToo movement and allegations of abuse in the church, the importance of consent and respect cannot be over emphasized, not only in sexual relationships but also emotional and spiritual ones.

Michael rarely gives Angel agency, the privilege to choose and act for oneself. While he doesn’t rape her, Michael violates Angel’s agency in many other physical, emotional and social ways.

Where unequal power exists, consent does not.

Captain Laura Van Schaick

Movie Review: Redeeming Love, The Salvation Army Movie Reviews

Exactly. I agree with every word of this review of Redeeming Love (and it’s quite short, so you can read it quickly!), and highly recommend it. (Although I would argue more forcefully that it actually was marital rape, even if he wasn’t physically forcing her.As she said, there was no consent.)

For more on marital rape and coercion, please see:

The Christian community needs to stop romanticizing power dynamics

So Michael declares that God told him that he’s to marry Angel–and she’s supposed to just agree? Even though she’s heard no such thing from God? And even though Michael does everything in his power to show that he doesn’t really see who Angel really is and what she wants?

Even at the end of the book (or movie), when she has spent several years building a non-profit home where she’s actually doing some good for other former trafficked victims, and she’s making a difference in the world for the better, she ends up leaving that behind to go live on a farm with Michael. Why doesn’t he come and help her in this very worthy endeavour?

The book of Hosea is interesting, and it’s a lovely story of how God loves us and pursues us even when we turn our backs on him, but it was never meant to be put in modern (or semi-modern) times. And when we do that, it gets really ugly.

Redeeming Love doesn’t deal well with trauma

Angel is a character who was sex trafficked from the age of 8. The trauma she suffered was immense. Everything she did was basically a trauma response. And therapists will tell you that what abuse victims and trauma survivors need most to heal is a sense of agency. Instead of giving her that agency, this book constantly chastises her and portrays her as being in the wrong for trying to assert what she really wants. She’s just supposed to go along with what this other man says is best for her, even though she has other options and other people in her life who have treated her better.

She’s supposed to leave the people in her life who are encouraging her to be herself and discover what she really wants (and even teach her to read and write!), and go back to this man who is telling her who she’s supposed to be, rather than treating her as a whole person. (If he really wanted to help her better herself, why didn’t HE teach her how to read and write?).

It’s this lack of attention to consent, agency, and trauma that makes me very, very leery of Redeeming Love.

We have a tendency to romanticize controlling relationships–look how much he loves her! Look how much he pursues her!, instead of looking for emotional health.

Obsession and control is not love.

I know that many have loved this book, and the picture it gave of God saved their faith, and if that’s you, I’d strongly recommend not watching the movie and just thanking God for the good that He brought out of the book and keep that as your memory. And if you’ve never read it, I’d also recommend skipping it, because maybe if Christians stop supporting movies that show an unhealthy marriage dynamic, then better movies will start being made.

Some other reviews with interesting insights about Redeeming Love:

Libby Anne, a former evangelical, has written a long review of Redeeming Love that I very much appreciated. Just a taste:

And yet, throughout Rivers’ book, we’re to think of Angel as bitter and angry. The real problem with Angel is that her dream is to save enough money to buy a small cottage and live on her own, away from men. No really—that is Angel’s dream and it is a problem, because God has told Michael Hosea, a California farmer, to marry her, whether she wants to or not—and she most certainly does not.

Libby Anne

Horrible Christian Fiction, Kidnapping and Sex Trafficking Edition (Francine Rivers and Redeeming Love)

Samantha Field, who grew up fundamentalist Christian but now writes from outside the faith, has written a huge series critiquing Redeeming Love. Warning: there is some swearing in it, and she comes from a perspective that many won’t agree with. But her take on abuse in particular in this entry in her review is spot on, in my opinion. Near the end, she sums up the book like this:

 

Redeeming Love is the story of an abuser who kidnaps an unconscious woman, barely restrains himself from murdering her, and gets what he wants in the end: a victim returning like a prodigal wife to kneel down, sobbing, at his feet begging forgiveness for wanting to be free of him.

Samantha Field

Redeeming Love: The Abuser Wins

Even a quick short review on a secular media review site sees the consent and controlling problems!

At first, Angel rejects Michael’s plan, rightly noting that he barely knows her. Despite the reasons behind her resistance, he makes no genuine attempts to learn more about her, her past, or what she wants out of life, instead continuing to deliver his promises of love with the same calm, sociopathic tone of a creeper who doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.

Derek Smith

Slant Magazine, Redeeming Love Review

The fact that two women who have left the faith–and everyday secular reviewers–can see such glaring problems with this book is actually a big indictment.

It is the fact that the Christian community has so elevated books like Redeeming Love, and failed to notice the abuse dynamics, that has often made people give up on Christianity, while ensuring that others would never consider it in the first place.

And even when as Christians we critique the movie, too often we get angrier at erotic content than enabling abuse. We worry about how watching the movie will affect us for the worse, rather than how it will affect the wider community.

It’s understandable why people would abandon Christianity. They think our version of Jesus doesn’t care, and is more concerned with sin management than actually protecting the well-being of people who are being hurt.

I’m glad the Salvation Army captain was so insightful in her review, and I encourage everyone to share that one!

Rebecca here with some very quick thoughts, because my mom and I had slightly different first reactions to RL. I also have serious problems with it, but I don’t see necessarily the romanticization of an unhealthy relationship as the problem. Fiction is escapism, in my eyes–it romanticizes what we would never want in real life (think about how many fiction books have the protagonist killing someone as a GOOD thing, for example). I personally don’t think that RL’s relationship dynamics are healthy to indulge in since they have the potential to prime someone for abusive relationships, but I struggle to say that fiction should *never* portray unhealthy relationships because fiction is, by definition, supposed to be fake/not real life. So it has a level of separation that non-fiction self-help books do not.

HOWEVER.

With RL, my problem is that it is marketed as a Christian book, a re-telling of Scripture, and it presents a man’s purchasing, abuse, and rape of a woman as God’s command. God’s will. He is a godly man. And this is marketed to Christian women as a Christian book with a good message. I wouldn’t actually give two hoots about RL if it were a non-Christian book, or if it used the story of Hosea as inspiration but didn’t include all the stuff about it being God’s will in it. But because it markets itself as Christian, it leaves the realm of pure fiction (where pretty much anything goes) and puts itself into a teaching position. It is, to me, the same as my issue with Mark Gungor’s “jokes.”  If he were just a comedian, him making off-colour jokes about how all men want from women is sex wouldn’t really be an issue because he’s just joking. But he’s not “just a comedian”–he includes teaching about marriage in his routines, he is marketed as a marriage expert, he gives advice and counsel throughout his programs. So his jokes aren’t harmless but just in bad taste–they are actively telling people, “I am an authority on what God wants for you, and this is it.”

Similarly, by invoking the name of God, Rivers puts a Christian stamp of approval on men who use God’s word to abuse, assault, and erase the agency of women. That’s why I don’t like this book.

Rebecca Lindenbach

Redeeming Love Movie Review

What do you think? Have you read Redeeming Love or seen the movie? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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102 Comments

  1. A2bbethany

    Yeah this is a book that I’ve both heard women I know praise and critique as iffy. But because we ended up with a novel of the same name, we never tried to get this one. We enjoyed the one we got better!
    (Based on a true story of 2 girls captured by indians and their escape if I remember. How their faith helped them through it. Aimed at young audiences)

    I’m glad I missed out on it, cause I think it might have pushed me further away from marriage. I already spent time, seriously considering, whether or not I could shut the door on any potential relationship. I concluded that it was a decision I had to leave open and trust God. I’m glad I did Because I love where I am now! (Married to a good man who needed me just as much as I needed him.)

    Reply
  2. Jo R

    As usual, men know best, women don’t know anything, women have no needs, women can’t possibly know their own desires, and any desires that women do have must relent when a man shows up.

    “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” 🙄🙄🙄

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think it’s very dangerous to romanticize a man saying to a woman “God told me to marry you”, and it being the right thing for her to do even if she feels nothing of the sort and heard nothing of the sort. That’s actually spiritual abuse. We need to allow women to hear from God themselves and trust themselves.

      Reply
      • Anon

        I used to work for a Christian charity in my late teens and early 20s, and one of my jobs was running bookstalls at meetings. It was common for me for a complete stranger to walk up to the bookstall and announce ‘God has told me we’re going to get married’. (I once had two guys at the SAME meeting tell me that!) None of them every asked my opinion or made any attempt to find out what I was really like (and when I told them that they’d have to wait until God told me the same thing, they usually got nasty and told me I was sinful and rebellious!).

        Invariably, these guys went to churches with few or no young single women, and most of them seemed to have decided I would be their wife even before I turned up, on the basis that I was single and worked for a Christian organisation, so ‘must’ be good wife material! Most of them were a good 10-15 years older than I was too, but didn’t seem interested in finding a wife their own age (30s). I suspect that subconsciously, they preferred an 18 or 19 year old as easier to dominate – and of course, the ‘God told me’ adds pressure that the girl will be sinning if she refuses…

        I do feel really sorry for the poor women who ended up married to creeps like these.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          Yeah, gotta catch ’em young before they’ve lived life independently and so have learned a practical thing or two.

          Reply
      • Jo R

        It’s hard to see what other outcome could ever occur since men (in both the church and society in general) have anointed themselves as originators and referees of the rules in addition to being players in the game.

        “I’ll define what marriage is, what women and especially wives are and are not allowed to do, then, if I think a woman is getting out of line, I’ll be the sole arbiter of whether I’m right or not. And of course, since I’m right by definition—that is what it means to be in charge—then hey, presto, she’s always doing something wrong.”

        Reply
      • Eliza

        I laugh a little because my dad apparently did tell my stepmother that God told him to marry her . . . however they both knew each other quite well (having served in the same church ministries for years when their prior spouses were alive). And they did not get married until God told her the same thing. I think both being retired engineers they just liked keeping it simple. 😀 They have been happily married for sixteen years now. But it’s very different thinking a man just saying so is automatically right.

        Reply
      • Jo R

        On the flip side, the man taking charge like this before the wedding at least lets the woman know she’ll have no say on anything after it. 🙄🙄🙄

        Reply
      • anonymous for this

        I have personal experience with this. God literally told me who I was going to marry. We weren’t even dating at the time. But here is the difference-I kept my mouth shut. And then God told HIM. If God speaks to you about who you are to marry -He always tells the other person too. Otherwise it’s just manipulation.

        Reply
        • Anon

          My husband says that he heard from God very clearly that I was his future wife, but that was after we’d been dating for 6 months. And he never told me about that moment until after we were married, because he wanted me to marry him because I believed it was right, not because I felt pressured into it by him telling me that it was what God wanted.

          Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thank you for yours (and Rebecca’s) perspective. I have not read RL and I am avoiding it for some of the very reasons you’ve mentioned. “Christian” stories like this pose men as the spiritual leaders of women/wives. Somehow men hold the key to God’s plan and women would never understand. I also hate the narrative of “God told men to marry you/be in relationship with you” as that is a form of spiritual manipulation that stripes the other person of their freedom to choose. In this case, the husband puts himself as the keeper of “God’s will.” As someone who was formerly in an emotionally abusive relationship in which the man told me “God told him to” a lot, we must stop that trope in Christian literature and teaching. We are priming young women for toxic relationships. I myself am glad that I was able to see the light and get out of that relationship. I do however feel that I would have seen the warning signs sooner had the preaching from the pulpit/literature put women at equal footing with men, talked about consent, didn’t use forms of spiritual manipulation, didn’t teach that others (husband, pastor,etc.) would hear from God for women first.
        Side note: also very glad I left that church as soon as I was able to! 😊

        Reply
      • Alice

        I actually had a man say that to me and it absolutely terrified me. I tucked tail and ran the opposite way as fast as I could and never looked back.

        Reply
      • Dora

        As someone who has been told by a guy “God told me to marry you”, I can attest to how harmful it is.
        It sent me the message “I am God’s plan for you and if you don’t follow along, you will never meet anyone else, or if you do, you will be outside of God’s will.”
        Took me years to get out of the web of spiritual and emotional manipulation. Gosh, I even ended up moving to another country because of that.
        Thank God He has pulled me out of that mess and has given me a husband who wants me for who I am and not for what my “potential” might be.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          So glad you got away from it! I think people forget that so many girls also grow up in families/churches where we’re taught that we’re easily deceived and that we can’t listen to our hearts, while men are not deceived. So it primes us to listen to guys say these things and ignore our own red flags.

          Reply
  3. Anon

    This is so nauseating. But I can’t say I’m surprised. Read pretty much any (secular) fiction written up until the 1980s and you’ll see ‘manly heroes’ who just decide they are going to marry a particular woman. If she says ‘I won’t marry you’ he replies with something like ‘you won’t have a choice’ or ‘I’m not asking, I’m telling’. Or he just grabs her and keeps kissing her while she says ‘no’ until she runs out of breath, at which point they’re engaged.

    With decades of secular novels to back up this view, it’s unsurprising that Christian novels are this vile. What is particularly troubling though, is the way that Rivers and other writers justify the ‘hero’s’ behaviour as Godly. At least the secular books don’t do that!

    Reply
  4. Codec

    This gets into something i find rather interesting in a kind of morbid way.

    Look at the protagonist in what folks have called “Mommy Porn” books. What are they like?

    Typically they are charismatic intelligent and aloof in some way or another. I would in many cases go further and say that many of these men are psychopaths. The main character in 50 shades acts like a cult leader. A lot of novels use vampires or pirate captains.

    I find it interesting the attraction to charismatic bad guys in part do to being on the outside looking in on a relationship between such a charismatic bad guy and family.

    I think the initial appeal is confidence. Why? Because of how common it is that a confident man such as this is portrayed in some stories. The confident charismatic psycho against an awkward man who is more of a good guy if not a good guy.

    Do power dynamics appeal to folks as a way to let go? To take the reins? Both?

    What role does confidence play in men and women?

    I got a lot of questions.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Is it that the bad guy brings out a woman’s divinely designed ezer kenedgo, to be the strong one who comes alongside to be the warrior to help him change? Is THAT why women like the bad boy so much?

      Reply
      • Codec

        The whole “But I can change him” routine.

        I do indeed believe in redemption. I do not think someone wpuld or should develop romantic feelings like that.

        Reply
        • Anon

          Yeah, the whole premise of “50 Shades” and “Twilight,” although I think the former is far worse.

          Reply
          • Nessie

            Because you mentioned Twilight… I’s encourage you to check out Cinema Therapy on youtube, and the Twilight series they did. It really examines the horrible abuse dynamics being discussed in this thread, minus the Christian bent.

          • Anon

            Funny you should mention that… I’ve heard people say that the 50 Shades books (which started out as Twilight fanfiction, btw) magnified the abuse that was already present in the Twilight novels. I can’t disagree, and it sickens me how many women want “their own Christian Grey.” They’re swooning over a man who probably idolized Ted Bundy growing up.

  5. Sarah O

    Maybe you could do a series on what Godly pursuit actually looks like and especially how it differs from stalking? It could start with “WHAT are you pursuing, exactly?” Because it shouldn’t be a what, it should be a who. If you’re pursuing “a woman” or “a wife” it seems to me the underlying motive is meeting your own needs. If you’re pursuing “Angel” specifically, the tactics should be very very very very very very different.

    I think it would write itself.

    Reply
    • Anon

      I second this. Not only would this be a great eye-opener for women looking to get married (to the right guy who won’t treat them like dirt), but it would serve as a guide to aspiring novelists – how to write a true pursuit and romantic relationship.

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    This is very similar to what a secular movie reviewer calls “The Designated Hero Card”. In a movie, for example, it’s established that Ed is the hero and the goody guy. That means that no matter what Ed does, no matter how horrible, abusive, evil or destructive, it’s ALWAYS justified because he’s the hero. And nobody is allowed to question it.

    The same thing applies here. No matter what Michael does, it’s the right thing, because God told him what the end result is going to be, and ANYTHING is justified, as long as it moves towards that goal.

    And never mind that God only told Michael, and not Angel. God speaks to men, and men will tell women what they need to know when they need to know it.

    Finally, love and control may APPEAR similar at times, but they’re very, very different.

    Reply
  7. Rae

    The movie took out the part about him renaming her. He calls her Angel all throughout.
    I did notice how he married her while she was barely conscious, and I definitely didn’t like that. To be honest, I think it was more bad writing. The author/screenwriter needed a way for them to be married and move away from the brothel, and there wasn’t a good way to do it otherwise. Yes it’s not good, but I truly think it was just bad writing in a fictional way. I guess I lean more towards what Rebecca said, in that it’s fiction.

    Which I do wonder, if she had said yes willingly and never ran away, would that even be like Hosea’s story? Which leads me to my question:

    I’m curious what you mean when you said Bible stories were never meant to be modernized? If God’s commands and stories are messy in modern day, what makes them ok back in Bible times too? I have wondered before why God gave Hosea the commands he did, but it seems that if it’s wrong now it would be wrong then too. Just looking for more clarity.

    Reply
    • Codec

      The story of Hosea is a story about God showing his faithfulness even when we are not faithful. Hosea’s children are given names that reflect the wickedness and alienation, but then are later redeemed and given new names.

      His children and the wife are enobled and redeemed by the love of God. I think that Hosea is similiarly enobled and redeemed.

      Reply
    • A2bbethany

      The book of Hosea is not a bible story at all, like any others. It’s a book of prophecy, where a prophet was told by God to do things. It was never really supposed to be a love story (romantically). And while I haven’t read it recently, I never got the impression that he forced marriage on to a prostitute. I had always thought that, in the bible, she welcomed marriage! Being married helped provide a cover story of legitimacy for her activities. And that really made her the abusive one, in that she continued her prostitution and ignored her husband (and children I think?)
      And that was the point God had in mind. Us using him when convenient, but never giving up our sin. That’s the intended parallel, and not a husband forcing himself in.

      Reply
      • Mara R

        I think this is it, A2b.
        I think Francine Rivers tried to press together two stories that don’t go together.
        On the one hand, she wanted to deal with modern day human trafficking and create sympathy for Angel.
        Then on the other, tell the story of Hosea.
        But as you said, it was the prostitute that was the abusive one, using Hosea, his kindness, and his unconditional love.
        The dynamic in Redeeming Love is all askew because these two stories oppose to each other and Rivers could not find, or did not do the work to find a healthy or Christ honoring way to tell them together… that is, if such a thing were possible.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think the stories had principles that we can learn, but they were unique to that culture. It’s like when Liz Curtis Higgs tried to take Leah & Rachel & Jacob and put it into 17th century Scotland or something. It just doesn’t work. It’s a story from a tribal, polygamist time. We can still learn from it, but that’s all. And the story of how Rebecca married Isaac–it’s not romantic, and it shouldn’t be put into modern times. It teaches us about God’s provision and what trust looks like, but thankfully marriages aren’t arranged like that anymore, and we wouldn’t want them to be, and there’s no need to make it sound romantic to modern ears. Does that make sense?

      Reply
      • Anon

        It’s a bit like when people try to set Jane Austen novels in modern day. It really doesn’t work because you just end up thinking ‘why on earth can’t these girls get a job shelf-stacking at the supermarket?’ Some stories just don’t work when they leave the culture they were created in.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, exactly! Although I will always think that Clueless is actually an amazing adaptation of Emma. It really was! (But they also did it completely differently!)

          Reply
          • Anon

            Yes, I think Emma’s the only one that can really work as a modern adaptation, because the main theme is someone who thinks they know everything about other people and has the right to manipulate other people’s lives, while having absolutely no idea. And there are people like that in every generation. (Northanger Abbey is another possible, because it’s all about a teenage girl mixing up fantasy with reality.) But the others are based on the limited options available to unmarried women from the upper classes of the day, and how, unless they had independent fortunes, they relied on ‘marrying well’ to avoid poverty and an uncertain future. And that just doesn’t translate into modern day life. I read a modernization of S&S which has Elinor getting a really great job with a kind boss who provides on-the-job training to further her career – and it’s full of Elinor whinging because she has to actually WORK Monday to Friday EVERY week. At the time, I was working in a dead-end job, with no prospect of career development, much longer hours and lower pay, and I ended up throwing the book across the room in annoyance!

          • Kit

            *cough* Lizzie Bennett diaries *cough*

  8. Rachael

    In my experience, Christian fiction is often awful, the ones that manage to not be poorly written are usually full of bad theology. I’ve always hated romance novels and was fortunate enough to avoid any Christian ones but even in Christian thriller novels there’s a lot of terrible stuff. I was hurt once when my favorite Christian author had a main character who was raped by her father as a child, she got away and was doing great as an adult but the book portrayed that she needed to visit her father and tell her she forgives him despite her father not repenting or being sorry in any way. As someone who was raped as a child by a grandfather this was hurtful not to mention horrible advice and a misunderstanding of forgiveness.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Rachael, if you want to read some truly good Christian fiction where the women are not brow-beaten and the men are actually respectful, decent guys, look into Carla Laureano. Her books are amazing at portraying the right kind of relationship. Perfect example is “The Saturday Night Supper Club.”

      Reply
  9. Meredith

    I have read Samantha Field’s full series on Redeeming Love. I skimmed through the book years ago because a friend raved about it. At the time I only remember thinking it was really poorly written, but I didn’t understand trauma and abuse.
    But as I was reading through this post and the comments, I suddenly remembered a blog post I wrote the last time I read “Jane Eyre” and it has hit me that Bronte’s character of St. John Rivers is almost exactly the same kind of person as Michael Hosea. I wrote the post entirely about St. John because he bugged me SO BAD. I’ll post the link if anyone is interested, but in case you don’t have time I’ll quote a couple things I said about St. John Rivers which I think could apply equally to Michael Hosea:

    “St. John is an almost perfect archetype of the fanatical Christian evangelist. He is self-described as a “cold, hard, ambitious man”, but these traits are justified (in both his own mind and in Jane’s) because he uses them to further his missionary intentions… all the scenes and descriptions of him left me with the impression that, had he been born half a dozen centuries earlier, he would have had no qualms whatsoever at “converting” the pagan at the point of the sword. As it is, he is called a “stern” and “exacting” missionary, but this is again excused because after all, he’s just so darn godly that it doesn’t matter how he steamrolls the little people around him. St. John Rivers is also a masterful spiritual manipulator. He decides that he wants to marry Jane– not because he has any affection or attraction to her, but because he thinks she would be a good missionary’s wife, an intelligent but docile “helpmeet.” He methodically sets about demolishing Jane’s resistance, with manipulation that is all the more insidious because it comes cloaked in Christian and scriptural language.

    …”The worst thing, however, is not St. John’s spiritual abuse, his narcissistic delusion that he speaks for God, or the way that he threatens Jane with hell if she dares to resist him. The worst thing is that St. John’s sisters, Jane, and through Jane’s voice Charlotte Brontë herself, consistently cast St. John as a model of a godly Christian. When she learns of what St. John is trying to get Jane to do, his sister Diana speaks sympathetically, yet she emphasizes St. John’s essential goodness, and she never offers even to talk with St. John to try to get him to lay off his ruthless pursuit of Jane in spite of her refusal. He is described enthusiastically as someone who will “stand without fault before the throne of God.” Jane herself says that, “He is a good and a great man: but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views.”

    At which point I was yelling, “THEN HE’S NOT A GOOD MAN.”

    https://meredithmuddles.com/2019/09/26/the-spirit-of-st-john-rivers-wth-2-5/

    Reply
  10. Eliza

    I’ll always be grateful that the two literary romantic heroes I imprinted on were Gilbert Blythe and Fitzwilliam Darcy–two men who could take no for an answer and respect a woman’s opinion.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Gotta love Lucy Maud Montgomery and Jane Austen! The stories of their faith journeys are really interesting too.

      Reply
    • Sarah

      I’ve seen a Tweet that goes something like ‘Jane Austen’s fiction illustrates the point that the sexiest thing a man can do is respect your ‘no’.’ Think about the juxtaposition of Mr Collins vs Darcy – Lizzie rejects them both during the book and Darcy leaves her alone until she reevaluates her feelings for him, and even said he would never speak of it again if she still didn’t love him. Whereas Mr Collins thinks she is trying to ‘increase his love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females’ which says it all really – he has idealised her into something she is not; a trophy who would serve his needs, rather than, as Lizzie states, ‘a rational creature.’

      Austen was a genius. *chef’s kiss*

      Reply
      • Anon

        And Darcy is one of those guys who SEEMS like the “bad boy,” but actually isn’t.

        Reply
      • Eliza

        And not only does he respect her saying, “No,” but he realizes that she (though mistaken about Mr. Wickham) is absolutely right that he’s a stuck-up prig who has been looking down on people more for low social status than character flaws. He shows this particularly by befriending the Gardiners, who as people in *trade* wouldn’t even rank as people he should speak to (but who are, unlike Elizabeth’s parents, intelligent and warm-hearted people). And he’s grateful to her for pointing it out.

        I’ve seen people refer to Darcy as a “bad boy” but I don’t understand that characterization. From the beginning he’s clearly someone temperate in habits, responsible, and honest. He’s just stuck-up–which, while a flaw, is not really what I would think of as a “bad boy” vibe.

        Reply
  11. Naomi

    So far I haven’t seen any reviews pointing out the very worst part of the book.
    It’s been a few years since I read it, but it was shocking to me how the book handled Paul (Michael’s BEST FRIEND) and his ongoing hatred and abuse and judgement towards Angel, and finally, in his immense hypocrisy, angry-raped her in exchange for a ride into town.

    Michael did NOTHING about this and said nothing about it to Paul. His best friend raped his wife. And the book, from what I can remember, made it sound like it was her fault, she felt guilted into it because she needed the ride, and thought she deserved it because she was leaving Michael, and Michael was too good for her.

    Am I remembering this right?

    Later she forgives Paul and they gloss over the whole thing, like “mistakes were made.”

    Reply
    • EOF

      Wow, that’s crazy. If nobody’s mentioned that, I’d imagine the movie producers (smartly) left that out.

      Reply
    • Deborah

      It is in the movie and Micheal does confront Paul and he later repent TA to Angel and asks her forgiveness.

      Reply
  12. EOF

    I never read this particular book, but I read a trilogy of hers that took place in Roman times. I remember loving it (as a high school student) and wanting to learn everything I could about the Roman culture.

    Then a few years later when I was in college, the books became huge in the church I was in. I remember the guys were all embarrassed about reading it because of the Fabio-like covers.

    Now I’m really curious what I would think of the books today. Not that I want to invest the time to re-read them.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I really liked those too! They were the only Francine Rivers books I really liked. I wonder what I’d think today? I hope I’d still like them. This is getting depressing.

      Reply
      • Emmy

        Nope, you’d hate them. Similarly controlling and abusive men, made to look like the heroes. Gag.

        Reply
        • Kit

          Random thought from a dude who’s never read Francine Rivers:

          Maybe she found Mark of the Lion more tolerable because it was set in Ancient Rome?

          Reply
          • Kit

            Btw, I remember seeing it in B&N a year or so ago and was slightly intrigued due to being a bit of a nerd on Ancient Rome but the covers put me off.

      • Emmy

        … I forgot to mention that the Mark of the Lion series was also annoyingly “Christian women” soft-erotic. More gag.

        Reply
    • Sarah

      I remember reading Redeeming Love in middle school and loving it so much I went on to re-read it 3-4x. Amongst other factors, it contributed to rape fantasies and confusing control with love (thankfully no longer the case).

      I also read a number of Rivers’ other books and I remember being confused by the conclusion of The Scarlet Thread, in which the protagonist’s Christian convictions lead her to believe that she is to share blame for his adultery. How so? She is not happy and supportive (how shocking and unreasonable!) when her husband makes the unilateral decision to move for his job and demeans her for not being sophisticated. He cheats on her, leaves her to take care of their kids, and gets nasty about the divorce. Her willingness to shoulder his blame is key for them to get back together. 🤷🏻‍♀️

      Reply
      • Anon

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who hated “The Scarlet Thread.” I was waiting for her to get together with the new guy in her life (who honestly loved her for herself), but then she went back to the cheating jerk, like the doormat she was. And NO, she was not to blame for his cheating or his rotten attitude about their moving! Jeez, I wanted to throw the book across the room.

        Reply
  13. Cynthia

    This might be a bit off-topic, but WHY exactly is erotica bad? Do we have actual evidence that it causes harm, or is the concern just that lust is condemned in the Bible?

    I can understand some of the concerns about pornography, aside from just the religious objections. There are often depictions of real people, and the New York Times did a whole investigation on how sexual assaults, including child sexual abuse, often end up on mainstream online sources which prioritize profit over proper control. I also understand the concern over images that are often violent and degrading, and that frequent users might come to see this as normal and not something that was manufactured for the gaze of the viewer and have a dehumanizing view of women and sex as a result.

    I always thought of erotica as materials meant to spark arousal, but that didn’t necessarily involve real people or degrading situations. What’s wrong with reading an explicit novel and enjoying the fantasy?

    Reply
    • Meredith

      Yeah I have questions about that too. I mean, I see where an addiction to erotica could make you dissatisfied with your spouse. But on the other hand, I have seen where erotic scenes, tastefully done, can be a celebration of human sexuality in a healthy context. I don’t know. I find it confusing. As someone who grew up trying to repress my sexuality, I have found that literary books with erotic scenes help me feel in touch with the fact that I am a sexual being, that sexuality is not dirty or wrong. At the same time, I can struggle with the mundanity of my sex life with my husband. I find sex scenes set in historical novels and movies to be arousing. I’ve often joked with my husband that modern clothing is not romantic- shimmying out of skinny jeans and unhooking bras just doesn’t have the level of eroticism to me as unlacing corsets and reading through layers of petticoats. It’s fun to fantasize that instead of having same-old sex in our very ordinary bedroom that we’re a princess and prince in some fairy tale romantic setting.

      Reply
      • Estelle

        Meredith, you’d most likely be glad to get back to your comfortable, bedroom slipper sex life because in real life, your prince would.have ripped open your bodice as it was taking way too long to unlace your stays and then you would have mending to do. By hand.

        Reply
  14. Sarah

    One thing that I’m not sure a lot of people understand about Francine Rivers is that she started her writing career as a secular romance novelist. (Some of those novels are still linked to her Goodreads author profile, although she has bought the rights to quite a few and doesn’t want them out there in the world anymore.) Redeeming Love is her first novel published as a Christian author. It’s very clear that Redeeming Love is a Christianized version of the ’80s romance novels she was writing before, complete with all the problematic themes and behaviors that are common in romance novels of the era.

    The big trouble, of course, is that she is an excellent writer compared to most Christian fiction authors, and as we all know, publishing a book and slapping Christian™ on it is enough to practically canonize it and all its content, let alone a Christian fiction novel that is actually very well written. I adored her Mark of the Lion trilogy as a teenager (and yes, for me her work was absolutely a gateway into reading secular romance/erotica), and I know it has a lot of the same very problematic themes around sex and gender. All of her books are like this. I don’t think there’s a single exception, although some are not as bad as others, depending on the focus of the book. (My review of The Masterpiece, for example, her most recent book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2302001819?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1)

    Unfortunately, she never reexamined the problematic sex/romance/gender themes she was writing about in the ’80s and continues writing about them to this day, probably in large part because as Sheila has so capably highlighted, evangelical culture turns these exact themes into theology straight from the mouth of God. This is not to say that there’s nothing good about her books; in fact, many of her characters have vibrant and beautiful relationships with God (Hadassah impacted me deeply as a teenager). But they often do not have healthy relationships with each other, particularly with the opposite gender, and the ways those relationships are unhealthy are spiritualized and put on a pedestal. (Boundaries are a foreign concept to her characters, for example.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think my most hated Christian novel of all time is And the Shofar Blew. If I were ever to write a review of fiction, it would be of that book. The complete and utter lack of boundaries, and the decision to just “pray more” instead of speaking up and saying, “no more!” was presented like it was a godly thing to do. It was so damaging. All the wrong marriage advice! I know she’s not trying to write marriage advice, but to romanticize this really unhealthy way of dealing with infidelity was just so problematic to me.

      Reply
      • Katie

        That is also my most hated Christian novel of all time! Glad to know I’m not alone in my analysis of how deeply problematic it is.

        Reply
  15. Liz

    It has been so eye-opening for me to realize how this novel, and others like it, have twisted my view of God! Michael Hosea is a deeply pathologic character who is presented as a figure of Christ. It’s so humbling to realize my own gullibility; I even lent this book to others… For a long season, whenever life seemed cruel, I defaulted to blaming God, and would sometimes refer to Him as a rapist who wanted to use me. The mental picture of the aggressive, ‘I-will-have-my-way-with-you’ Michael was always just beneath the surface. It’s possible that, in her conversion, Francine moved from an abusive understanding of eros to an abusive understanding of grace, and the two meshed. This isn’t Jesus, and I’m so grateful for that.

    Reply
  16. Anne Elliot

    Ugh.

    “Christian” Historical Fiction.

    Christian “Historical” Fiction.

    Christian Historical “Fiction.”

    I quit reading “Christian” historical fiction. It seems that quite often it is neither Christian, nor Historical, nor good fiction. I don’t even like Rivers. She’s a terrible writer. I hate to categorize all CF (Christian Fiction) writers in the “terrible writing, plot, characterization” group but there you are.

    They (Rivers, Lori Wick, Micheal Phelps, Judith Pella, Bodie Thoene, Tracie Peterson, Tim La Hay, Jerry Jenkins, etc.) hold to the church’s awful views of sex and marriage, and dating. Also like someone pointed out earlier, is that REALLY what a Godly man looks like to Rivers!!!?? How crappy is that!

    Now that I have read extensively elsewhere, I can only see what thin, shallow fluff was the stuff that I read as a teenager. And I was encouraged to read that fluffy garbage because it was “Christian.” Ugh.

    Anyway, I gave up that reading long ago, and the biggest reason was that the classics I read now are so much better than those. And have better theology, for crying out loud.

    Question to all: Did your churches that you grew up in have the authors I mentioned above? They were literally pushed at us in my church.

    I do have one exception to the Christian Historical Fiction Terrible Writers Group. That is, Janette Oak. I still read her books periodically because she was writing from her experiences so they feel more authentic. Sometimes she can be a bit preachy, But I like the men and women in them, and they don’t always end up married as the ending.

    Reply
    • Anon

      As I mentioned in an earlier post, Carla Laureano is a fantastic writer – and she writes relationships the right way. Not to mention her books are not preachy at all, and contemporary rather than historical. That being said, if you do want good historical Christian fiction for a change, try Roseanna M. White. Her Ladies of the Manor series is terrific – the first book features a fiery heroine who isn’t afraid to think or speak for herself, and the second book is about a woman who has suffered abuse (and a rape) and has to learn to love and trust again (and the man she ends up with is a decent man).

      Reply
    • Estelle

      I read Karen Kingsbury novels for a while then stopped because it felt like reading a soapie but “Christian.”

      Reply
    • Anna

      I got hoodwinked into reading some Bodie Thoene series many years ago by a Christian friend. I had to slog through 7? 8? of those things because I was too embarrassed to tell her that I just don’t read popular fiction, only literary fiction. Classics are classics for a reason, and they ruined me for being able to happily read crap. My worst nightmare is when someone says, “I have this book that you’ll just LOVE!” Promise you, I won’t.

      Reply
      • Margaret

        I’m curious; I loved most everything I read by Thoene, even though I generally dislike “Christian” fiction. I read her series set in WW2 and Palestine and really loved the characters. (Although some of the series ran on longer than they should have.) What did you dislike about them? They drew me into a period of history I have only wanted to learn more about. There was another series—can’t remember the author now—that inspired a lifelong love of imperial Russian history, and as I studied the history, I was constantly amazed at how accurate the history in the series had actually been. And neither of these series seemed preachy to me (although it’s been 25 years since I read them now.)

        Reply
  17. Andrea

    Making a movie about a godly man who purchases, rapes, and abuses a sex worker is in particularly bad taste only … how long since we found out the nasty truth about Ravi Zacharias? (Kind of reminds me of Gary Thomas publishing a book on how breast-flashing rebalances power during domestic abuse AND breast cancer awareness month.)

    If you want a book of actual literary value that tells a beautiful story of a prostitute and the redemption of the man who ruined her, I cannot recommend Tolstoy’s Resurrection enough. One of his lesser known works, the last novel he ever wrote (in order to raise money to help a group of protestants who were being persecuted by the Russian Orthodox Church emigrate to Canada, so that makes it even better).

    Reply
  18. Char

    I disagree with much of these reviews. First of all, Angel does agree to marry Michael. Secondly, he lets her leave every time. He plainly tells her that it is her choice to stay with him or to leave. When he goes to get her, he asks, “do you want to come with me ?”and she says yes. She decides to come to him in the end once she knows he did not marry the other girl and has remained faithful and in love with het. The people who wrote those reviews ignore all of those details. Michael sees her for who she really is-not a prostitute. Lastly, he does not rape her. The book details the way that he will not have sexual relations with her until he knows that she is fully coming to him with a response of love, not repaying or pleasing him—-not from a sense of duty. The reviewers ignored many facts from the story and rewrote it to support their points. I disagree with them except for the fact that it does not fully show her trauma, but I do think Rivers tried to show her trauma, it just does not go into enough detail about that area.

    Reply
    • Reena

      Thank you for giving a more balanced perspective of the story. It’s very easy for an issue/ opinion to be pulled only one way.

      Reply
  19. Angela

    I agree, plus it reminds me of another best selling series which promoted abuse dynamics, which many sensible people pointed out, called 50 Shades. I’ve read a couple of things by Rivers, glad I haven’t read this.

    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    I find it difficult to read your take on this when you have not read the book. You probably would not want me to form an opinion on one of your books based on the negative review of someone else. I did read this book last year and remember some parts differently than are spoken about here.

    Reply
  21. Guest

    Interesting. My counselor (who I was seeing to help with my trauma in an ongoing abusive marriage) recommended this book to me. Thank goodness I never read it and thank goodness eventually I stopped seeing that counselor.

    Reply
  22. Dani

    I read the book and liked it as an older teen. There are many things I read and liked as a teen that I no longer do. The other week I was cleaning out my bookshelf and threw in the bin a book about a woman married to an alcoholic who stuck it out for decades and he came good and the whole book God is telling her he hates divorce. I liked that book too. I had no idea about so many things.

    Reply
  23. Lisa

    I haven’t read it and won’t read it, nor will I watch the movie… In addition to everything Sheila wrote, let’s be honest. Christian fiction is 99% garbage anyway. At best, it’s mediocre writing but, more often than not, it’s just twaddle. We can appreciate the art of fiction by reading good literature.

    Reply
  24. Rebekah

    As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, this story made someone’s ugly something I could relate too, being one of my first moments that started my healing journey. I was able to distinguish better what was yesteryear standard vs what today’s should be. Francine River’s Masterpiece is the same message, told in a much more tame way. I pass both books around, hoping they can help others as they helped me.

    Reply
  25. Talia

    I have soooo many issues with this book, including the part where Angel actually apologizes to Paul when he is the one that raped her. Excuse me, what?!! Also, Michael never protects Angel from Paul, nor does he respect her feelings when he’s becoming close to another young lady that obviously admires him. He makes Angel leave so he can have private conversations with another girl, and he even dances with her and gives her special attention. I also dislike the ending where Angel is portrayed as being “complete” when she is able to have children, as if something was morally wrong with her when she couldn’t have kids and that she wasn’t a good wife. So many dangerous messages in this book that’s supposed to be an example of Christ’s love! And so much graphic sexual content!

    Reply
  26. Anon

    Been chewing over this for the past 24 hours – the thing that bugs me is that so many Christian women fiction writers portray ‘romance’ as the man controlling the woman. Presumably, they must find this a turn-on for them or they wouldn’t be writing it.

    I’ve never been big on romance novels, but I was a voracious reader in my teens and read my way through a number of ‘Christian romance’ books just because they were lent to me and I had nothing else to read. At the time, I found them a bit creepy. Many of them had the hero carrying the heroine off against her will – always for a ‘good’ reason of course, to rescue her from some kind of danger. Several had the heroine coerced into marriage – all for her own good of course. And just about EVERY one has the ‘hero’ forcibly kissing the heroine until she ‘melts’ and realises that she does, after all, love him.

    The thing that is really troubling is that these books mix descriptions that are designed to be arousing with depictions of men sexually assaulting and/or physically restraining the women they ‘love’. I can’t help wondering if a diet of this kind of fiction explains why so many young women seem to view aggressive, controlling men as ‘romantic’?

    Reply
    • Anne Elliot

      Your last paragraph is spot on. Reading material shapes a person’s mind, thoughts, worldview. Like the one commentator said, its twaddle.

      Too bad christian women can’t hold Aragorn, Mr. Knightley (Austen’s leading men are all fantastic) , Dr. Woodcourt, Edmund Dantes, Roger Hamley, William Dobbin, and Jean Valjean up as men to look for.

      And the thing is, those books are not “romance” books as the main thing. they are just stories, with ordinary men in them, but nothing like the men in “Christian” fiction. They can’t even compare to them.

      Reply
      • Tory

        For other literary heroes that embody Christian values, I’ve always loved Mr Rochester (jane eyre) and Captain Butler (gone with the wind)!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          We had a commenter for a while who was Harriet Vane (from Dorothy Sayers novels!)

          Reply
  27. Anonymous

    I’d like to piggyback on Sheila’s comment about the book, And the Shofar Blew. It’s a bit puzzling. One character in the book tries to pray it away and be the good wife UNTIL she discovers her husband’s affair. At that point she leaves him against her mother in law’s advice. The mother in law makes the poor choice of staying in a bad marriage. The wife accepts her husband when he comes to his senses and repents and returns to her. In a near fatal accident he sees his sin and repents.

    Can people not read a fictional story and use their God-given gift of discernment to know what characters are making good choices and which are not? What kind of story would it be if each character did it just right? There are many stories in the Bible where men don’t behave and that’s not fiction. Can’t fix it.

    Reply
    • Anon

      I agree that not every character in a novel needs to behave well. The danger arises when those who are behaving badly are portrayed as behaving well.

      For example, I’ve read numerous Christian novels where the ‘hero’ has behaved manipulatively, coercively or dishonestly in an attempt to ‘win’ the heroine. He succeeds in the end, but his sinful behaviour is never criticised and he never acknowledges it or repents from it.

      By contrast, in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Mr Darcy is rude and arrogant toward most people, and manipulative toward his friend Mr Bingley when he schemes to keep him apart from Jane, the woman Mr Bingley loves. But at the end of the book, he acknowledges that his behaviour was wrong and thanks Elizabeth for challenging him over it.

      It’s fine to read a novel where individual characters behave badly or unwisely. The danger comes when a novel portrays bad behaviour as good, and foolish behaviour as wise. Many who read Christian romance novels are impressionable young girls. There is a huge danger in reading multiple stories where men are portrayed as being controlling and abusive AND Godly at the same time. It’s a very slight step toward believing that men who are controlling and abusive in real life can still make Godly husbands.

      Reply
    • Nessie

      For me, I think what I learned in the church about godly men/women dissolved my ability to discern just how “off” the wrong parts are. Like much of the other “Christian” marriage advice out there, maybe something felt off. In RL, I would attribute it to feeling uncomfortable about the sex trafficking of a child which should absolutely make me feel off! I wonder if, because that was so heinous, I didn’t notice how far Angel’s “redeeming” parts were from healthy? Or perhaps I’d assume it felt off because I had underlying guilt for not being a good enough Christian wife, mom, etc.

      I think a big problem stems from women in so many churches have been taught to ignore their God-given discernment… the outcome of so much gaslighting is we doubt if we are correct. If so many Christian women that are upheld by the church reading and recommending these books, then I must be in the wrong. That kind of thing.

      I feel I am better able to discern things in non-Christian books than I am in Christian touted ones. I’m a work in progress, undoing the damage done in my past and trying to relearn to listen to that still, small voice.

      Reply
  28. Lena

    A little off topic, but I absolutely loved Francine Rivers Mark of the Lion trilogy as a teenager. Wish they had turned that into a movie instead. 🙂 Never read RL or watched the movie but I know women who wept after watching it because of how they viewed it as God pursuing them. Just a different perspective?

    Reply
  29. Emily

    To be honest, I think you need to take another look at this story. This book is an allegory of God’s relentless pursuit of us, of the fact that He never gives up on us. Sometimes we are so lost in our own world of pain or rejection that we don’t actually know what the right path is for us. We don’t see our own worth and potential. But GOD sees that. Michael is supposed to represent that. Would it be iffy if this wasn’t an allegory for that? Of course. But the author has been very clear from the beginning that God’s pursuit of us is what this story is representing. God doesn’t always just walk away from us when we tell him no. That’s not who He is. There are several examples of the Bible (Moses, Gideon, and Elijah for example) where people told Him they didn’t want to do something, or that He should choose someone else, and He didn’t take no for an answer. If that’s who He was, then where would we be? Furthermore, there does come a point in the story where God feels that Angel now recognizes her worth, but she leaves again (not because she wants to, but because she thinks it’s best for Michael) and Michael surrenders Angel to God and let’s her go. He doesn’t pursue her again. He respects her choice. Angel returns to Michael because she wants to! Not because she is coerced, but because that is always where she wanted to be. She also DOES continue her ministry with prostitutes for the rest of her life and returns yearly to the mission. So really, I think you need to read this book again with this context in mind. I’m disappointed that you’ve written it off after only reading it once a long time ago.

    Reply
    • Deborah

      I’d like to hear Sheila’s response to this reply.

      Reply
  30. Jo E

    Would people care to share titles/authors/links to some GOOD Christian romance books?

    If you disagree with someone else’s recommendation – gently explain why so we can all learn more of what to look for!

    I’ll start us off with Karen Witemyer and my all time favourite book ‘Tailor Made Bride’
    https://www.karenwitemeyer.com/book-tailor-made-bride.html

    Reply
    • Anon

      Carla Laureano: https://www.carlalaureano.com/books/

      Her books are fantastic. She writes contemporary Christian romance, but her books are not preachy, and she’s not afraid to write about women who have a voice. “The Saturday Night Supper Club” is a great example of this.

      Roseanna M. White: https://www.roseannamwhite.com/books

      I haven’t read her earlier stuff, but her British fiction is fantastic, especially her Ladies of the Manor series. If you want historical Christian fiction done right, look no further.

      Reply
  31. Rocky

    Holy cow, the reviews here are way off. Not accurate. This is a wonderful movie and worth seeing seeing. It’s unconditional love.

    Reply
  32. Deborah

    I read the book years ago and saw the movie twice. I love all your work Sheila, and honesty I’m shocked at your review. However, since you haven’t seen the movie, I’d like to point out that there is no force at all on Micheal’s part. He continues to visit her and ask her to marry him. He never tells her she’s going to marry him. And when she’s beaten he asks her. He never forces her to have sex and even refused her when she tries. She leaves and he tells her it is her choice. He takes her a coat and tells her which way to go. When she leaves again he goes after her and asks her if she wants to stay there and she says no, and goes with him. When they do finally have sex her heart has turned to him and she pursuing him. When she leaves the third time it’s because she believes she can’t have children and thinks he deserves better. She returns to him on her own choice in the end. It is a story of unconditional love. The movie also depicts the horrors of women being used for mens gratification, and this is what he rescues her out of. He sees her for how God created her and not for the way she’s living. It is a picture if the way God loves and pursues us unconditionally and how we go back to sin when we don’t know our worth.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      She’s talking about the criticisms about “gratuitous” erotic content, but that was never my main criticism. It’s the lack of consent and agency that she gives Angel. I do believe that this is a thread that runs through many of Rivers’ books, and it does distress me.

      Reply
      • Anon

        It’s present in “The Scarlet Thread” as well, Sheila. That book would enrage you if you read it.

        Reply
  33. TLP

    It’s silly that it ever surprises me to find individuals, who in their estimation of Truth, believe they have figured it all out for everyone else.

    I was sexually abused through my childhood, and what it did to me was create an anger, distrust and self loathing similar to what is depicted in Angel. Compounded with consistent verbal and physical abuse, I was convinced that I was worthless, and that belief created quite a hard life.

    There was no way to heal until falling to my knees, and seeking God with a mustard seed of faith that He wouldn’t reject me. How harrowing so much of it has been to rip at scars, dig deep into the wounds, and renew my mind so that my view and beliefs weren’t tainted by decades of compelling experiential knowledge. But it took 40+ years, a divorce, and an affair with a deeply disturbed and abusive sociopath, to bring me to the end of trying to survive the world in victim mode.

    A childhood friend gave me a copy of Redeeming Love at the perfect time – right after my divorce, and striving to heal through the Lord. I’ve never been a fan of fiction so I thought I would struggle my way through, but I could relate so well to her anger, rebelliousness and deep desire to escape the horrific demons left by the abuses of others, that I couldn’t stop, I read it in three days. I dug deep into scripture, fell on my face crying before the Lord in gratitude for this growth in the knowledge of Him. A knowledge and belief that has been freedom from demons that no one outside of childhood sexual abuse will ever be able to comprehend.

    I’ve returned to this book 2 more complete readings, and through it each time have grown in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is the only other book I’ve read more than once.

    Stances like those I read here remind me that there are a preponderance of folks that would personally feel it their ‘Christian duty’ to reject every broken example of humans that God chose to give us in scripture. Moses the murderer. David the adulterous murderer. Paul the once gleeful murderer of Christians. And SO many others.

    It is prideful to believe that we know the path of healing (or any path) that God chose and chooses for anyone other than ourselves. Every individual in scripture was exactly that – an individual, with their own temptations, their own demons, their own story, their own skins and sins. Most importantly, their own very personal relationship with God. I’m grateful that my friend recognized my similar suffering and entered in to share a way that God spoke to her of healing in hopes to help me. Had it not been so for me, while I would have shared that with her, I would never seek to discount what the Lord gave to her through His power of revelation and her faith in Him. No matter what we think we know, there is infinitely more we will never know. While you know you have hair on your head, you have absolutely no idea how many individual strands of hair are on your own head, much less how many there are on the heads of everyone else.

    As an aside, I won’t watch the movie after watching the trailer and knowing that the Lord refused the invitation FOR ME. I trust that the Lord is faithful to lead everyone else into the right choice for them in regards to the book and the movie.

    To God be the Glory.

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