Abuse · Books · Church & God · Depression, PTSD, Mental Illness · Inspiration · Life in General · The River Series

Rape Culture and Christian Fiction

@jacobaustinrank via unsplash.com
@jacobaustinrank via unsplash.com

This all came out of a conversation I had with my husband the other night. I mentioned to him how one of my old favorites, Redeeming Love, which I read years ago and have recommended to many readers, has been pelted with criticism. The fire has come from both sides, Christian and non-Christian alike. When I first heard of this, I was indignant. “What fault could one possibly find in Francine Rivers’ classic which practically was the catalyst for an entirely different *and better* style of Christian fiction?”

Then, I read this article.

(Edit: The paragraph which originally appeared at this juncture of this blog has been deleted. Just know, I agree with some points in the linked article above—and disagree with others. And some of the following paragraphs have been edited.)

That night as I discussed the above linked article and it’s pointes with my husband, I confessed (in almost a cathartic process of mourning a lost beloved one) that my opinion of Redeeming Love has shifted a little. I still think it is a beautifully written story, and Francine Rivers, a brilliant, uplifting, godly woman, remains amongst my favorite authors—and I’ll add an asterisk to any future recommendations I give for Redeeming Love.

“*Warning: May be triggering for victims of sexual abuse and may mislead those who don’t hold a firm stance on what constitutes as God-designed sexuality.

So, I write all this because that conversation led me to another point (and I always tell way too much backstory, so basically that’s all you’ve read up to this point).

I wrote this book series about a girl who is forced into prostitution and, subsequently, rescued by a Christian man. Sound like Redeeming Love? Yeah, on the surface it does. Thus, when I came to the realization that Redeeming Love might be unsettling to some in its portrayal of rape culture, I immediately took inventory of what I’d written in my book series to see if I’d in any way promoted rape culture.

And here’s what I saw:

I reread all four books in my series. I prayed about this and gave lots of thought to it. And I concluded that no, my books do not promote rape culture.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yeah, easy for you to say because you’re the author.” Alright, fair enough, so let me explain what else I realized.

My book series, in short, at its most basic storyline is about a girl who is taught that sexual abuse equals love; that environment eats away at her core until she reaches the conclusion that, no, sexual abuse is not love; however, the only form of sexuality she has experienced is abuse so she equates all sexuality with something that is hurtful; however, over the course of several years and with the help of an old friend, she discovers that God’s design for sexuality does not involve abuse or coercion of any kind; this discovery brings the healing of her sexual viewpoint (and sexuality).

When I strip it down to its bones like that, it sounds really simplistic and not at all like it can amount to 430k+ words… but it can when many other layers are piled onto the story.

And, since I’m mentioning other layers, I’d like to add that resting directly on top of this basic foundation is a fine, nearly transparent layer constructed simply of the reverse: a victimizer’s (in fact, several) shift(s) in perspective from an errant view of sexuality to a godly perspective on it. (And it’s pertinent to note that not all sexual abuse survivors and perpetrators who play a role in the series come to full redemption, however, what is and is not a godly design for sex is made clear by the end of the series.)

I must confess: This story at its most very basic foundation is very personal to me. I have been the sexual abuse victim who believed sexual abuse equaled love. I have been the girl who hated sex because sex equaled a pain so deep that the scars left only on my mind affected my body to its core. I have also been the girl who has sought and found healing from the abuses and lies of my past and discovered that sex within a godly design does, in fact, come from a place of pure love, of mutual choice, of freedom. Bonus: An old friend also helped me in unsurpassed measure to find the healing I so desperately needed.

It’s ironic that, with my own story aligning so similarly with my book series’ most basic concept, it took so long for me to be able to sum up into words what the most fundamental layer of my book series was. I suppose I should have known from the moment I typed page one.

And, deeply, I did know, but only in an indescribable way. And mostly, I suppose, the reason I could not express it was because when I began writing this series I didn’t even realize my own sexual brokenness. It was there like a yet unnoticed cancerous lump which lies hidden below the surface. I could feel it if I just moved so—so I didn’t move so. Moving so revealed the lump, so I never moved so if I didn’t have to. But the act of avoiding moving so pointed to a very real danger lurking beneath the thick skin I’d grown, and I knew instinctively like one knows a stomach virus by that first peculiar gurgle of the bowels or like one can sense a migraine coming on by the feeling in their eyes—I knew my ailment, even if I’d pretended for all those years that I was fine and acted as though my ailment was nothing, nothing at all. I knew it but, yet, I remained unknown for so long.

@anthonytran via unsplash.com
@anthonytran via unsplash.com

So, I suppose I have written this post to share what seemed to me an epiphany which I’d known but never put into words (that is, I knew in my heart of hearts what my book series was about, but I’d never fully hashed it out in print).

And I also want to impart this to you: You can use these four criteria to determine if a sexual experience aligns with God’s design.

•Is it permissible by law (both man’s and God’s)?

•Is it mutual for both people involved?

•Is it beneficial for both people involved?

•Are both people involved free to make their own choice about engaging?

If you can answer yes to all four questions, then the sexual experience aligns with God’s design. PS—I didn’t come up with that list all on my own—it was taught to me in therapy.

In a world so filled with sexual pollution, recognizing God’s design for sexuality can be confusing and difficult. But the design is real—pure and sinless, not corrupted or marred. Let’s stride towards it in our own lives. Let’s strive to portray it accurately in the stories we tell ourselves and others. Let’s be an example for upcoming generations of people who promote the healing of sexual brokenness.

@oleighann via unsplash.com
@oleighann via unsplash.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s