Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Forever My Girl (A New Movie) – Ammunition for Abusers and Their Allies?

Eph 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (17) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

I just watched a trailer for a new movie, “Forever My Girl,” and recognized what I believe is the same old, same old, same old line that domestic abuse victims are handed – especially Christian domestic abuse victims. Here is the blurb describing the storyline:

One of the biggest country stars in the world, Liam Page, left his bride, Josie, at the altar 8 years ago, choosing fame and fortune instead. However, Liam has never gotten over Josie, his one true love….As he attempts to reclaim everything he loved and lost, Josie does her best to keep him out of her heart, but life has one more surprise waiting for Liam, one that could change everything, in this heartwarming look at love, family and second chances.

Now, yes, you can call me negative, pessimistic, and accuse me of raining on everyone’s parade as they get sucked up into the fantasy world that this movie is going to present, but then I look at hard facts through the lens of hard experience.
The scene in the preview that I watched which really made me jump out of my chair and head for the blog to write this article is the scene in a church service. The preacher is up front, stained glass behind him, dishing out the old “love forgives all things” line. What a rush! But wait, “forgives all things”? This line has a deviously wicked, dark magic in it. Suddenly the onus for reconciling is removed from the wicked one and placed upon the shoulders of the victim.
In the movie, I suspect, all ends wonderfully. Happy ever after. The audiences in the theaters will applaud. Tears will be shed. Liam and Josie are finally together.
Now, you can correct me if you watch the movie and see it differently. But only if somehow the trailer I watched does not reflect the story line of the movie accurately. I am not interested in hearing from people who want to mount the soapbox of “it’s true! People can change! We are to forgive everyone and everything.”
I also realize that there are people who profess to be Christians who will be all upset because I am, they say, making a mountain out of a mole hill. Nope. This is already a mountain. Over and over and over again, churches and people who claim to follow Christ place the heavy, ungodly burden of “forgiveness” on victims of wicked people who have no intention of changing or repenting. And more, they demand that victims must reconcile in relationship with such people. That is to say, the victim must always remain in the abusive marriage “because God can change anyone.” These are all fantastical lies.
This is a movie. It is not reality. The Liams do not exist in real life. Liam is a slimeball who chose the world over his vow to a young woman, and now he blows back into town wanting it all back. In the movie you can be sure that he will play his role as a sincere, sorry, repentant, humble guy and you are gonna “just love him.” The poor fellow. Come on, Josie! Take him back!
It sounds like in the movie she does. But in real life when the wicked say “I am so sorry, I will never do that again, I love you and I just don’t know why I keep treating you like trash,” we are wise to proceed with extreme caution. Because the fact is, he will do it again. And again. And again.


**A Real Story of How Abusers Deceive Us+9


The Root of Abuse


  1. Grace

    “Suddenly the onus for reconciling is removed from the wicked one and placed upon the shoulders of the victim.”

    Thank you for writing this. I have no desire to reconcile with my abuser, because it is not safe to do so. My abuser is clearly never going to repent or reconcile with me. I am tired of being told by well-meaning Christians to forgive, and by implication, reconcile with someone who clearly means harm and has ill intentions toward me. The guilt and pressure are additional burdens for the victim to bear.
    Furthermore…supposedly, Liam is trying to reclaim what he “loved and lost”. Liam didn’t show any indication of loving Josie when he left her at the altar, did he? He didn’t love her! He still went ahead with his selfish choice. What gives him the right to “reclaim” anything? Does he own her or something? She owes him nothing. Why should Josie take a huge risk with someone who indicated he has this kind of character? This is not a small thing to do to someone. Most likely Josie would be vilified and called selfish and unforgiving if she never took him back. This false narrative of forgive and forget needs to stop.

  2. cindy burrell

    Oh, no. Not again. It sounds like something along the lines of Fireproof, which basically taught that the man who messes up royally need only perpetually harass his wife and say all the right things until she finally realizes how much he truly loves her, and she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he won’t ever make that mistake again. Really? (Been there, done that, with a very different result.) Then there was War Room, which implied that a devoted prayer life has the power to reinvigorate and restore your marriage in a couple weeks, and that, although your husband may be cheating on you, what a godly wife wants even more than a trustworthy husband is a hot fudge sundae and a foot massage… (sigh) Even with the best of intentions, some of these efforts at injecting faith into our contemporary culture are pretty pathetic. Maybe we’ll be wrong about this one. But it’s hard to be optimistic.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Cindy- I haven’t figured out if it is supposed to be from a “Christian” perspective. But I do know that the preview showed a church scene in which the preacher is hammering on forgiveness. So that false theme is definitely present. Many will go out of the theater all teary-eyed, just so happy that the story ended with a hap, hap, happy family restored. Fantasyland. But they won’t discern that it is fantasy. They will go right out and tell abuse victims this is what “the Lord can do.”

  3. Emma

    Thank you for this observation. Ever since leaving my own abusive relationship, I’ve been aware of how much supposedly romantic behavior in movies would fit very comfortably on the Power and Control Wheel.

  4. Em

    Pastor Crippen, you are able to preach entire sermons on this important topic, and I certainly am not. But I do know one or two things about forgiveness because I truly love Jesus. The first, and the one that counts here, is that I know that we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ – which an abuser is not! Luke 17:3-4 says this, and that they must repent. I think repentance is only real if their behavior demonstrates it – and that demonstration makes forgiveness easy.
    If none of them are Christians, in any sense of the word, neither repentance nor forgiveness are even part of the equation or dynamic. If I’ve learned anything from you, it is that abusive and toxic people are each, every single one, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, running amok within the flock. We who follow Christ are nowhere in Scripture commanded to forgive satan or his followers. We are, in fact, told to run from evil in all of its forms. [Correct me if I’m off base here, please.]
    All movies are fantasyland, even the ones that are supposedly based on actual events. The problem is that even though people are aware of this fact, they believe what they see on the screen anyway. I have no idea why, but I have observed it for my entire life. (It doesn’t make people look too good, does it?) Just one more reason why we all need Christ.

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