Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Danger of Fiction

Php 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Whatever is true. As most of you know, I love to read J.C. Ryle. He was an Anglican pastor in the 19th century in England. His books Holiness, Practical Religion, Knots Untied, Old Paths and others are gems. Listen to this quote taken from his article entitled “Love” which is in his book, Practical Religion:

The delusion which I am trying to combat is helped forward to a most mischievous decree by the vast majority of novels, romances, and tales of fiction. Who does not know that the heroes and heroines of these works are constantly described as patterns of perfection? They are always doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and showing the right disposition! They are always kind, and amiable, and unselfish, and forgiving!

And yet you never hear a word about their religion! In short, to judge by the generality of works of fiction, it is possible to have excellent practical religion without doctrine, the fruits of the Spirit without the grace of the Spirit, and the mind of Christ without union with Christ!

Here, in short, is the great danger of reading most novels, romances and works of fiction [And today we would add, movies]. The greater of them give a false or incorrect view of human nature. They paint their model men and women as they ought to be, and not as they really are. The readers of such writings get their minds filled with wrong conceptions of what the world is. Their notions of mankind become visionary and unreal. They are constantly looking for men and women such as they never meet, and expecting what they never find.

Ryle, J.C.. Practical Religion (Kindle Locations 2698-2708). Kindle Edition.

We are bombarded with the notions and doctrines and opinions of famous movie stars who act as if they are authorities on about any current subject. And yet, as Ryle notes, they are purveyors of fantasy. Their lives are masked with fiction. In reality their lives are disasters, sinful, wicked, and filled with misery. If we immerse ourselves in their fictions, we will crash along with them. Our notions of mankind and life and of God and eternity will be, as Ryle says, “visionary and unreal.” If we are careless, we will become people who “are constantly looking for men and women such as they never meet, and expecting what they never find.” (Ryle)

So-called “Christian” movies and novels are very often guilty of the same kinds of fantasy. The victim just keeps on enduring evil and sure enough, in the end, their abuser repents and is radically changed. But that is a fiction. A fantasy. For myself, I would rather watch Batman than a movie produced by a professing Christian company.

I know Batman is a fantasy.

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4 Comments

  1. KayJay

    Yes! These mythical people and role models have probably wrecked many a relationship by putting false expectations in the minds of immature people who can’t discern fiction from reality. That has been my sad experience!

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  2. Veronica Miyake

    Ryle could have been a marriage counselor! That is one of my (many!) pet peeves, that people, especially women, read romance novels or watch chick flicks, including the “Christian” ones, and have an unrealistic view and expectation of what a healthy relationship in marriage looks like! Since I meet with women, I will speak to this point from a woman’s point of view: in these novels or movies, the man (if they’re not showing an abusive relationship) is always kind, loving, attentive, responds perfectly in every situation, sensitive to the women’s needs, etc. Now I’m in no way slamming men, but that just isn’t realistic! And it creates what I call a Hollywood view of marriage, one that is based in fiction as you so accurately point out, pastor. This causes young women to have unrealistic expectations from a spouse, which causes discontentment and a questioning of what genuine love and commitment is. As a counselor that has met with many young women, chick flicks, movies from a particular channel that is all about unrealistic romance, and romance novels are several of the most destructive contributors to a healthy and Biblical view of relationships and marriage. I can’t condemn them enough! Thank you for pointing this out, Pastor!

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  3. Jacob

    Amen to that!

  4. Thomas

    I definitely get what Ryle was saying. Unfortunately in the church today we have accepted immersive fiction in various forms (games, novels, movies, etc.) .
    What I see as a bigger problem than what he stated or at least equal to it is the fact that people get “lost” in this fiction. Much time goes to imaginary people in imaginary worlds while neglecting a real one. I know that Jesus used parables; however, these are short stories that are meant to bring home a point not something that people are get lost in. So some fiction is OK as long as it’s in short spurts, in my humble opinion. The problem comes with excessive gaming and binge watching. Thank you for the article I really appreciate it.!

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