Les Mis Ain’t the Gospel (or Grumpy People Don’t Go to Heaven)

lesmisJust saw the new Les Mis with Hugh Jackman a week or so back since everybody seems to be a buzz about it, and here are my thoughts.

First of all, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t throw popcorn. I didn’t fall asleep. And I don’t think it was a horrible movie. But I didn’t cry, wasn’t even tempted to, and I didn’t think it was a great movie. It was OK. It had some fun/interesting things and some serious problems. My criticisms and concerns that follow are actually raised primarily for the “born again-ers” — the people whose lives have been forever changed by this movie, who sobbed through scene after scene and are planning their fourth trip back to the theaters. And yes, I realize they are probably the least likely to actually hear me out, but my job includes lots of talking that falls on deaf ears, so no worries on that count.

So first the pros:

1. I actually like the idea of musicals. In fact, I think in a more Christian world, there will be more of them. I’m not sure they will look and feel the same as the few offerings we get here and there in modern cinema, but in principle, I have nothing against musicals. And it seems to me that the genre provides a certain kind of playful, poetic, folksy medium not offered elsewhere. And besides, Christians love singing. We love singing because God loves singing. That’s not an endorsement of anything with the title “music” slapped on it, but I’m just saying that Christians should be the kinds of people who love to tell stories, sing stories, and create stories with singing and lots music. So if Les Mis is a step in that direction, count me appreciative. One star.

2. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a soft spot in my heart (or head, can’t tell which) for theater. I enjoy watching good stage productions, I enjoy acting, and I’ve even directed a community theater play once. All that to say, I think there’s something beautiful, compelling, and magical about the stage medium that isn’t captured in the epic scenes and sequences of most movies. I enjoyed the fact that Les Mis sought to preserve much of the original Broadway theater feel. Of course it was still a movie, but the extreme close up shots of the actors gave us front row seats to some great acting. So where many movies can air brush poor acting with CGI and another explosion or cheap joke, Les Mis reminded us that the best movies/stories are told by people who believe in them. Another star here.

3. Finally, somewhere in the Twitterverse somebody chided Christian snobs who only want to throw popcorn in scorn and don’t see a fabulous opportunity for evangelism when the whole world might actually be interested in watching a movie with strong themes of sin, forgiveness, justice, grace, God, heaven, etc. And so let me add my voice to that thought: I actually agree that this movie could make for piles of great gospel conversations. And if your neighbors would go watch it with you, or you can plan a neighborhood showing when it comes out on video with follow up dinner/coffee conversations about Jesus, consider me your biggest fan. My only concern would be to make sure that you actually talk about Jesus and you catch and understand where the movie is actually wrong so that you aren’t unwittingly offering up a heretical version of the gospel. Remember Mormons talk a lot about forgiveness, grace, God, heaven, too. Those are great gospel opportunities too. But they can also be some of the most frustrating conversations because in the end you realize you were using the same words but you didn’t mean the same things by them at all. Half a star here.

And this leads me to the Cons:

1. As is the temptation with theater and musicals in general, Les Mis is jam packed full of emotion. As I told my wife coming out of the theater, I felt like the time she took me to our local Jamms, a frozen yogurt bar. I think I must have been crazy hungry or something, but I put almost all of the available toppings on my frozen yogurt. And man it was good for the first few bites. And then it just got thick and sweet and more sweet, and then I was full and overloaded. I thought the opening scenes of Les Mis were intriguing and caught my interest. The scene where Jean Valjean is caught stealing the priest’s silver and is forgiven was very well done. I was moved. That was grace in your face. Likewise, the portrayal of Anne Hathaway’s character, Fantine’s brutal mistreatment and demise was also stunning, sickening, and haunting (if somewhat over-the-top). But the problem was that was only the beginning. It was like an emotional Twister game in which the director was only getting started. Next it was right hand to blue square and then left foot to green, and by about half way through the movie, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to care, it was that I couldn’t. All my cares were used up. So I trundled right along with the rest of the theater through the rest of the story, but the highs and lows were so high and so low and so extreme and so constant, I just couldn’t keep up with it. It basically amounted to emotional inflation. As our country is in the process of learning, when you keep printing emotion, and the numbers on the bills get bigger, you don’t actually end up with more. You end up with less. So by the time the little kid got shot by the soldiers I knew it was awful, meant to grab my heart strings and play a rousing diddy, but I couldn’t muster much more than a shoulder shrug. And as my wife said, by the end of the movie, she was so ready for Jean Valjean to die. Just die already, poor man.

2. And this is related to my second criticism, and gets closer to the heart of the story. While the story is meant to weave together great hardships with an enduring grace somehow holding strong to the end, the emotional inflation made the evil actually less evil and the grace actually less powerful. While in the Christian story, evil is real, awful, horrible, Les Mis slowly downgraded evil. After Fantine’s tragedy, when it comes to the debauchery of Madame Thenardier and her crass and cruel husband, the director knows his only hope is to go for over-the-top sleeze and obscenity and try to pick up a few laughs along the way. And again, as I noted above, when the little kid soldier is gunned down, and the rest of the political revolutionaries are all lined up on the ground, I didn’t really have much pity for them, even though the movie was trying to make me feel pity for them. Was it really evil? Was it awful? Evil like the Thenardiers? Evil like what happened to Fantine? Really? Measured by what? By what standard? Measured by the intensity of your singing? Measured by the next chord progression? Measured by how I feel? And there we are. And related to this is the fact that after the awesome scene where Jean Valjean is forgiven by the priest, all the other scenes where he returns that grace, even at great risk to himself and even shows kindness to his own worst enemy, Javert, those scenes of grace just seemed rather ho-hum. It’s not that those weren’t great story telling opportunities, I just think the way the director (and Hugo?) told the story failed. I hit the emotional climax in the first thirty minutes of the film and all the other “turning points” just came as a rather belabored and sensational denouement.

3. Finally, and probably my biggest concern is the Mormon concern noted above. I’m honestly not at all convinced that a bunch of Mormons couldn’t celebrate this film just as much as all the evangelical hype I’m hearing. Granted, there are Christian Churches and crosses and Bible words throughout the story. But I’m not convinced that this is really a Christian gospel story we’ve got. At the very least it’s highly ambiguous. Please note that I haven’t read the book, and for all I know, the gospel is much more explicit in Hugo’s actual novel. And three cheers for that, if it is. But I doubt it. RC Sproul Jr. shares this from a friend:

“Victor Hugo did not believe the gospel. For the majority of his life, he is best described as a Catholic humanist. Sometime around the writing of Les Misérables (1862) he began to identify himself as a Free Thinker, a humanist who believes that the Supreme is Man’s own rationalism. Accordingly, in Les Misérables we see Hugo demonstrating his belief that human beings are not totally depraved. Instead, they have the capacity for moral goodness in and of themselves. It is only through forces outside of them that this innate innocence can be lost.”

Millions of Mormons, evangelical Christians, and Roman Catholics can go into their churches have orgasmic emotional experiences and they will end up in Hell because they haven’t really met Jesus, and they don’t really know grace, for all the Bible words, all the tears, and all the “good deeds” they did. Christians don’t go to heaven for being good. Christians don’t go to heaven for having an emotional experience in a church. And this is the point: to my recollection, there was nothing uniquely Christian about Jean Valjean’s heroism. Some old priest did him a great kindness, and Valjean filled his life with returning the favor despite the omnipresent justice-hounding of one Javert. Makes for an interesting story, but there’s nothing uniquely Christian about that. Mormons and JWs and Buddhists all believe in do-gooding. Christians don’t obey and do good to others solely because some good has been done to them. The gospel isn’t “one good turn deserves another” or some kind of “pay it forward” gimmick. Certainly, we obey out of gratitude. Certainly, the kindness of God is one of our great motivators. But the gospel is that God meets us and forgives us because of what Jesus has done for us, and that He walks with us, carries us, and upholds us miraculously. In the movie, Valjean and Fantine and Cosette are all, by and large, innocent victims of their circumstances, but the gospel of Jesus proclaims our guilt, that we deserve to die, that we deserve Hell — and Jesus, the only innocent one, takes our penalty for us. In the movie, Jean Valjean is a hero because he stubbornly keeps being nice and good to people despite his circumstances, even though he once stole bread (but he was really hungry) and skipped his parole (but he was going to be sooo good) and ran from the law (but Javert was really grumpy and unreasonable) and let an innocent, abused single mom get fired from his factory (but he was distracted by Javert suddenly showing up). Fantine is a heroine because she meant well, tried to do her best, and died suffering brutal mistreatment — even though she had started a fight in the factory (but she was provoked) and did let that man have her for money (but she was desperate). The young revolutionaries were heroes because they loved liberty, but why do we not call them what we would call them today — terrorists? Because they were young and handsome and had nice singing voices? O, I see. The good outweighs the muddled, romantic evil. No matter that they were murderers. No one cares about the French soldiers. What about their mothers crying at home? Stop asking pesky questions, just focus on the little boy they shot. At any rate, none of the victims in the movie were actually sinners in need of a Savior. Maybe Javert, but he was just too grumpy. Valjean and Fantine and Cosette and the revolutionaries are all innocent victims of their circumstances, and they meant well and did their best and died trying to be good and since their good deeds and good intentions and good attitudes outweigh the few (unavoidable) sins, they get to go to heaven at the end. But Javert was grumpy, and grumpy people don’t get to go to heaven.

Apart from the highly ambiguous “conversion” scene in the church at the beginning, there’s no indication that it’s God’s grace upholding and preserving and forgiving Valjean through the rest of his life. In fact, when he leaves Cosette and Marius at the end of the movie, insisting to Marius that Cosette must not know his true past, this is the dead giveaway that this movie is not really about Jesus’ grace. Why doesn’t he want her to know? Why is he ashamed of his past? The Christian gospel is that Jesus is good, Jesus is faithful, Jesus is the hero. And His faithfulness becomes our faithfulness, and by His wounds we are healed. But Les Mis is actually about a Mormon grace, a cheap humanistic knockoff of the real thing. When Jesus conquers somebody with His grace, He turns all the scars into glory. He turns the story of pain and suffering into a story about the wisdom and goodness of God. Sin is forgiven. Light shines in the darkness. He makes our lives cruciform by the power of the Spirit. But Valjean didn’t meet Jesus in that chapel on the hill. He decided to turn over a new leaf and tried to forget his past. He had an emotional experience in front of some icons and burned his papers. He decided to be nice to people and forgiving because it felt so nice, so amazing, so right to him.

But this is the subtle poison: We can pack out theaters where millions of people get a vicarious experience of forgiveness and cheap grace, and the songs soar high enough and the emotions burn hard enough, and it can feel like we’ve actually come into grace, actually come close to God. But I suspect that it’s mostly the sound system and the big screen and the hole in our collective souls. And just as the “grace” never really touches down, never really heals the broken world, but only ascends to some weird “revolutionary heaven” in the end, we leave the movie theaters and go back to snapping at our husbands and sleeping with our girlfriends and aborting our babies, but we all feel a little better about ourselves because we’ve felt an emotion that feels to us a lot like forgiveness. But you didn’t really need Jesus for that.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any problem with people liking the movie, enjoying the movie, etc. I don’t think you’re a loser or subChristian. There are piles of enjoyable movies that don’t talk about Jesus and present morality in various ambiguous ways. I just want to point out that a highly emotionally charged story with Bible words and symbols sprinkled throughout and a “heaven” scene at the end doesn’t automatically make a Christian movie or a gospel presentation. I can grant that some people have brought true Christian definitions and imported them into the story, filling in the gaps, and in that way, I can imagine turning the story in a more explicitly Christian direction. But it’s a seriously flawed presentation of the gospel short of a serious infusion of Jesus into the story. Of course you might recognize the flaws and just enjoy the rousing choruses and bracing story for what their worth, and more power to you. Or you might see the movie as a great introduction for explaining the real gospel to unbelieving neighbors or friends — and God bless you. But on its own, this isn’t a movie about the grace of Jesus. It’s a story about highly emotional do-gooding and humanistic heroism.

  1. Excellent points. I, too, felt nearly nothing when the young child was killed, and that is saying something, considering I am a mother. I was more moved by the song Valjean sings that seems like a prayer for Marius—probably because that seemed like the most spiritual part of the movie to me, when Valjean finally put someone before himself. I, too, was emotionally spent by the first act. The rest of the movie fizzled in terms of emotional resonance.

    I’m glad you brought up Valjean’s running away at the end—the fact that he does so reveals that he hasn’t completely changed. His motivation is still to hide, not proclaim or praise. Don’t get me wrong, Christians mess things up all the time! But I think you made an excellent point there.

    I see a clearer picture of grace and forgiveness in the Liam Neeson version.

    • “. . . when Valjean finally put someone before himself.” So you aren’t counting Fantine, Cosette, the guy under the cart, the accused false Valjean?

  2. Pastor Sumpter,

    I have a lot of respect for you and I normally agree with you, but I’m also an early lover of “Les Mis” so I want to engage with you on it.

    You say,” . . .He decided to be nice to people and forgiving because it felt so nice, so amazing, so right to him.”

    I’m wondering what you think about the part where Jean Valjean refused to let another man take the blame for his crime. He was living a comfortable life as the respected mayor of a town and then an opportunity came along to solidify this life for himself forever. No one would have questioned his identity again – his hands would be clean. Every human instinct would tell him to take it. And yet he boldly identified himself as a sinner, “Jean Valjean, 24601.” If someone from your congregation did something similar, would you assume that it’s just because it felt so nice, amazing, and right? Add to this that he spared Javert’s life; he could have killed his one pursuer but he had mercy. What, except the leading of the Holy Spirit, could have induced him to do either of these things?

    Rob Noland

    • Thanks for the comment, Rob. And good, fair questions. During the movie, I was actually on the verge of believing it was a real conversion at that very point, when he turns himself in to save an innocent man from taking his punishment. But then right after he tried that and was denied, Fantine is on her death bed, dies, and Javert shows up to take him in. But from then on Valjean is on the run from the law. And he tries to justify himself by caring for little Cosette. But that means the director (Hugo?) is asking his audience to believe that Valjean is justified because the good deeds of protecting Cosette outweigh the evil of breaking parole. So much for turning himself in. At that point (and for the rest of the story), his sacrifice began to ring hollow for me. Granted it was praiseworthy to step in to save the innocent guy, but it clearly wasn’t out of a sense of guilt for breaking parole. In other words, he didn’t turn himself in as a guilty man. Which means that his actions amount to sentimentalism: not wanting somebody “innocent” to die. So I stick by my assessment: Valjean is not driven by real grace that understands sin and forgiveness. Valjean is driven by a mormon grace. So by the time he let Javert go free, I was fully convinced: more sentimentalism. Cheers!

      • Matthew Petersen January 15

        You sound a bit too much like Javet to me. The Law said he broke parole, and so was guilty. Therefore, out of respect for the law alone he should turn himself in. Sure he tried to save someone else, but it was out of some sentimentalism called charity, not out of respect for the Law.

        What exactly is wrong with turning himself in out of charity for the innocent man, rather than out of an abstract respect for The Law?

  3. Carson Spratt January 14

    I think we should clarify something: the themes and issues Pastor Sumpter is bringing up here apply far better to the movie than to the book. Many of the things said here about the movie would actually be wrong, if they were said about the book. So, all you book-readers who start up with a word of complaint (as I did at first): he’s not talking about the book. It sounds as if (I think?) you have not read the book, Pastor Sumpter. The ambiguity of the conversion scene, the lack of forgiveness, the work for salvation: these are not the work of the book.
    One mistake I’ve heard various people make is to say that Les Mis is the story of Jean Valjean finding his redemption. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bishop is clear: Jean Valjean belongs to God. The rest of the book is the story of Jean struggling to apply his faith and redemption to the various crises that Providence puts him through.
    Allow me to quote from the book itself: “Morality is truth in full bloom. Contemplation leads to action. The absolute must be practical. The ideal must be made air and food and drink to the human mind. It is the ideal that has the right to say, Take of it, this is my flesh, this is my blood.” It is this ideal man, Christ, that Jean Valjean is made subject to at the very beginning of the book, by the agency of the bishop. It is this man that Jean imitates as best he can in every action.

  4. Matthew Petersen January 14

    “But Valjean didn’t meet Jesus in that chapel on the hill. He decided to turn over a new leaf and tried to forget his past. He had an emotional experience in front of some icons and burned his papers. He decided to be nice to people and forgiving because it felt so nice, so amazing, so right to him.”

    I have no idea how you are supporting this rather strong claim. Is it your extreme iconophobia coming out? “It couldn’t be Jesus–it was icons!!!”–because that’s about the only support for the claim I can find.

    Anyway, you should interact with Stephen here: http://wedgewords.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/why-i-loved-les-mis/

    • Lauryl January 14

      Guys, are you saying Valjean did find Jesus and they just didn’t want to bonk us over the head with it, or are you saying he chose to do what God wanted and that was his conversion? There are a whole lot of atheist philanthropists, maybe just compassionate people blessed by God, or maybe they’re doing it because they’re desperate to save themselves from their sin. Forgiving the really mean enemies gets extra angel points. Is this close enough to Christianity, or is it kind of the thing that drove Jesus up the wall about the Pharisees? I’m looking forward to reading the book and seeing who Hugo’s Valjean was, but there’s very little of the gospel in this movie.

      I thought they made it to be almost more a question about ethics. Fantine and Valjean stand for teleological ethics, poor Javert is a slave to the normative ethic, and none of them get it right because you need a balance (and Jesus). I watched several movies in the last month and they had the same question somewhere in the plot: “Does it make you a bad person if you do bad things to save innocent people?” All Hollywood can say is “Well, you’d at least be a better person than this buzzkill who goes overboard following the law.” The law kills, as we definitely saw in Les Mis, and Valjean was a sort of Beowulf who did good things but still wasn’t enough to save the world. Most of the time, he was close to failing and ruining what little good that seemed to be left in the world. Where do we go, if we can’t even trust in a man as good as Valjean?

  5. Brittany January 15

    I don’t think we’re supposed to think of the students as heroes. I think we’re supposed to take our cue from Valjean, who thinks them fools while understanding the problem they have with the government, class disparity, etc. The only reason Valjean himself ends up at the barricade is because he knows those fools are all going to get themselves killed and, for the sake of his daughter, he wants to save Marius.

    The finale picks up on the understandable part of “Do You Hear the People Sing?”–essentially, “Help! Help! We’re being oppressed!”–and transforms it into what it always should’ve been, “The Lord stooped and heard my cry and redeemed me from the pit.” Of course, He never does that without some kind of death.

    The only inconstancy of Hooper’s here is the dead French soldiers on the other side of our celestial barricade. Foolish oversight.

  6. Carson Spratt January 16

    To address the assessment of R.C. Sproul’s friend, I believe it has partial merit. Victor Hugo did praise the revolution, and confesses admiring their humanistic ideals. And yet, Hugo himself was never noted for being a great intellectual. And we can see his confusion clearly when he presents the Gospel through the character of Valjean, the law through Javert, and greed through the often-forgotten Thenardiers (the innkeepers.) In the latter, we see the innate capacity of man to do evil, and only evil, apart from grace. Unmitigated greed sinks them to the bottom, and they hate Valjean for the very generosity that grace aroused in him. They end in squalid misery, hateful and despised. If you want a picture of total depravity, it is present in the Thenardiers. Valjean’s grace towards them ends up destroying them, just as his grace towards Javert destroys him. Valjean is saved early in the book, and applies it throughout the rest of the story.

    Many people see the characters of Enjolras and his companions (the young revolutionaries on the barricade) as prime examples of this supposed humanism. But Hugo, while admiring the noble ideals in these young men, has Jean Valjean steer clear of their thirst for blood. His “righteous” character recognizes the folly of the situation, and only goes to the barricade for the sake of his daughter, to bring back alive the man she loves. When Enjolras presents his social gospel, the happiness he wants for men is the happiness that Valjean has already found in the Gospel. And where the revolution fails, the Gospel continues to be presented through Valjean.

    And the “pulling-on-own-boot-straps righteousness” that we see exhibited in Jean Valjean? Doesn’t happen. Even though Jean turns from sin, Hugo clearly attributes this to the influence of the bishop, a man whom he spends seventy pages describing as being devoted to God in everything. Even after Valjean leaves his mayorship, Hugo records that God is freeing him of the kind of virtue that builds up pride. God, not Jean Valjean, is saving Jean Valjean. The firm hand of providence is written behind Jean’s life and faith. Jean is not perfect. He struggles with himself and his selfish tendencies, his pride: time and again we see him die to himself, following another’s example. He is not a saviour figure: but he is a saved figure.

    • Thanks, Carson. Glad to hear the book is better on those points. Sounds like another benefit of the movie is that more people may check out the book. Cheers!

  7. Christian January 17

    I’m not going to see this movie, mainly cause I’ve seen two other film versions of this story and I don’t care for musicals. I would agree that there are probably not a lot of good reasons to see this as an evangelical tool, primarily because I don’t think any movie should function in that manner. Further, I’m suspicious of anything that is getting this much praise or buzz; if this many people like it, it can’t be that good. Which is why I was enjoying your review/polemic until you hit your third point, where things went off the rails.

    My primary concern is that you seem to have reduced the gospel to a very thin account of the atonement, as if this one biblical metaphor is meant to encapsulate the entirety of God’s good news for the world. You are welcome to believe that if you wish (many, if not most, American evangelicals seem to), but the burden would be on you and not others to make the case that a life filled with forgiveness and grace is somehow devoid of the active work of God’s Spirit.

    I suppose my question would be this: when you wrote, “Apart from the highly ambiguous “conversion” scene in the church at the beginning, there’s no indication that it’s God’s grace upholding and preserving and forgiving Valjean through the rest of his life.” what would have needed to look like for you to have been given sufficient indication of God’s grace at work in this way? What exactly are the tell tale signs? A confession in a specific account of atonement theory? More explicit references to Jesus being the reason that Valjean was able to extend grace?

    In a lot of ways, I believe I share your discomforts with the buzz around this film. I just think there are far more robust, and far more Christian ways of making this argument.

  8. sean carlson January 18

    The movie version had a hard time resonating with me because I was privileged to see the stage version. Had the same experience with Phantom of the Opera.You’re right, no matter how good the movie they invariably pale compared to the stage performance.

  9. Hello Toby,
    Thank you for having a blog and for your work in the Gospel and proclaiming that everywhere–from our doorposts to the frontlets of our eyes. Similar to the dilemma of you not having read the actual book of Les Miserable, I have the dilemma of not having seen the movie for which you recently reviewed. Thank you for doing so; I think I will continue to hold off. However, my husband and I thought it a good time for us to dive in to some classic novel– for the purpose of being edified and refreshed from our daily works and hardships which life seems to afford us.

    That brings me to the book. I do not know how it will end–as we have only begun it. So, I do not want to write this prematurely. However, I wanted to write a couple things–in the event that maybe they would strike curiosity in you and perhaps you would find occasion to read the book. So far, I find that book to be so edifying–I can hardly get through enough pages in a sitting due to my underlying, musing, discussing with my husband, and thanking God. You probably have read that this was published in 1862–and that Victor Hugo was in exile himself–after not condoning the dealings of Napoleon III. He was as a matter of some course a bit of a progressive– and a “social democrat” as one editor called him (but that does not really mean what it means today by any means). In fact, so far, I even have picked up from the narrative conversations in the book, Hugo didn’t even condone anything from the Enlightenment period–so prevalent in France at this time. He didn’t condone mysticism. He didn’t condone atheism or deism, or pantheism (he mentions all of these things in various paragraphs). I think one could even go as far as to say that he didn’t condone humanism–and ideas of innate goodness. So far, what I see him condemning is pride, and hypocrisy–things which as a reader–are good reminders to me. If you would permit me, I would like to just quote a couple lines that I find really beautiful or stirring. 🙂

    When Hugo describes the bishop in the beginning of the book, (which he labors to do–by a short book’s worth of pages) he says,
    ” So lived this upright man. Sometimes he went to sleep in his garden and then there was nothing more venerable. Monseigneur Bienvenu had been formerly, according to the account of his youth and even of his early manhood, a passionate, perhaps a violent, man. His universal tenderness was less an instinct of nature than the result of a strong conviction filtered through life into his heart, slowly dropping in upon him, thought by thought; for a character as well as a rock, may be worn into by drops of water. Such marks are ineffaceable; such formations are indestructible” (46).

    Hugo even goes so far as to show that this humble bishop wasn’t even good because of inner genius or intelligence. He said, “Human thought has no limit. At its risk and peril, it analyses and dissects its own fascination. We could almost say that, by a sort of splendid reaction, it fascinates nature; the mysterious world which surrounds us returns what it receives; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated. However hat may be, there are men on the earth–if they are nothing more–who distinctly perceive the heights of the absolute in the horizon of their contemplation, and who have the terrible vision of the infinite mountain. Monseigneur Bienvenu was not one of those men; Monseigneur Beinvenu was not a genius. He would have dreaded those sublimities from which some very great men even,…Certainly, these tremendous reveries have their moral use; and by these arduous routes there is an approach to ideal perfection. But for his part, he took the straight road, which is short–the Gospel…His huble soul loved; that was all” (49).

    Anyway, I’ll have to finish the book–to see if there are bad theological underpinnings. But, so far, it seems so solid–it is just a breath of fresh air–and so refreshing… Dare I say it is even worth 1200+ pages. It is a masterpiece of beauty so far–and I am seeing more of how I would like to be like Christ and the saints before me. 🙂


  10. Jen F April 12

    I’m coming a couple of months late to the Les Mis party, having just bought it on dvd.

    The thoughts on Mormons and Les Mis were particularly interesting to me, as all our mormon friends are obsessed with this movie.

    But, what I’m really curious about is the statement “But Javert was grumpy, and grumpy people don’t get to go to heaven.” I am fairly new to postmillenial thought, and have a vague idea of the principle behind this, but would love an expanded explanation. Thank you in advance.

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