I had the opportunity to have coffee with Francine Rivers, bestselling author of Redeeming Love. Francine used to write erotic historical fiction. She offers insight into how erotica is a harmful escape, both to the author and reader. You can listen to our conversation here! -Juli
My heart is heavy. I don’t even know where to start. An interview with Dr. Juli Slattery’s “Java With Juli” podcast a few days ago opened doors of thought I would have preferred left closed. Conviction is never pleasant, but always life-changing. We talked women’s issues and the sharp rise of women reading erotica. I spoke from my own experience as a woman who attended college in the ’60s when the “free love” movement started.
Without going into details, I will say I bought the lies and followed the crowd. Loose morals bring brokenness and devastation. I felt ashamed, used, and guilty for giving myself away and putting myself into dangerous situations, one of which ended in a date rape. I’ve shared my story before about reconnecting with a longtime friend from my hometown and how we married. We recently celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. We were in love then and are still in love. But our relationship hasn’t always been rosy, largely because of the emotional wreckage I brought into our marriage because of my past.
No matter how much you love someone, it’s hard to trust when you’ve been through the mine field and had pieces of you blown away. Even when you end a bad relationship, some things stay like shrapnel; multiple “lovers,” pregnancy, abortion, then marrying a man I respect and love, miscarrying his babies because of what abortion did to my body. Having babies and realizing the truth: there is no difference between a live birth and an abortion; both are children. One was killed to cover my sin, three more died because of what I allowed to be done to my body, and by the grace of God, I have three children, now grown, and grandchildren—added, undeserved blessings.
How did I deal with the ongoing war of emotions, the undercurrent of anger, the deep hurt of betrayal, the bitterness and pain from what I allowed to happen? I immersed myself in romance novels. I read them voraciously, one after another. I couldn’t get enough. Some were so poorly written I thought arrogantly that I could do better. Rick said go ahead and write one. So I did. And it sold. So I wrote another and another, each a little steamier than the last. Readers liked what I was writing. I sold tens of thousands of books. Did it bring any sense of satisfaction? Like an addiction, all it did was feed the craving. Did it answer the deep need inside me? I’d finish a book and feel bankrupt until I started the next. Did it help me and Rick work through difficulties in our marriage? Rather than work through problems, I fought escape. I could write the man of my dreams and fix every flaw through the heroine. I could give them perfect fantasy sex. Every time the hero and heroine made love, fireworks happened.
When I became a Christian, I thought I would just keep writing. I couldn’t. Not that I didn’t want to continue or try to keep going. Something blocked my ability to write what I had been writing (and reading) for years. I believe God intervened. During what I saw as one of the darkest times in my life, I began to read the Bible. Prayer removed my addiction. I knew the mind was a powerful thing and have chosen to fill it with things that draw me closer to God and do not put barriers between us. We hosted a home Bible study. I grew up in the church and thought I knew who Jesus was: my Savior. I received the rest of the message: he is Lord. When I gave him my life (at rock bottom and a complete mess), he began to change me from the inside out. The more I read, the more I fell in love with Jesus. I began to see what I had been writing was counterfeit and a pale shadow to real love. Rick and my marriage had been crumbling. We entered a time of rebuilding. We continue to grow and thrive.
I see so many connections from the past with the present. I’m in Bible Study Fellowship, and we’re studying the life of Moses this year. God heard his people cry out under the yoke of slavery and sent Moses to deliver them. They witnessed every plague and remained unharmed. Pharaoh had ordered Israelite sons cast into the Nile to drown or be eaten by crocodiles. God in his mercy warned Pharaoh of what was coming, and Pharaoh’s choice brought the death of his people’s first-born sons. Free at last, the Israelites left. God opened the hearts of the Egyptians, so they gave valuable gifts to those they had held in captivity. When Pharaoh went after revenge, God opened the Red Sea so his people could walk across on dry land, and then he closed the sea over the enemies. God led his people as a pillar of cloud by day to protect them from the brutal desert sun, and a pillar of fire at night to give them light and warmth in the cold, dark desert. When his people were thirsty, he gave them water. When they were hungry, he gave them manna from heaven. He gave them laws to protect them and teach them holy living. He designed the tabernacle and services, employing all their senses in worship, sight, sound, scent, taste, touch. He moved from the mountain top to the center of their camp.
How did the people respond to God’s power, mercy, provision, and love? Momentary joy, then whining and a craving for more. When Moses went up the mountain, they melted the gold God gave them and made a calf idol, then had a sex orgy. When judgment came, they repented. Briefly. They built the tabernacle, packed up, and headed for the Promised Land. Three days into the journey, they complained about the manna. They craved meat. The complaining spread from a few to the entire nation. Moses, exhausted and frustrated, cried out to God to kill him and be done with it. God, in his mercy, gave him coworkers. He also gave the people what they wanted, and they choked on it.
As we are choking now!
It all started with Adam and Eve who wanted more and infected the entire human race. We all inherited their sin nature. There is a cure! Sadly, there is also an active movement to suppress, malign, and misrepresent God from federal to local government, public schools and colleges, and public forums. We are getting what we want. We are “doing what is right in our own eyes.” (Read Judges if you want to see how that goes. Read Chronicles and Kings.)
What has come out of the “free love” movement of the ’60s? Read the newspapers. Ever-increasing divorce rate, AIDS, marriage redefined, abortion on demand; 48 percent of all children born in the U.S. are to unwed mothers, rise in STDs, proliferation of Internet pornography sites, the “hooking up” generation, friends “with benefits,” epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, pimps with stables of sex slaves for sale, child kidnappings to gain “product,” sex trafficking across America, revenge-pornography posted online, the emerging threat of live child porn, skyrocketing sales of “mommy porn,” including bondage-sadomasochism, and a glorification of abusive relationships. We crave. And craving, by nature, is insatiable.
The truth is we have rejected God and thus opened the city gates to all manner of sin. I grieve for the shattered lives I see around me. The number is increasing.
Sometimes God gives us what we think we want and removes his hand of protection. Liberty becomes license. “Free love” comes at a high cost, and we are only beginning to see the ramifications and consequences of what life in a godless society can be.
Francine Rivers is best known for her book Redeeming Love and has published more than 20 novels with Christian themes—all bestsellers. Francine’s novels have been translated into nearly 30 different languages, and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries. Francine and her husband Rick live in Northern California and enjoy the time spent with their three grown children and every opportunity to spoil their five grandchildren.