Les Misérables, the new movie musical staring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried, beautifully brings Victor Hugo’s 1862 French novel to life. However, it made me wonder: Is America violent and alienated from God like the main character, Jean Valjean, in prison?
While still a boy, Jean Valjean stole some bread to feed a hungry child. He was arrested and sent to a cruel prison for 19 years. The constant exposure to scenes of violence, meanness, anger, and immorality hardened Jean’s conscience and changed him from an innocent boy to an evil man.
Perhaps that same process is happening in America as we are also being continually exposed to violence and immorality. Maybe the root of our problems is the same as Jean Valjean’s.
When John is finally shown kindness, he steals silver from the man who helps him. However, the man shows Jean the love of Christ, by not only forgiving him, but by giving him even more silver. This act of love awakens Jean to the reality of God’s love and begins to free Jean from his years of immoral brainwashing and to transform him from an evil man to a godly man.
Les Misérables is the classic account of spiritual conversion — from Augustine in the 4th Century, to John Wesley in the 18th Century, to C.S. Lewis in the 20th Century. It vividly portrays the power of the living, resurrected Jesus Christ to change lives — a message of hope that the 21st Century desperately needs to hear and heed.
Les Misérables, whether I read it or watch one of the movies based on it, always brings me to tears. It always reminds me and brings to life my own experience of being transformed by Jesus Christ.
Here’s a quote from Victor Hugo: “Jean Valjean entered the galleys sobbing and trembling; he left hardened. He entered in despair; he left sullen. What had happened within the soul?”