Some Thoughts on “Javertism” in the Church (3)
In my first post in this series I suggested three forms of Javertism, a moralistic and legalistic version of “Christian” faith symbolized by Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables,” that afflict much of the church in our time. They are Moralistic Javertism, Legalistic Javertism, and Psychological Javertism. In this post we’ll look at the third form, psychological Javertism.
This form of Javertism posits that people don’t change. You are what you are, and that is all you are or can be. This kind of determinism locks people into attitudes and roles which form a straitjacket around their lives. This form of Javertism goes hand in hand with the other two. Moralism inclines us to view ourselves and others as either basically “good” or “bad” people which in turn shapes our expectations and interpretations of their actions. Thus, as legalistic Javertism posits, we get what we deserve and deserve what we get. A restorative justice which aims at transformation is nonsensical in this scenario.
Now change, real change, is difficult even for those of us genuinely motivated to change! That’s why Jean Valjean is essential for us. Only grace can break the hold of Javertism on us and energize us to move into futures of freedom and hope. Indeed, in the example of Javert we see the only thing that even grace cannot transform: the rejection of grace itself. Grace, the grace of God made known in Jesus Christ, can and will transform anything other than its own rejection. Thus, psychological Javertism, along with its other forms, are grace-denying prisons which become self-fulfilling prisons blocking us from genuine self-understanding and relationships with others. Only grace, which sees God’s face in the act of loving others, can free us from what we have become and lead us on to what we shall be!
Javertism, then, must die. This is the reason, I think, why Javert is not among the resurrected in the final scene of the film. As the symbol of implacable retributive justice, he must die to signify the victory of grace over this kind of law. To have him among the resurrected would have muddled the very point the film seeks to make: this kind of effort at self-achieved rectitude and reward is utterly opposed to the gospel of grace and must be defeated by grace for a transformed life with God to bloom and blossom!