Have you heard the newest single by Eminem and Rihanna? It’s called “I Love the Way You Lie”. I heard it on the radio one day when I was bored with my music selection and flipping through the channels. The tune is catchy, so I left it on… and then I realized what they were singing and I was appalled. This isn’t a love song – it’s a thinly veiled hate song.
“Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry, but that’s alright because I love the way you lie.”
After hearing the chorus, I was instantly angry. Maybe it’s because I’ve been the victim in an abusive relationship or maybe it’s because God has given me righteous anger about this. Either way, my gut reaction to those lines were, “That is not love.”
The rest of the lyrics tell the story of a man and a woman locked into a cycle of physical and verbal abuse. The man goes into great detail about how he beats this girl up and lies to her, they have some wonderful idolatrous times together, but eventually it always ends in violent fights. For the duration of the song, she just takes it, verbally lashing out from time to time. Eventually, she leaves him, but then comes back again for more. The song ends with him promising to kill her if she ever tries to leave again.
Now, I understand that both Eminem and Rihanna have been involved in abusive relationships in the past and that this video was supposedly intended to speak out against domestic violence. (You can read about it here on MTV.com) However, I think it has SERIOUSLY missed the mark. I don’t believe for one second that this song is going to help anyone get out of an abusive relationship – rather, it has glorified abusive relationships in the same way a romance novel glorifies rape with a very persistent and handsome man forcefully seducing a woman, ala Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. The song and video paint a sensualized and romanticized picture of abuse, using the Greco-Roman myth about love as an excuse for its behavior.
What’s the Greco-Roman myth? It’s a pack of lies our culture sells us that it learned long ago from its ancestors, that says “love is a random, overwhelming, uncontrollable, sensual force.” Voddie Baucham expounds on this myth in his eight part series on Biblical Womanhood, which you can listen to for free here. In his messages, he illustrates some of the ways our American culture communicates these lies with statements like “We don’t choose who we fall in love with”, “This thing is bigger than the both of us”, “The heart wants what it wants”, and even “How will I ever love my second child as much as I love my first?” or “What if I don’t love my adopted children like I love my biological children?” You can also see pretty much every romantic comedy ever made for more examples of this lie we’ve bought into.
If you’ve read my post about the latest Twilight film or if you’ve talked to me lately about what I’ve been listening to, you’ve probably already heard this. Voddie Baucham explains that this is NOT real love. Rather, “Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of the object.” That’s real love. That’s Biblical, Deuteronomy 6, 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus Christ on the cross, 50 years later and still happily married couple kind of love. It’s the kind of love I intend to commit to for the rest of my life if I ever get married. It’s the kind of love I want to be pouring out on a daily basis, into all the people the Lord brings into my life.
It’s the kind of love that is given no place in this song… or the countless relationships that it describes. My deepest concern about this song is that it will be cherished by people in abusive relationships like the one it describes. Just as people who are head-over-heels “in love” cherish hopeful love songs, and drug addicts cherish songs about drugs, and people who are depressed cherish sad songs. People tend to gravitate toward music that emulates what they’re feeling; lyrics they can relate to, a melody to match their mood. I see no exhortations to get out of a physically abusive relationship in this song, rather a resignation from both parties to live with it:
“Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry, but that’s alright because I love the way you lie. I love the way you lie.”
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy.