What are Your Thoughts on Christian Romance Novels?

Russell Moore post an interesting article on his blog this morning concerning Christian love novels.  Here’s just an excerpt.

Pornography and romance novels aren’t (or at least aren’t always) morally equivalent, but they “work” the same way.

Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the “work” of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

And in both cases, what the “market” wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are “real” men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.

A lot of this genre, though, is simply a Christianization of a form not intended to enhance intimacy but to escape to an artificial illusion of it. Granted, there’s no graphic sexuality here. The hero and heroine don’t sleep together; they pray together. But that’s just the point.

How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch?

Read the whole article here – http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/05/18/can-romance-novels-hurt-your-heart/.

I have to admit, I’ve thought this way for a long time.  But, I’m curious, what do you all think?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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3 thoughts on “What are Your Thoughts on Christian Romance Novels?

  1. It is my perception that we spend far too much time, energy and money trying to “Christianize” too many aspects of the culture. This was evident with the craze of creating t-shirts with “messages” that closely resemble well recognized brand names. (e.g. Lord’s Gym in place of Gold’s Gym). My question is, how does this help anyone know anything about Christ, or the gospel? Believers are called to be different, not almost the same with subtle, less offensive, differences.

    However, having said that, as a parent, I am only too familiar with trying to find “entertainment” that I am comfortable allowing my children (or myself for that matter) to have access to. How many movies do we watch that have a good story, nothing really offensive, but the writers insist on adding in that one strong word, or blasphemy, or almost nude scene somewhere in the movie so they can have an adult rating.

    But “Christian” romance? That brings up questions like, dating, emotional entanglements, etc etc. Why even go there?

  2. We “go there” because that’s how so many of us learn best–through stories. Why did Jesus use parables? So that the truth would be hidden to some and revealed to others, so that he could use well-understood (at the time) examples to showcase the hidden Truths of God’s love, His nature, and what He desires for us.

    As a pastor’s daughter, a devoted church-goer, and a lover of Christ, my heart cries when I hear a non-Christian say, “Why should I go to church? Those hypocrites preach about righteousness and then go home and beat their wives or commit adultery.” I want to scream, “No, no, no! Just because a few either ignore the principles taught or twist them for their own purposes doesn’t mean you dismiss it ALL! Look at the thousands upon thousands who are made BETTER by church! Why aren’t you talking about them???”

    Similarly, as a reader and writer of Christian fiction (and Christian Romance in particular), my heart cries in response to this, “No, no, no! Just because a few take from it the wrong thing and let their hearts be led astray doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the books!”

    Church is GOOD. Christian fiction is GOOD. Bad can be found in anything if you look for it–but it’s not the fault of church in general or books in general. It’s up to us to guard our hearts against messages in ANYTHING that could lead us astray; and yes, if we know we have a problem with a particular thing, we avoid stuff that makes the problem worse. So if one is discontent with one’s husband in general, one probably shouldn’t do/watch/read anything that will exasperate it.

    But let’s not forget that souls are SAVED through Christian romance. Lives are changed for the better. Truths are made known. And God calls many, many of his people to minister through this genre. As an author, I know many other Christian authors, and we write our books from our knees, praying our way through months and sometimes of years of hard work so that we tell the stories and convey the messages that He lays on our hearts. We are ministers. Just as you wouldn’t dismiss all pastors for how the messages of some have been perverted, please don’t dismiss all these wonderful authors and their books because of how a few have been led astray.

    Sorry to ramble. I think it’s a discussion worth having, and I will readily admit some women should steer clear of all romance-related entertainment. But I think it’s crucial to remember that your fellow Christians are behind those romances, and when you attack the books as a whole, you’re attacking your brothers and sisters. Please don’t do so unless you’ve examined enough of them thoroughly to know exactly what your issues are. We aren’t just slapping Christian pictures on secular ideas. We’re crafting stories based upon Godly principles in the hopes of reaching hearts for Him.

  3. Unfortunately, some secular romance novels have given “romance” a bad name, often equating the term with erotica. Christian Romance is far different. College professor Lynn S. Neal, author of Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction wrote: “Romance is not just an encounter between lovers, but a triangle of affection: man, woman, and God. Although this literature is often disparaged by scholars and pastors alike, inspirational fiction plays a unique and important role in the religious lives of many evangelical women. ”

    Most Christian authors view their writing as a ministry, as do their readers. Many of the heroes, and heroines, in these novels are flawed characters who have a a spiritual journey to make. They do not always choose well and the author endeavors to show these struggles and develop them in such a way that they turn to Christ for redemption and reconciliation. If the response to some to the content of Inspirational Romance is disapointment in their spouse by contrasting the heroes to their own would be hero, they are missing the mark on the true hero of the story and their lives, their Maker, the Lover of their Souls. I don’t believe the issue is the novel she is reading, but rather her own heart, and if so, her discontent may prove in other activities she participates in as well.

    The other book on the night table that you mentioned, the Bible, has many illustrations and verses
    pertaining to the characteristic traits relevant to spouses mentioned in Ephesions, Proverbs, 1 Peter, 1 Corinthians, etc. Contrasting the ideal to the actual marriage relationship could leave one wanting as well. If women recognize the shortcomings of their husbands, and of themselves, when contrasting their beloved’s true nature to the ideal implored by the scriptures should they discontinue reading this book? To the contrary, they are admonished to read the full councel of God’s Word all the more.

    That, too, is the message in Christian Romance as found in the prose as well as Bible verses within the novel. Christian Romance is like a fine tapestry woven with not only the threads of a love story, but with many inner and external conflicts and victories throughout. These prove to be not only interesting to the story, but serve as further illustrations to the reader. These novels often show appropriate ways women should wish to be treated when they are courted and proper behavior between couples before and after marriage. It is also possible that when reading these novels that a wife might also recognize wonderful character traits in the hero that might renew an appreciation for similar qualities she sees in her own husband. Since the focus of the books are more often on the heroine, she is probably more inclined to relate that character to herself rather than compare the hero to her husband, if she has one. Women reading this type of fiction have often found help, hope, and encouragement for the many relationships they have in their lives. Perhaps they have even become better wives, and women, and even turned to Christ as a result of reading them.

    “In evangelical love stories, the success of the hero and heroine’s romance rests upon their religious choices. These fictional religious choices, readers report, often inspire real spiritual change in their own lives. Amidst the demands of daily life or during a challenge to one’s faith, these books offer a respite from problems and a time for fun, but they also provide a means to cultivate piety and to appreciate the unconditional power of God’s love.” – Lynn S. Neal, Romancing God

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