By Iola Goulton
A recent article in Eternity newspaper titled Why do we read Christian romance? caused consternation in Australasian Christian writing circles. The article was well-balanced (if ill-informed), giving equal space to the arguments for and against Christian romance novels. The blog posts the article was based on were not so balanced. The author wrote one post praising the virtues of Christian romance novels, but negated these with four posts pointing out what she saw as faults in the genre and criticisms of the people who write them.
The blog posts said she read five popular Christian romances. She doesn’t reveal the titles, but said at least one was Amish romance (the others appear to be historical westerns, a popular sub-genre). Saying romance novels offer unrealistic ideals based on a mere five books is like saying modern children’s fiction is puerile on the basis of reading nothing but Captain Underpants. Her points were:
Christian romance novels follow general market trends by featuring the one man-one woman idea. The ‘other woman’ and love triangle plots are no longer in vogue (except in specific erotica subgenres). Modern romance readers want to identify the hero and heroine in the first chapter (ideally on the first page), then follow that story through to a logical conclusion.
outlines the "perfect man" from a Christian perspective. He should be a man of honesty, purity, strength, compassion and humility. And a man of strong Christian faith. It also pretty much describes all my favourite romance heroes ... and my husband. Young women need to be encouraged to hold out for heroes like these, not told their expectations are "unrealistic".
"Women, it’s time to expect more from men, and then, to wait patiently until you see these qualities at work in his life. Don’t you dare settle for less."If reading a romance novel encourages one woman to hold out for her hero instead of marrying a man who is more concerned with his sexual prowess and ability to drink kegs of beer, or one who likes to prove his strength and manliness by abusing his family, then that, to me, is a good thing. Statistics show the majority of marriages will fail, and many will be negatively affected by drugs, alcohol, pornography and violence.
I don’t care that these things are now the norm for much of society rather than the exception. I don’t want them for myself, and I certainly don’t want them for my daughter.
I want my daughter to settle for nothing less than the biblical ideal. She shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for having high expectations. If reading romance novels encourages those expectations, then that’s all well and good (better than most Young Adult and New Adult literature or the books she’s going to be forced to read for high school English, many of which encourage promiscuity and alternative lifestyles, and display a distinct lack of hope).
Christian fiction often deals with themes of hope, forgiveness—and love. Some fiction deals with it badly (just because something is ‘popular’ doesn’t mean it’s good—Twilight, The Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey were all wildly popular. But that doesn’t make them good fiction).
Some Christian fiction is too preachy, too much focused on the theme and not enough on the plot and characters. Some is purely entertainment, for people who don’t want to watch another rape-and-murder show on TV (or who want something to read while husband watches football replays).
"Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” On Writing by Stephen KingJesus told stories. He knew that people related to stories, and often remember the story more than the sermon. Sometimes His stories were based on fact, on real people and events. But often they were fiction (the Bible calls them parables). Preachers do the same thing today, only instead of calling them ‘stories’, they call them ‘sermon illustrations’. Because people remember the message better if they can relate it to a story.
Am I offended by views such as these? No. I’ve heard enough sermons to know offense is the bait of satan (thank you, John Bevere).
As Christians, we are called to encourage each other to pursue and be obedient to our God-given callings, not to pull one another down or make people feel guilty or ashamed of their calling. So I am disappointed in this series of blog posts, as I would be disappointed in anyone who uses a position of influence to belittle those following their God-ordained calling. Some people are called to be missionaries or preachers. Some are called to minister in prayer, hospitality or cleaning. And some are called to contribute to the body of Christ by writing romantic fiction from a Christian world view.
I’ve recently read Truth Stained Lies, a Christian thriller by Terri Blackstock. At the end, the author shared a little of her personal history and a prayer that:
"when the last pages of our lives are written, we’ll each embrace the happily-ever–after that Christ was dying to write into our lives.”Because that is the crux of life. We are the Bride of Christ, and He wants to spend eternity loving us. That’s what Christian romance is all about. It’s a human reflection of the greatest love story of all time: God’s everlasting and all-encompassing love for me. And you.
Isn't that the important thing?
I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog.