Why We NEED Christian Romance
By Roseanna M. White
Christian Romance has taken a lot of flack over the years—from being equated with evil by some church leaders to just being dismissed by the intelligentsia. Authors of the genre have had to fight for respect, for understanding, even for legitimacy. Which is funny…because it’s always been (and will likely always be) the sales leader in book circles.
Ever wonder why?
As a writer, editor, cover designer, and reader of Christian Romance, I have. I’ve given it years’ worth of thought. And I think it’s no coincidence that stories that focus on the heart, on finding “the one,” continue to resonate with readers. They resonate, because it’s a common experience. It’s a subject that is of the utmost importance in all our lives. And we see it time and again as symbol of that greatest Love of all.
So let’s examine some of the arguments against the genre…and why I think those “weaknesses” are in fact its strength.
Argument 1: It leads married women to be dissatisfied with their marriages.
In a rather lengthy article back in 2011, a prominent pastor not only accused Christian romance novels of leading women to becoming dissatisfied with their marriages by comparing their husbands to the “perfect alpha-males” of the romance genre, he equated it with “emotional pornography.”
As a writer who considers her books a ministry, I was deeply offended by this assumption, which based its argument more on erotica books than any Christian romance I’d ever read, and made the claim that Christian romance simply “replaced sex with prayer” in the pages. Um…no.
Rebuttal to Argument 1
Any book, even the Bible itself, can stir negative thoughts in the reader. A woman who is unhappy in her marriage can find a million ways to compare her husband to others and find him lacking—in books, on television shows, even in church, when she sees other men acting with love toward their spouses. These women who are aware of their own tendencies and make strides to keep them in check by not reading romance are very wise to do so. And it is my prayer—and should be the prayer of every Christian author—that any book I have anything to do with will NOT make it into the hands of anyone whom it could hurt.
But for the majority of women, romance novels don’t make us compare: they remind us. They remind us of the importance of love. They remind us of that excitement we felt when we first met our husbands. They remind us that we have the power to choose, every day, to be the kind of wife he needs. More, a Christian romance shows us what a godly romance should look like; that it’s about more than boy + girl. It’s about boy + girl + God. And that by drawing ever closer to Him, we can draw closer to each other.
Argument 2: It can “awaken passion before its time” in unmarried women.
I’ve heard quite a few Christian parents say that unmarried young women should steer clear of anything with a whiff of romance. That if a girl fills her mind with such stories, she’s going to be thinking way too much about it. She’s going to be neglecting her own goals, her own calling, her own education, and instead thinking about finding Mr. Right. And that if she’s so focused on romance, she’s also more likely to fall into sexual sins.
Rebuttal to Argument 2
I can see the wisdom in discouraging teens from reading secular romances that are all about the physical side of things…but Christian Romance is something entirely different. And here’s why.
First, the majority of romances in the genre have strong heroines who are chasing dreams, pursuing their callings, and seeking full lives on their own before love finds them. The focus is not on physical passion…but it’s probably going to come up. And this is IMPORTANT. Why? Because it WILL COME UP for us all. And if we’ve given no thought to it, how do we know how to handle it?
A Christian romance novel will show us what a godly love story looks like—how we can choose to stay strong even when tempted; how two people that God has yoked together can be stronger together than apart (though individually strong); how we should treat each other.
So shouldn’t we be taught how to differentiate between emotion and something deeper? Shouldn’t we identify what makes someone a good versus a bad partner? Shouldn’t we have an idea of what a relationship with a godly man should look like? This is actually what I love about Christian romance–it’s not all about finding the alpha male who’s super sexy. It’s about finding someone who makes the heroine better. Through whom they grow closer to God. It’s about showing us all that we are worthy of love.
Argument 3: It degrades women by saying our identity is wrapped up in a man.
Some will claim that if so much attention is focused on finding a mate, a woman won’t actually be an independent person.
Rebuttal to Argument 3
We are communal creatures. Tribal. Family-oriented. We are created to live with others. Doing so doesn’t negate our personal identities—it enhances them.
Let’s be real here: most of us will get married. Have kids. Not all, obviously—but the majority. This is part of our DNA…and more, part of God’s plan for us. If we argue with that, aren’t we in fact arguing with Him?
Christian Romances show us how we can take our own dreams and meld them with another’s. This isn’t a negative—it’s a positive. And moreover, it’s a high calling indeed to build a family. Why would we judge each other or a heroine in a novel for wanting that? For desiring above all to follow that very first directive God gave us? But wanting to be a wife and mother doesn’t make us less. It makes us more.
Argument 4: They’re just stupid.
Okay, this is a paraphrase, but I’m using it to sum up all the arguments I’ve heard over many, many years that basically call any romantic novel “trash,” unworthy of anyone who’s serious. Why not just read non-fiction? Or literary fiction? What in the world is the point of this nonsense?
Rebuttal to Argument 4
As Shakespeare said, “The play is the thing.” Stories have immense power—power to make us think new thoughts, to empathize, to feel things we’ve never felt before. Stories show us Truth that mere facts often can’t.
And Christian Romances in particular…they show us how God loves us. Have you ever counted how many times Jesus uses brides, bridegrooms, and weddings in his illustrations or analogies? He even calls the Church His bride!
Why does He choose this analogy? Well, I daresay in part because it’s basic, common, something easily understood. But that’s not the only reason. It’s also because the love we feel for that special someone is such a perfect analogy for our relationship with Him.
He pursues us. We wait for Him. We can live our lives on our own, yes, but we are oh so much better once we put our hand in His. We’re stronger together. And once we’ve found Him, we know we always have someone to turn to. Someone to comfort us in our tears and laugh with us in our joys. Someone to work through the problems with us and whisper encouragement in our ear when we think we can’t take one more step.
We have a Savior who sacrificed everything for us. And that’s a kind of love I’ve seen played out time and again in the pages of a good Christian Romance novel. Which is why, time and again, I’ll turn to them when I need a reminder of how much God loves me…and of how I’m called to love in return.