Updated: Feb 7
Yes, you read that title right. If you know me at all, this may come as rather a surprise to you as I am known to be rather a hopeless romantic. LET ME EXPLAIN. I don't dislike romance itself. In fact, when it's God-centered, I love it. What I hate is the mainstream, corrupted version of romance that has seeped its way into so many films and books these days. Why exactly do I hate modern-day romance? How does the Gospel transform this? Is it really possible to write a love story that's both swoon-worthy and honoring to God? These are the questions I'll be tackling in today's post. (Or incoherent rant. Whatever you decide to call it.)
Please keep in mind that everything I'm about to say is my personal opinions and feelings on this subject. Yes, it's true, I am a die-hard romantic human being who devours every Jane Austen novel, plans on getting married one day, and even writes romance. HOWEVER, I realize that this little post of mine is bound to offend some people, so I advise you to step away if it does (or, by all means, keep reading if you can take it). I do not write this with the intent of starting an argument or bashing different opinions, so if you disagree with anything I say, please do so respectfully.
*Dramatic clearing of the throat* So. With that out of the way, let's begin, shall we?
GOD, THE AUTHOR OF ROMANCE
I find that there is a sort of unspoken disdain toward romance in many Christain circles. Many believers shun romance, have become afraid of it, and are even disgusted by it.
I believe that this is wrong.
Because the truth is this: God created romance. He created marriage. He created sex. And he called them good. These things are his original and ordained design that, sadly, the Enemy has corrupted in countless ways.
Romance is NOT bad. It's beautiful, and it was made to be a reflection of our Creator's intimate and passionate love toward us. God celebrates romance the way he intended it to be (just go read Song of Solomon, and you'll see what I mean).
Unfortunately, because the world has perverted a good thing that God made (as it always does), many Christians have fought back against worldly romance by shying away from, or even avoiding, romance altogether.
The result: Christian novels with preachy, cheesy, and passionless romance that's completely lacking in emotion and relatability.
And this makes me wonder, are we going about this the wrong way? Could it be that we, as Christians, have become so obsessed with the idea of purity that even God-ordained and God-honoring romantic love makes us uncomfortable?
I said it before, and I'll say it again. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ROMANCE. Passion and feelings aren't bad. It's what we do with those passions that can be dishonoring and impure.
God created passion and desire for a reason, but he also made it to be between one man and one woman. (So, in other words, sex scenes, even between married couples, aren't ever okay in books or movies. Because sex is designed to be sacred between one man and one woman, this means readers should not be reading these types of scenes. Period.)
However, this doesn't mean that we can't show romantic passion accurately and biblically in our stories. We absolutely can, and there are many Christian novels that do just that. (Stay tuned for the rest of this month, and for the special announcement at the end of this post where I'll be diving deeper into that subject. 😉)
A CULTURE OBSESSED WITH LOVE
Just take a look at mainstream music and television, or scan the aisles in Barnes & Noble, and it's easy to see that our modern world is obsessed with romance. We live in a sexualized culture that over-glorifies love so much, being single is often viewed as some kind of curse; and virginity and purity are often mocked, ridiculed, and shunned.
Why is this obsession dangerous?
It's dangerous because we begin to idealize and accept a view of love that is not accurate or honoring to the Creator of Romance.
Yes, romance is beautiful. And yes, relationships are amazing. But real love does not always look like a Disney movie. Love, no matter how swoon-worthy, has ups and downs. Relationships, no matter how strong, are never perfect.
Romantic love can never fill the voids inside of us as we want it to because we were never meant to find ourselves in another person. This is when romance becomes dangerous and unhealthy — when we make it an idol and build the foundation of our happiness and satisfaction upon it. It's a deformed view of love that creates so many problems and heartache, which leads me to my next point...
ROMANCE HAS BEEN CORRUPTED
On the opposite end of the spectrum, your typical romance novel today includes books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and other provocative books where sex scenes and twisted views of love are all too prevalent. This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that I hate the romance genre.
The Enemy corrupts every beautiful thing that God makes, and it's all too easy (and disgusting) to see just how much the gift of romance has been twisted into something perverse. Just look on Wattpad, or go to any romance section in a bookstore, and you will be sure to find plenty of gratuitous, sexually graphic, and morally empty novels out there, entirely unfit for human consumption. Novels where fictional women pose as horrible role models for young girls who treat their boyfriends and love interests like idols.
But, to my shock and horror, it seems this is what many people want to read. After all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestselling series complete with movie adaptions. The romance genre is booming right now, and while not all of it is bad, a large chunk is either erotic or completely misses the point of what Godly relationships are supposed to look like. Why is this?
I believe it all stems from the world's twisted and obsessive perspective of romance.
We, as humans, are wired for connection and intimacy. We crave to be known, understood, and loved. Our flesh seeks instant gratification, fulfillment, and pleasure.
Unfortunately, the world has drifted far away from our Creator, fleeing to earthly passions and pursuits to get their needs met rather than getting those things from the only One who can truly fulfill and restore us. This is the corrupted mindset that's at the root of every corrupted romance. Without living from a place of security in Christ, we search to fill the empty places inside of us with pleasure and approval from others, and we base our identities on things that make us feel good.
It's a bit like going grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Instead of sticking to our grocery list and loading up our carts with nourishing foods, we're immediately drawn to convenient, snacky, processed foods that aren't going to sustain us (like the chocolate aisle for example *cough cough*).
The more we try to satisfy ourselves with things that are unfit to do so, and the more we flee from God's original design, the bigger and uglier our crises become. This broken system, as you can imagine, only gives birth to more brokenness. And from it, our culture has been numbed into thinking that fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are not only okay... but they should be celebrated as well.
This is wrong. And I believe that we, as writers, have a powerful opportunity to make a difference.
What if we took a stand against modern romance, not by dissing God's original design or going along with the world, but by crafting beautiful and excellent stories that communicate what true love actually looks like? Stories that are raw, authentic, and balanced. Stories that unearth the struggle of temptation and impurity but also showcase characters who overcome it. Stories that paint romantic passion in a Biblical and deeply human way without compromising Godly purity. Stories that effectively infuse truth but are also relatable, emotionally gripping, and healing.
I think of authors such as Penny Zeller, Francine Rivers, and Grace A. Johnson. Authors who have already joined the fight against worldly definitions of love by releasing powerful and Christ-centered romance into the world.
Words really do change the world, and the power to transform the romance genre is in our hands. (Like, literally, it's in our hands... we write with our hands... NEVER MIND.)
THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING
I've rambled on enough about the world's view of romance, but what does God have to say about it? How can having an understanding of the Gospel transform the way we write romance into our stories?
The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Because romance and marriage are designed to be a reflection of God's love and commitment to us, the same should be portrayed in fictional relationships. While worldly romance is about getting, Godly relationships are about giving. Love is not about having our needs met and filling up the empty places inside of us. It's about serving one another and representing the greatest story ever told: God's sacrificial, redeeming, wild love for us.
When we truly understand Christ's love for us and we're full of Him, we begin to pour into others, giving freely instead of striving for temporary satisfaction. This is the truth that romance novels should be bringing into the world.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
(1st Corinthians 13:1-8)
A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
Speaking of Godly romance, I'm thrilled to announce the upcoming release of the Tell Me You Love Me Anthology, put together by my friend, Grace A. Johnson!!! Ya'll this collection of short stories is so sweet and truth-filled, and exactly what Christ-centered romance should look like. Stay tuned for my review next week and be sure to preorder your copy (the link is below)! I can't wait for you all to get a chance to read this!
Tell Me You Love Me – a timeless collection of stories that truly understand the meaning of “I love you”
Twelve young Christian authors have come together, alongside romance novelist Grace A. Johnson and editor Issabelle Perry to show our world of depravity and cheap imitations of romance what love really means: faith, hope, and sacrifice.
These stories range from contemporary YA to historical to fantasy, and tell diverse, unique love stories that compel, captivate, and warm readers’ hearts with their sweet and authentic nature.
Featuring work from Michaela Bush, Saraina Whitney, Karynn Heckler, Margaret Copeland, Lucia Molano, Sarah Lawton, Brooklyn O’Brennan, Mackenzie Hendricks, H.S. Kylian, Lydia M. Jupp, Katherine Perry, and Amelia Cabot, the Tell Me You Love Me anthology is the collaboration of talented and inspirational young writers you’ve been waiting for!
What are your opinions on the romance genre? Do you include romance in your stories? What are some of your favorite romance books/authors? Are you excited about the release of "Tell Me You Love Me"? (I certainly am!) Did this rant make absolutely zero sense, or is it just me? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!