My husband and I were discussing romance novels the other day, and I have to say that I have always thought of romance novels as p*rn for women. While men often have a weakness toward straying visually, I think that emotional straying is a weakness common to women. Romance novels fit the bill. The fact that they are often extremely graphic only makes the comparison even stronger.
This begs the question: what about Christian romance novels? The nice clean sort, where people only long for each other until they are safely married? The ones were they undergo physical and emotional turmoil before ultimately finding their destiny in their life partner?
I have read a few of these in the past, and I still think they cultivate and fill appetites that ought to be filled by a woman’s husband or that should not exist in the first place. I think that these books encourage ladies to be discontent with their day-to-day lives which lack the angst and excitement of the heroine; bored with their husbands who may bear little resemblance to the dashing hero; disappointed in their spiritual life which may lack the earth-shattering highs and lows of the characters in these books; and dissatisfied with their own appearance and personality.
If mass-marketed romance novels are p*rn for women, then maybe Christian romance novels are like the underwear section in the Sears catalog is for men: full of images that are technically clean but nonetheless lead our thought life in directions that are not glorifying to God.
Of course these accusations may be leveled against any book that presents trials, struggles and a happy ending, but some awaken healthy desires in a godly way while others do not. A good book may inspire readers to work harder, love more deeply, or fight more courageously, but I think that romance novels are designed to awaken our coveting nature: we women want romance, excitement, love, security. We might already have all these but we want more – like Eve, we want to know what we’re missing. The serpent didn’t tempt Eve by telling her how delicious the fruit was; he tantalized her with whispered hints of things outside her experience.
Some may say, “But what about the Song of Solomon?”
Obviously the book has deep figurative lessons, but even if you take it entirely literally, the Song of Solomon is not a romance novel: it is a celebration of love and a mutual praising. In its treatment of love, it bears little resemblance to romance novels of any sort.
Maybe my evaluation of romance novels sounds harsh, but even if you disagree I hope you’ll evaluate your choice of books Biblically. Don’t look only for objectionable language or content. Ask yourself a series of questions:
- What sort of worldview is reflected?
- What attitudes does it foster?
- What desires does it seek to raise in the reader?
- What is the message or moral of the story?
- Why do I want to read it?
- And ultimately, how will reading this book aid me in my mission, furthering the kingdom of God?
Can you add to the list?
No uninspired book will be perfect, but let’s not fool ourselves about which ones are true, noble, just, pure…