To Romance or Not to Romance

According to St. Teresa of Avila’s biography, the battle over romance novels has been going on at least since the 1500s:

Teresa’s father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa’s mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle — especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

Those of us who write, represent, and publish Christian romance novels can be made to feel the same way when our brothers and sisters in Christ object to our efforts to provide readers with God-honoring entertainment.  I have spoken with authors whose pastors have derided their writing, read negative blogs, and heard conference speakers criticize Christian romance novels.

Why?

Some feel that romance novels are too frivolous. I ask those who make this charge if they are willing to give up everything in their lives that could be considered frivolous. And if so, I maintain that would be a mistake. God created the Sabbath for rest and recreation. For further reading, The Baptist Press addresses what the Bible says about leisure time.

Another reason detractors cite is that these stories set the bar too high for marriage because no hero can live up to the Christian romance hero. Really? The Christian romances I read show the heroes as flawed but doing their best to follow the Lord. Isn’t this the type of man you would want for your daughter? Isn’t this how you are teaching your son? Consider many of the alternatives in secular literature. Even some of the most noble heroes in literature don’t have a relationship with Christ nor do they desire one. And Christian romance heroines are the type of women readers can admire. By struggling along with the heroines, women can learn how to deal with their own personal conflicts.

These stories show role models in the context of romance. Those who disagree with the idea of role models should stop going to church if they look up to their pastors. And this viewpoint makes teaching Sunday School dangerous. Wouldn’t want to be a role model for anyone.

On a related note, I have heard that reading romance novels depresses some women, making them unhappy with their own marriages. This observation pains my heart because no one I know involved in any aspect of publishing Christian romance hopes these stories will bring sorrow and unhappiness to readers.  Regrettably, unhappy marriages will exist whether or not Christian romance is published.

If reading these novels makes you depressed, you have a choice of two actions. One, you can stop reading them.

I prefer the second option. That is, you can ask yourself why the story is bothering you, and ask God what He is telling you through the book. You may be embarrassed that God is using a lighthearted story to reach you, but no one else has to know how God talks to you. That is between you and God. The point is to listen to His personal message to you and pray about what He would have you do.

The Christian publishing industry has so much to offer. We publish books across all genres, and for all tastes. Rather than cut each other down because we don’t like a certain type of book, why not build each other up?

Paul wrote in Romans 14:19:  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

 

Peace be with you, and whatever your taste, enjoy your leisure reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Responses to To Romance or Not to Romance

  1. Dina Sleiman June 16, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    That’s so interesting about St. Theresa. I love her poetry and have studied her life, but I didn’t know this about her.

  2. Kristen Ethridge June 16, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Tamela, what a great blog! I (obviously) love Christian romance novels, and am so glad that I found them, because as a Christian, I knew that I could never write some of the things that come up in romances not written for the Christian market. It just wouldn’t be my heart as a writer, nor my voice.

    I love that you talk about asking God what a reader could learn from a seemingly “frivolous” book. I have learned that God can teach us so much in so many different ways, and the arts–books, music, etc.–is certainly a way that He uses to speak. I think it’s great that many Christian novels are now coming with study questions in the back so readers can think more about the characters and their journey in the book. As an author, I very much try to have a faith journey with my characters. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s more elaborate–because that’s real life. Sometimes God teaches us in the little things, and sometimes we learn in the bigger events.

    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking blog today!

  3. Liz Tolsma June 16, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Great post, Tamela! I know someone who has run into problems with people in her church because she is a romance author. Would they rather we spend our leisure time in front of the T.V. Reading is so much better! Your imagination is stirred as you bring to mind what the hero and heroine and the setting all look like. Historical romances are great vehicles for learning about different times in the past. My 11 year old daughter is so interested in history, especially WWII right now, because she is a reader. And then there are the hearts that have been touched through Christian romance – Christians who renew their walk with Christ or find help with a struggle because of what they have read and non-Christians who have committed their lives to the Lord because of the stories we have been given the privilege to write.

  4. Daniel Darling June 16, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Tamela, great, great post. This needed to be said. I think it’s crazy and biblically unbalanced for people to take potshots at Christian romance. I think it gives girls a high-idea for which to strive. I also think its a wonderful, leisure-filled diversion that also edifies and brings joy to the soul.

    Good stuff. I think you’ve inspired me to blog on this as well. I think my fiction-writing friends need some support.

  5. Anne F. Prado June 16, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    You said it perfectly! People forget Jesus himself used stories to teach the truth. And to ignore that people crave romance in their lives is to push them towards the world’s take on it. Also, what about Songs of Songs??

  6. Ane Mulligan June 16, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I’ve found Christian romance novels to offer insight for young women in seeking a mate. I’ve suggested many of them to my granddaughter. I want her to know what to look for in a husband and how to approach dating. h non-preaching way. And when people think they’re being entertained, they let down the walls, and the seeds of God’s word and Godly behavior can touch them and change lives.

  7. Kathleen Freeman June 16, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Amen, Tamela! Here is an interesting perspective: Intimacy is important to a marriage, even vital. Which is more likely to inspire intimacy, doing the dishes or reading romance? A good book will inspire us in many ways. Inspiration to love more passionately, to wash our husband’s feet in forgiveness, can’t be a bad thing. These novels may even help marriages grow richer. Long live romance!

  8. I’ve recently begun to allow my 15-year-old to read Christian romance. I’ve tried to preview either the author and/or the book first. Her reading has led to some precious conversations about what qualities a Christian young woman should seek in a godly young man. And, how godly women are to behave in the whole boy/girl thing. As for myself, I often am encouraged to be a better Christian and wife through the struggles and victories these fictional heroines face.

  9. Regina Merrick June 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Thank you, Tamela, for putting in print what so many of us are thinking. I read a blog a week or so, tearing down romance of any kind, and especially Christian romance. Since I started reading Christian romance when I was around 13 years old, I have to say that it led me to expect the best in a mate, which is NOT unrealistic. Now, after nearly 28 years of marriage, Christian romance makes me know that through everything, God’s love is the best love, and only HE can give us a “happily ever after,” a little bit here on earth, and so much more than we can imagine, in Heaven!

  10. Jan Christiansen June 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Tamela, thank you for expressing your views on inspirational romance novels. I’m in the process of writing my first novel (inspirational romantic suspense) and I often hear these same arguments when people ask what I’m writing. Now I’ll have the perfect responses to their objections.

  11. Barbara Robinson June 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Love this post and Michelle’s novels. Love to read and to write romantic suspense. Blessings, BJ

  12. Debbie Clark June 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    One thing that I will say is that a person needs to be balanced. I find myself reading too many books and not spending enough time in God’s word. Up until a year ago, I was getting about 20 books mailed to me a month from subscriptions, all of them Christian novels. I was finding myself bogged down and not getting them all read, frustrated and not spending time with God. After being in the hospital for 33 days June/July last year, not having an income, I had to cancel all of my subs. I now just buy when I can from Crossings Book Club or CBD. I now have time to read God’s word and read for my leisure time. I do not watch TV, so don’t have that time to deal with.

    Debbie Clark

  13. Penny Zeller June 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Thank you so much, Tamela, for your encouraging post!

  14. Patty Smith Hall June 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Oh Tamela, what a wonderful article especially after some of the attacks Christian Romance have been taking recently. Thank you!

  15. Rhonda Gibson June 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    You never cease to amaze me Tamela, this is a great blog. Thanks.

  16. Debbie Lynne Costello June 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Wonderful article, Tamela.I couldn’t agree more. TV and movies don’t have much out there for the Christian. It’s nice to be able to curl up with a book and relax.

  17. V.V. Denman June 17, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    This article is so encouraging. I’m working on my first novel and have been asking myself these same questions. Thank you for your answers!

  18. Tamela Hancock Murray June 17, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate the encouragement, and have enjoyed reading your thoughts. I am impressed by your insights. What a great discussion!

  19. Candy June 17, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Great post, Tamela!

  20. Ginny Aiken June 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    This is one of the best defenses of Christian romance fiction ever! It’s unfortunate that it needs defending in the first place, but there will always be some who’ll tear down what they don’t ‘get’. All they need is a good Christian romance, a cup of tea (or a tall glass of iced tea right about now), and a cushy chair. Thanks for a great post, Tamela.

  21. Martha Rogers June 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Thanks for a great post, Tamela. I’ve been so fortunate to have the support of the people at my church who think it’s wonderful that I write Christian romance. After 52 years of marriage, I still love to read and write about young romance. Even some of the men who’ve read my books say they liked them because they weren’t mushy which is what they expected from a romance novel.
    So glad you’re my agent. :)
    Martha

  22. Carrie Turansky June 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Thank you Tamela! I linked to this on Facebook!
    Blessings,
    Carrie

  23. Lynn Coleman June 22, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    What a well written post, thanks for writing this Tamela.

    Lynn

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