8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Do you ever examine the Christian romance novels you’re reading and ponder how romance is brought across?
I would be the first to say that I don’t have it all together … that I still have so much to learn, but I do know that God has been teaching me a lot and this topic of sensual romance in novels has been on my heart for quite some time.
I’m not, by any means, laying down the law in this post. Just sharing some of my thoughts and wonderings. I’d love to discuss with you!
Pure. Noble. Lovely. Virtuous. Praiseworthy.
If you’re like me and love to read, you’ve probably noticed that many Christian authors add a certain amount of sensuality to their novels. The amount ranges from not too noticeable (but still makes you want to recommend it only to older teens and up) to downright scandalous (you decided not to read by that author again/give it a low rating even though it was adventurous otherwise).
I just saw a review from a fellow reader today, and she had rated this Christian novel less than she wanted to because of the sexual themes in it. She said things like, “How do we expect unmarried women to keep their minds pure when reading scenes like this?” and “are Christian novels just getting more and more edgy??”
Yikes. I don’t know about you, but nothing about that sounds pure and noble. I mean, I like a good romance as much as the next young woman – but what I’m actually looking for is a beautiful, real love story … not a steamy romance that’s pushing at the boundary lines.
Look, romance can be a very good thing. God created romance. Blessed marriage. Designed the feelings between a man and woman. Romance is deep and beautiful! But I definitely feel things can be written in way that’s just going too far or distorting what God created romance/marriage to look like.
So does this writing of sensual romance scenes honor God? Not only are single ladies having their heads filled with things they probably shouldn’t ponder as of yet, but practically only the physical side of a romantic relationship is coming across in most of these novels. I think unmarried women are getting the wrong expectations from these type of novels, among other things …
Like, romantic love is not all about kissing, the excitement of a whirlwind courtship, and having fun in the moment. It’s much, much bigger than that! Romantic love should start as friendship. That friendship should deepen. Christ should be the center of the relationship, from start to end – His approval naturally should be sought!! I believe a lot of the physical side should wait. Many now-married, Christian couples I’ve listened to said that saving their first kiss for their wedding day was how they avoided temptation, firmly upheld a godly purity, ensured that they were only kissing their spouse … It made their kisses oh so special.
Yet many Christian romance novels these days are not teaching that in any way, shape, or form.
Rather, it’s all about how fun the other person is to be with. How delightful the relationship is at the moment, even though they’re not sure where exactly it’s going. And after hanging out a few times, they might share a kiss because they have to let the other know they’re not “just friends”!
And on top of that, we get all the details. Come now, writers, I know we like to make things as real-feeling as possible, but ultimately its the characters’ romance, not ours! I think we need to keep the more private moments of their relationship to themselves, just as it would be in real life.
Some Christian romances I’ve read even go inside the man’s head and mention these thoughts he’s having concerning the woman’s figure or whatnot. And I’m thinking, Isn’t that bordering on lust?
Why are flirting with sexual sin, setting up absolutely no boundaries, and even lust portrayed as perfectly normal and okay in your average Christian novel??
Here’s some thoughts on the subject from author Rachel Hauck: Writing Sexual Content in our Stories.
One thing she said that caught my attention was something along the lines of: “Imagine someone reading the kind of scenes you write to your children, your mother, or grandmother. Or Jesus, for that matter.”
Is it honorable, pure, and lovely? Is it building up and helping others? Is it showing God’s hand in the romantic relationship? Is it a light and example to unbelievers or younger brothers and sisters in the faith?
I have read so many lovely, great books with beautiful romances that are not all sensual! So why are a huge part of the Christian authors letting it seep in and sometimes almost dominate their books? Authors like Jaye L. Knight, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and Janette Oke are a few of the authors I’ve found who do an exceptional job of writing sweet/clean but incredible romances. However, many other authors of YA-adult romance that I’ve read by have at least a little bit of sensual content or else something like shallow romance/premature kissing. *wrinkles nose*
I’m not saying all of it is simply sinful! But I do think heavy sensuality is definitely crossing the line.
To tell you the truth, I’m just plain getting tired of reading these type of romances. Give me a Jace and Kyrin love story (Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight) and I’m thrilled and my heart is sighing because it’s just so beautiful, meaningful, and long-awaited. It’s true love. Whereas the sensual romance focused all on physical and self has me sighing for a whole different reason. They’re so focused on physical desires that they have no time for honoring God or honoring/loving each other. It’s shallow. It has little meaning to me. It definitely doesn’t grow my faith or teach me more about the godly marriage Christians should seek.
Marriage is meant to be sacred. A holy covenant. A beautiful relationship. A godly romance. A delightful friendship. A loving team.
Are the books we read conveying that?
Are we waiting for that, saving ourselves for that?
Also, in a world where we’re bombarded by sexual temptations and depravities right and left, is it okay for us (unmarried or otherwise) to read such books? Is it helping, or discouraging our minds from stay pure??
So what are your thoughts? Do you think that a lot of Christian fiction is getting a little too edgy these days? When is crossing the line? Do you think popular Christian romance author, such as Francine Rivers, write tastefully despite some “heated moments” in their romances?
I would love to hear your thoughts! Please join the conversation and comment below!
** Originally published on Between the Pages of This Bookish Life, May 1st, 2015 **
3 thoughts on “Does What I Read Honor God?”
This is a topic that has long been on my heart. When I was a few years younger I tended to shy away from writing any romance at all because I felt incompetent and I didn’t know if I would ever have the knowledge to do Biblical romance justice. But after a little while, I started to add characters who loved each other. 😀 I have always wondered as an author ‘how far is too far?’. But that’s not the right question! The question I should have been asking is: how can these two glorify God in their love for each other? And as a reader I have to admit I agree with you in everything you said. One of my personal struggles when I read books that suggest ‘heated moments’ or have those heated moments—is to imagine what it would be like. My mind gets too saturated in desires that need to stay and not be influenced by the fantasies of the world’s type of love. And let me tell you, I have been so disgusted when I pick up a book and it ends up being trashy in regards to ‘heated moments’. It feels like an intrusion on other people or like I’M dirty. And as a Christian I should never have to feel that way about a Christian romance novel. I think to summarize that really what sets a true Christian romance novel apart: we shouldn’t write romance like the world. Thanks for this post, Shantelle! It was an inspiration to me.
❤ Your sister in Christ
“How can these two glorify God in their love for each other?”
That is a great question to ask, Emmaline! I love it. Something we should all think about when writing romances/in our own lives.
That’s a personal struggle I can certainly identify with, and I think a whole lot of other women can too! Which is why this topic should be addressed more!
So true. Christian girls should not be made to feel dirty when reading Christian novels. We don’t want to read trashy stuff! God has a much more beautiful plan for romance, our thoughts, and our lives!
You’re welcome! Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts! God bless you, sister. ❤
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