In Defense of Christian Romances

A few months ago, I got an email from a high school student writing a research paper on this question: Can even Christian romances be harmful to read?

heart of books

Now, before you react with an outraged, “Of course not!” think about why she might be asking this question. I know many wonderful Christians who find romances, even Christian romances, to be a complicated issue. For some, it’s because reading and dreaming about the oh-so-dashing protagonists makes them less content with their lives. For others, it’s more about setting their daughters up for disappointment with tales of conflicts that resolve happily by the last page.

That said, this was part of my response:

Here’s something to think about: God often uses the metaphor of romance to describe his relationship with us. Why? Because there is something uniquely powerful about romantic love and the sacrifice and unselfishness it should inspire. That’s why I think Christian romances can teach us deep and beautiful things about who God is and what our relationships with others should look like.

But also, there’s a fine line between recognizing and longing for something good, such as a romantic relationship centered on Christ, and being discontent with what God has for you right now. It’s the difference between attending a wedding and thinking, This is beautiful, and I hope my story turns out that way, and thinking, God can’t possibly be good if I’m not married/dating right now. The same problems that some people assign to romance novels: discontent, unrealistic expectations, the possibility of taking imagination too far . . . all of those can take place at a wedding as well, and no Christians are suggesting we get rid of those.

So there’s my opinion as a single twenty-something reader. But how about the perspective of a Christian romance author? I decided to pose this question to the one and only Becky Wade, who champions and celebrates Christian romance novels. Here’s her response:

Meant to be Mine

Becky’s newest release.

Passionate romance AND a Christian message can most definitely go together inside the pages of the same novel!

I should tell you that I’m a die-hard romantic. When I started My Stubborn Heart, my first contemporary romance for the Christian market, I knew I wanted to give my reader the same concentrated romantic storyline that I like best as a reader. I also knew that the Lord had called to write for the Christian market.

Thus, while writing and rewriting my novels, I spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out how to pen heart-pounding love stories that are ALSO clean and inspiring faith stories.

Wade_BeckyWhat I’ve discovered?  The things that make a God-honoring real-life relationship wonderful to experience are the very same things that make a Christian romance novel wonderful to read. The beauty of a dating relationship isn’t found in anything R-rated. The beauty and excitement is in the awe of discovering new love, the building emotions, the tension of facing obstacles that could tear the couple apart, the growing devotion of a hero to his heroine and vice versa.

After all, God is the foremost expert on great love!  His people can and do experience devoted love stories worth writing about.

Your turn: why do you read Christian romances? Can you name a Christian romance novel that has had an impact on your life?

For more from Becky, visit her website or watch the video below.

23 thoughts on “In Defense of Christian Romances

  1. I love Becky Wade’s books. She does a great job with the genre. One of my very favorites, and I read once a year, is “Sweetwater Gap” by Denise Hunter. I also re-read “Remembered” by Tamera Alexander and “Halos” by Kristen Heitzman.

  2. It depends. When I was just a new believer and had no one to guide me through. I turned to christian novels and grew resentment that my prayers weren’t being answered, my husband wasn’t leading our family, etc. I know that wasn’t the fault of the books. We do have to be careful of what we put into our minds and now that I am a more established christian, I men to young women and let them know that christian romances are fine but they are fiction. If they start to compare their lives to what they are reading then it’s time to start spending more time in God’s Word.

  3. If we look at real life we see that life is full of romance, but not always in the sense that it is portrayed in books. I think though sometimes we can get cynical, we teach our children that romance is something bad, and set them up for failure. Or we teach them that it is all sunshine and roses and set them up for failure as well. Either way, a book with a romantic bent is not the problem. There are some of the most romantic stories in the bible, but it is how you take that and run with it, that can be the issue.

  4. I read Christian Romance, because I love romance; I’m a romantic. I just wish it was more realistic and that is why I choose to read author such as Vacirca Vaughn, Carla Terrell, Melinda Michelle, Lashanda Michelle, Becky Doughty,Charmaine Galloway, Shenette Jones, Tashara Childs and others. I like romance that not only shows you the courtship, but what happens within the marriage relationship. There are so many book that just deal with courtship, but what about marriage? Not everything is so sweet and loving all the time, when are authors going to deal with real problems and issues? Don’t get me wrong I read the sweet romance too, but I think it is time to get real. It is the books that deal with real issues that impact me the most. The authors that I named above most Christian readers would be angry at them for what they write, because they are not trying to sugarcoat anything; It time to take off the rose colored glass and deal with real issues. Readers need to keep in mind that this is fiction, don’t compare your relationship to the book. If your relationship is not what you would like to be or where you think it should be then you really need to open the Book(bible) for answers.

  5. Christian romance different then just a romance. I started as a teen reading the true story magazines and dont think they were good. authors today seem to research their work and even put Bible quotes that helps a story. mainly though we see true love between people that have God in their lives and wants a relationship with a believer. I think a story like this helps young people see other points of views.
    Paula O

  6. I posted about this on my author page in February:
    I love to read and write romance, but it still makes me uneasy. The gratuitously explicit stuff that’s just meant to titillate is obviously harmful, but what about the clean stuff that still delivers that falling-in-love rush, even with a moral theme?

    My 6-year old brought home some papers from her religion lesson at school. This little reflection from Tom McGrath, author of Raising Faith-Filled Kids, is a gem.

    “Think of all the books, movies, TV shows, songs, and soap operas that gain dramatic tension by observing two people on the verge of falling in love. They capture and convey a longing that seems universal, as if the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for love to erupt in their lives.

    This great longing is holy. It’s a manifestation of our desire to know and to experience God’s love for us. God placed this desire to know, love, and serve him deep in our hearts.”

  7. As a 60-year-old spinster, I’m not too fond of romances. (Ironically, I have one halfway written…). Yes, God does reference His relationship to His people as a grand romance…and who doesn’t love the story of Ruth? So here’s the problem I see in reading romances…if a woman reads one, finishes the book, sighs and says, “Well that was a pleasant escape; now back to real life,” well and good. But when the romance leaves the impression in a woman’s mind that the book defines how life “ought to be,” and her husband, children, home do not measure up to that fictional standard so that tstead of responding to them as they are she responds as she fantasizes them and constantly expresses her discontent…then there is a problem…a big problem.

  8. I love the Christian romance novels because they the show the possible fulfillment of a faith-based, Christ-centered relationship, usually one in which the two participants challenge each other to grow in their faith. My favorite authors are Karen Witemeyer, Becky Wade and Deeanne Gist.

  9. I didn’t read romances for a long time. I got tired of the gratuitous sex in them. All they wrote about was grunting and grinding and I was not looking for a sex manual. I started reading Christian romances because I accidentally read one and found it was more than just men and women getting together. I found a plot, good characters, and humor. There was actually romance in the romance novel not just sex. When a character had to swear the author just said he swore not the actual words. I have found many good authors who gave me a laugh and some love. I have recommended these authors to friends and strangers. Even the Christian thrillers I’ve read have a little romance. One author told me that you have to have a little romance in the book.I I now read romances with a new attitude.

  10. My thing is using there books as an escape as well as a self help too, God can use anything to speak to you help you however you want to put it. Some things i didn’t know I wish I had known and now I see how a situation could have been dealt with other than what I did, so it is what you make of it I love to read and these books are just one genre that I read, they are a great view on what a relationship could look like and I love to see the different forms and ways that they develop along with the story lines and plots/ So I am grateful to authors like Francine Rivers and Becky Wade for the gift of the lives of the characters that allow me to see in thoughts and situations that i might never have seen. Thank You!!

  11. I’d also like to add that I don’t often see this “perfect life” in Christian romances that is going to send women pining after a fairy tale existence instead of real life. Most often the characters are as screwed up as the rest of us – usually moreso for dramatic effect. Yes, they typically have a “happily ever after,” but that’s just because the story typically ends at the engagement or marriage. Anyone that knows anything about marriage knows that it’s not all rose and rainbows and unicorns, and as a writer myself, if you asked me to expand on my characters’ ‘happily ever afters,’ they’d be full of the ups and downs we all experience about health, money, family, etc.

  12. I can’t say I’ve ever read a Christian romance that made me think about spiritual parallels. When I’ve read them, it was to experience the rush of anticipation at the first kiss, the first embrace, the first sense of longing for someone to fall in love with. I didn’t need the sexy details, but even the “innocent” Christian romances gave a hormonal high. And then I’d crash when my husband didn’t act like the hero in the book, or when the kids got sick and ruined a planned date. I remember thinking “Reality always intrudes.” Yes, it was my fault for not understanding the boundaries between fiction and real life. But I no longer read romances, because I have a great husband and there’s no reason for me to be disenchanted with him because of some fictional hero.

    • HALLELUJAH AND AMEN. I completely agree with you, Mary L Hamilton. Could not have said it better.

      With all due respect to those who enjoy, write and/or publish Christian romances, what I’ve been learning lately is that reading too much of romance, in general, can become harmful. Romance, Christian or secular, has a tendency to compel us to be more emotionally invested in fiction than real life. Both married people and single people should be careful. I, personally, have been strongly feeling led by God to cut back extensively on romances I read — even though I gravitated toward Christian Fiction — and I’ve decided to change my reading habits.

  13. As you said, weddings can stir the same discontent, it’s not the romance’s fault, sin is our own fault. If you have a problem with something generally benign, like romance novels, weddings, sugar, movies, etc. Then you should avoid them, but you can’t blame them for your problems.
    As a kid reading a lot of sweet romances, I will have to say I was not prepared for the guy I dated/married. He was a new Christian from a very non-christian background who’d done things none of the heroes in my romance reading would ever have dreamed of and so I was caught off guard, but I immediately recognized where my expectations of him came from and adjusted accordingly–I wasn’t permanently ruined by my sweet romance reading!
    And as to the comment that we need books that don’t sugarcoat, I’m glad there are those available, but sweet Christian romances are an entertainment choice (and I’ve read plenty that deal with real issues too and have come a long way from the 80s!!). But no one would say we need to stop producing G-rated movies for family friendly viewing because the real world isn’t G-rated. If we can indeed “keep in mind it’s fiction and don’t compare your relationship to the book,” why do I have to start reading “real life, hard-knocks fiction” for my entertainment? Why does my choosing to read sweet romance make someone think I can’t separate entertainment form real life? As long as I’m not sinning doing so, I prefer the sweet, happily ever afters. You might like rock-climbing, I like crocheting–lets not guilt others to take up our entertainment choices.

  14. I don’t think reading Christian romance is wrong.It could become sin just like a lot of good things can if put before God.
    One reason I enjoy reading Christian authors is their books show me things about God I may never thought of and they convey it in a real life way. I’ve had enough examples of the “perfect christian” it gets to be a little much. I know my responsibilities as a Christian but I often fail. I believe depending upon the way you look at them, the characters in Christian fictional books can show a more realistic relationship with God. They often fail and fall but they don’t stay down they continue to believe, to trust the goodness,power, and forgiveness of God.
    They may have “happily ever afters” yet they show the struggles and trials leading to the happy end. Whereas books are nothing compared to God’s Word I believe they can be used by God to help me be a better person and realize I can do way more than I thought possible.

  15. As a reader and writer, I have to remember to put God first. No matter how great the book, it can never take the place of the Bible. I also have to remember it is fiction. Anything I do for any amount of time will remain with me for days. Therefore, I limit my reading time. As for my daughter, I continually remind her that God’s timing is always correct. He is never late. Some authors I love to read are Francine Rivers-Redeeming Love (Hosea), Lynn Austin-Return To Me (Nehemiah), Tessa Afshar-Pearl in the Sand (Rahab), Cathy Bryant, Camy Tang, and Sandra Byrd.
    Finally, I have read books under the name Christian Fiction that would have been better suited on another shelf.
    I agree with Mel. I know the world is not a Jane Austen world, but I would rather watch Emma than some movies on television that portrays the real world. It is all about moderation and perspective. Great article.

  16. I’m a Christian. I like romance. I love literature. So, yes, I read Christian romance, along with the various other kinds of literature I read and write. The Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke includes some of the first Christian love stories I ever read. As a lifelong bookworm, I keep in mind that literature is art inspired by life, just like dance, music, theater, etc. I don’t expect art and life to play out in exactly the same way all the time, but as life impacts art, I believe that art impacts life. Experiencing beautiful art plays a role in encouraging us to keep making something beautiful out of life, to learn to make the best of what we’ve been given and where we are.

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