January 9


5 Ugly Truths Christians are Ignoring About Christian Romance Novels

By Anna Joy

January 9, 2017

I am an avid reader.

I love to escape into other worlds, to experience things that I would never otherwise get to experience and to learn things I would never otherwise get to learn – all from the comfort of my own sofa.

Which is why I recently found myself browsing the Christian fiction section of my local library.

It feels so safe to choose a book off the Christian fiction shelf at the library. These are books that won’t have bad language, overt sex scenes, or promotion of bad morals, right?

So, I grabbed a book off the shelf. A book that is a New York Times Bestseller. A book that is advertised as being  about a small town, and not overly romantic.

And I found myself captivated by a romance story that seemed so “innocent” and “safe”, yet ugly dangers were lurking right under the shiny cover.

Are "Christian Romance Novels" actually dangerous? This post includes a set of questions to ask yourself as you read fiction books.

5 Ugly Truths Christians are Ignoring About Christian Romance Novels

1. Christian romance novels set us up for unrealistic expectations in our own marriages.

Christian romance novels tend to focus exclusively on the exciting romance – because that’s what we enjoy reading. Unfortunately, these novels can all too easily set us up for unrealistic expectations in our own marriages.

Here’s an example from the book that I was reading:  Five minutes after he had met her, the hero of the story told the heroine that he would never have gotten her “pink roses” like her current boyfriend had gotten her. He knew from the moment he saw her that she was more of a “tiger lilies” or “sunflowers” type of girl.

Isn’t that romantic?

We women long for a strong, masculine man who will be so in tune to our feelings and needs that he will know what kind of flowers we would prefer from five minutes of just being in the same room with us.

We long for a man who will instantly realize when we are sad or happy, elated or devastated and will know exactly the right words to say to us.

We long for a man who will be infatuated with us, longing to serve us, noticing only… us.

And, we can read about these men in Christian romance novels. They are sensitive and rugged, kind and strong, meeting the heroine’s every need.

The only problem is that these men don’t exist.

Real men won’t always say exactly the right words to comfort us when we are upset. In fact, half the time they won’t even be able to figure out what on earth we are upset about.

Real men often have to work long hours, sacrificing time and energy to provide well for their families and therefore being unable to meet our every emotional and social need.

And, after years of marriage, real men may still have no clue what our favorite flowers are.

We forget that the perfect hero of the Christian fiction novel is the figment of another woman’s imagination, and not a real man at all. And it is utterly, utterly unfair to compare our husbands to this standard.

Are "Christian Romance Novels" actually dangerous? This post includes a set of questions to ask yourself as you read fiction books.

2. Christian romance novels encourage us to fantasize about other men.

Here’s an excerpt from the book I was reading:

…his head dipped lower, and their lips met in a soft, gentle kiss. The touch of his mouth on hers was hesitant at first, testing, as if he half-expected her to pull away. But, with her palm pressed against his soft cotton shirt, she felt his heart beating under her hand, and she kissed him back without thinking. His arm moved around her waist, and he pulled her loser. The pressure of his mouth grew more intense for one tantalizing moment, and then he stepped back and let her go….

Once inside, he found some dry clothes for them both. Jessica ended up in a sweatshirt several sizes too big. “I look ridiculous,” she said, working hard to roll up the sleeves, though they kept slipping down. “Don’t you have anything smaller?”

Sam stood nearby changing into a dry T-shirt. She tried not to stare at his muscular chest and well-defined biceps as he pulled off one shirt and pulled on another.

“Sorry, I don’t keep a lot of clothes out here,” he said, catching her eye. She could feel her cheeks grow red as she averted her gaze.

“Besides,” he added as he tugged his shirt into place, “you look really good in yellow.”

“Um… thanks,” she replied, hoping he hadn’t caught her staring.”

Can we call this what it is? This is sexual tension, strong attraction that is bordering on lust. And, when our own lives are filled with sinks of dirty dishes to wash, reading about these situations can be deceptively enticing.

We wish for excitement, for romance, for the strong feelings of youth that no longer seem to be present in our own marriages. So, we read about these situations and we imagine ourselves in them, and the strong handsome man that we share the imaginary scene with may or may not be the flabby balding man sitting across the room from us….

Christian romance novels often encourage women to fantasize about romantic moments with men other than their husbands. This not only sets us up for disappointment in our own very real and often unromantic day-to-day lives; it also weakens and destroys our marriages.

Are "Christian Romance Novels" actually dangerous? This post includes a set of questions to ask yourself as you read fiction books.

3. Christian romance novels often mix Biblical truths with lies.

When we read Christian romance novels, we need to be very careful to discern where Biblical truths stop and subtle lies begin.

The Christian fiction book quoted above had an excellent passage about a woman overcoming depression. The authors also wrote about how life is outside of our control. Things often don’t turn out the way we expected. We must rely on God. It even quoted some Bible verses.

These are wonderful truths to think about.

The only problem is that there are subtle lies interwoven with the truths in this book.

For example, the hero of the story is a young man who attends church regularly and supposedly takes his faith seriously. And yet, in defiance of 2 Corinthians 6:14, he is willing to date an attractive young woman who is described as having no relationship with God.

And, of course, it all worked out in the end when the heroine became a Christian.

The unrealistic expectations that these novels create are lies. The ability of the main characters to place themselves in the way of temptation and yet come out unscathed is also a lie.

Unfortunately, many Christian romance novels mix Biblical truths with lies.

4. Christian romance novels often do not celebrate the good and pure.

In the book that I read, the hero took the heroine back the to home that he was remodeling. There, while alone, they kissed and walked together in the rain, getting thoroughly soaked. They returned to the house and changed into dry clothes, where the heroine noticed the hero’s “muscular chest and well-defined biceps.”

Ummm – that’s a great place for a married couple to be. It is not the kind of situation I want my unmarried daughter to be in. And, I would be extremely disappointed in my son if he led his girlfriend into a situation of temptation like this. So, why would I read about it and think that it is all right?

Just because “nothing happened” does not excuse this scene and make it OK.

As Christians, we need to celebrate what is good and pure and intentionally avoid situations of temptation.

We need to sharpen our minds and analyze whether the situations we are reading about are encouraging the story characters (and thus us) towards purity and goodness… or setting them up for temptation.

Many modern Christian fiction books sacrifice purity and goodness in favor of drama, intense emotional moments, conflict, shame, and lust. We need to hold ourselves to a higher, Biblical standard.

Are "Christian Romance Novels" actually dangerous? This post includes a set of questions to ask yourself as you read fiction books.

5. Christian romance novels often pull us away from God’s Word and other books that would encourage us to grow spiritually.

Have you ever gotten so emotionally involved in a really good fiction story that you had a hard time putting it down to spend time in God’s Word?

Christian fiction romance novels are fun to read. But, if we are spending time reading them and not reading our Bibles, there is a problem.

If you find yourself spending a lot of time reading fiction novels, you may want to ask yourself if it is a good use of your time. I see nothing wrong with relaxing with a good novel. But, we must do it in moderation.

If you find yourself struggling in your marriage, perhaps it would be wiser to turn to a non-fiction book filled with Biblical wisdom on ways to strengthen your marriage rather than escaping into a fantasy world of romance that will leave you feeling even less satisfied with your marriage.

Christian Fiction Book Tests:

Are the books that you are reading leading you toward God and toward purity? You can easily determine that by answering these five questions:

  1. Does this book encourage me to appreciate and value the good things in my husband? Or does it leave me feeling dissatisfied with my marriage, family, or life?
  2. Does this book encourage me to imagine romantic scenes in my mind with a man other than my husband?
  3. Does this book tell me the truth about life? Or, does it mix lies with truth?
  4. Does this book celebrate purity? Or, does it sacrifice purity for sexual tension and drama?
  5. Do I have a hard time reading God’s Word and praying immediately after reading this book?

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the these thoughts? I would love to hear your opinion! Please scroll down to comment.

More Posts from Path Through the Narrow Gate: 

Are you intentionally putting yourself "out there" to build relationships with your neighbors for the sake of sharing your faith? Here's some encouragement and ideas to help you do just that.  What should you do when you don't feel like reading the Bible? If you force yourself to read anyway, is that "legalistic"? Here's the surprising answer...  Are you weary? Do you know that you need to slow down and simplify, yet don't know where to start? Here are 3 Ways to Find Rest When Your Soul is Weary.| Path Through the Narrow Gate

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  1. I think romance novels, Christian or not, are porn for women. In the same way that porn makes men dissatisfied with their wives and real sex, romance novels make women dissatisfied with their husbands and their expressions of love.

  2. While I respectful agree with some truths, I think the church misses a lot in romance and romance novels. Just like we should continuously romance God, a man and wife should continuously romance EACH OTHER. Why not have a standard? A person doesn’t need to be an ideal, but do have standards.

    Does not Janette Oakley apply? And that is one name I can think of from many.

    Please do not cast such a wide net over Christian authors.

    For your blog followers, pray and seek out books that fit what He guides you too to share.

    But, please realize we are all on a journey with him.

  3. Thank you for this article. It really helped me to understand better why after reading a Christian novel I feel low and sort of depressed. Altough I’m not married, I feel that I will never have a such wonderful man in my life. The false expectations these novels potray definitely draw us away from God and His Word.

  4. Are all the romance novels the same?
    Are Jeanette Oakes books better? different?
    Would you advise young girls & or older women to read romance novels?
    Any authors that would be good reading material?
    Would you recommend any authors of romance books for ladies in prison?

  5. Over 45 and still single. I quit reading romance novels in my twenties because they stirred up feelings of bitterness, envy and discontent.

    When I look at my married friends I see all is not automatically a bed of roses. They have their problems too–even if they differ from mine.

    Occasionally I read some quality literature. I no longer enjoy romances. If you do that’s okay. But they should be viewed as desserts.

    Even works such as The Brothers Karamazov or Les Miserables are not as good as the Bible itself.

  6. It has long puzzled me why this is considered to be socially acceptable in Christian circles (indeed, two weeks ago I was shopping at a yard sale of an elderly couple, festooned with Christianese decor items–and a file box crammed with romantic novels). After my wife’s responses to my concerns along these lines regarding Mark Sparks films, I eventually began to wonder if I was being totally unreasonable. Now that she’s dating other men, I see that I was not.

    Jesus (who, really, is the ideal, but not the one in the books; such a man is a product, I believe, of right desires combined with various deluded and idolatrous misconceptions that we cannot completely escape in this life) bless you for a thorough and thoughtful approach to this topic.

  7. This is specifically why I avoided Christian fiction for many years. I had read a book or two as a teenager and was just shocked at the contradiction of a desire for purity and what these books were putting out there.

    When I was newly married, my husband became the pastor of a tiny church out in the middle of nowhere. I had no family or friends, only a one room town library. One day I went in and sat down in a rocking chair, wishing there was Christian fiction I could read that wasn’t smut. Just casually looking over I saw “After Anne” by Roxanne Henke. I picked it up and began to read about a friendship between two women. One was hurting and the other brought her the love of Jesus through kindness that surpassed all the gruffness. I continued reading on in the series and felt so blessed that God brought a Christian series into my life about all the different relationships a woman experiences: to her friends, her spouse, her children, society, and ultimately God. Not once did I ever have to put down the books and brush the thoughts from my mind. I still have a copy of that first book on my own shelves now because it brings me such joy to just see it sitting on the shelf.

    1. Thank you so much for this story, Talia, and the book series recommendation. I have never heard of that series – will have to look into it! What I love most about this story, though, is how God reaches down and blesses us when we seek to follow Him, sometimes in BIG ways, and sometimes in SMALL ways – but no less amazing. God worked through the Christian author and through the purchase or donation of a book to a small library to bless you in a time when you needed a reminder of His love. Isn’t our God wonderful? May God bless you!

  8. I personally don’t get drawn to this type of book, but this is a great list to keep in mind…even when picking out a date night movie. Always appreciate the thought you put into your posts. 🙂

  9. Five times YES! So well said. Anna Joy. There are a lot of good Christian fiction books available; unfortunately, many of them are guilty of exactly what you point out.

  10. I really don’t have time to read books let alone fiction books, outside of reading my Bible as much as I can throughout the day. … but this was excellent, excellent post! What better way for satan to try and “subtely” decieve us….
    I will be sure to send it out..

    Lord bless!

  11. Greetins from Germany!
    I totally agree with you … however … what will be left for our reading? Sometimes I do need a break from my daily work and routine … Maybe we should put a list together with books we recommend …

    Thanks for your great encouragement to stay on the right track!

    1. Oh, Bianca, I totally understand what you are saying! I love to read, but I have gone to the library and wandered around and come home with no books so many times. A book list sounds great! May God bless you.

  12. Anna Joy,

    Thank you for this blog post. While I don’t often read Christian romance novels, I have read a few. I agree with your assessment. Even though Christian romance is better than secular romance, it can still cause problems.

    Bless you for your courage to share. I pray it touches other women, as well.

    1. Anna, you are so right about that! There are very few Christian romance novels which adhere to biblical principals in the storyline. However, I just read one which does. If I may tout it, it’s called, Cold Pizza by David C. Reyes. All the threads in the book are biblically based and lead to the male protagonist’s realization that he needs help. Not only from Elizabeth, the female lead, but spiritual signs by family and friends plus Elizabeth holding steadfast to her Christian beliefs and being that “My God is an oath” as symbolized by her name—Elizabeth. And it is only after the male lead calls upon God and believes, that he realizes which woman he is meant to be with. If you are cautious about the recommendation and leaving this post on your site, read it for yourself and decide. I feel it is one of the few romance novels which adheres to good biblical principles.

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