The blog posts are too numerous to link, but in the most famous, Dr. Russell Moore compared inspy romance to pornography for women. If you missed it, here are some of his highlights (emphasis mine):
Thankfully, we do not yet have a market for “Christian” pornography (but just wait, someone will find a way). But we do have a market for “Christian” romance novels….
A lot of this genre...is simply a Christianization of a form not intended to enhance intimacy but to escape to an artificial illusion of it. Granted, there’s no graphic sexuality here. The hero and heroine don’t sleep together; they pray together. But that’s just the point.
How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch?
...It is worth asking, “Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it?"
I’ve been hesitant to join the fray because clearly Dr. Moore can out preach me, probably can out write me too. But I’m fairly certain in this genre he doesn’t out read me.
As a Christian fiction book blogger, I read a lot of inspirational romance. And it’s this vast body of knowledge that makes me uniquely qualified to offer Dr. Moore my advice on the subject:
Reading a Christian romance is like watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Nothing more than clean entertainment designed to leave you with the warm fuzzies.
(As an aside, many fans of Christian romance read the genre because it leaves them with so much more than that, like deep Biblical truths. But as a matter of taste, I prefer my fiction more like Little House and less like a Billy Graham crusade).
Would Dr. Moore have asked the legions of young Ingalls fans if watching Michael Landon each week lead them "toward contentment with their parents or away from it?" Certainly somewhere in America, there was a poor child using that show as an escape from the real life horrors of his own family, but for the vast majority of us kids growing up in the early eighties, it was just a TV show.
Children who wished they could trade places with Half Pint in real life had problems no feel good drama could fix. Likewise, housewives who read Christian fiction and compare their lumps on the couch to the leading man have marriage issues that go beyond fondness for romance novels.
We should give Christian women some credit and assume most know what real romance looks like. Agape love is a husband who takes out the garbage or puts the seat down when he’s finished. It's a wife who picks her husband's dirty socks off the floor for the umpteenth time without nagging.
We get it, Dr. Moore. Real love doesn't resemble fiction. Real love runs deeper than anything we'll find in the pages of a romance. But to answer your question, consuming Christian romance novels does lead me toward contentment with my spouse.
When I've got the latest inspy in my hand, we’re far less likely to argue over the remote control. He can watch all nine innings of the Superbowl without any complaints from me. That's what I consider a win-win.
(Now, since neither serious nor thought provoking are my strong suits, allow me to point you in the direction of someone whose response to Dr. Moore covers those bases).
Joy, thank you for your thought-provoking take on this issue. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. Reading Christian romance novels have always been an encouragement to me and I enjoy reading clean stories that glorify God. Thanks for making the point that Christian women need credit because we can assume that most of them know what a real romance looks like.
If you'd like to connect with Joy online, you can find her blog here:
What are your thoughts?