Monday, July 24, 2006

KB: Why I Write Christian Romance (Part 2)





As I’ve pondered this whole issue raised by Russell Moore, the guest host of the Albert Mohler radio talk show, I’ve found myself doing some soul searching. Why do I love to read romances? And to write them? Here’s are some of my thoughts…

Mention romance novels, and what do people think? Sex. At least, that's what people who don't read romances think. But for those of us who read and enjoy this kind of book, it isn't the sex that sells romances. It's the wonderful, engaging, uplifting stories.

For women readers, what counts most is the relationship between hero and heroine, the power of their love, the ways they reach and emotionally save each other, the affirmation that "love conquers all," the sense that there is some man out there who is strong and virile and protective--the John Wayne of the 90s, so to speak--who will cherish and stand for and protect a woman.

Why do women love these books? For a lot of reasons. First, because God designed us to hunger for love. The first and greatest romance ever written is found in that book we call The Bible. There's the typical hero, coming to save us even at the cost of His own life, and He even rides in at the end on a white horse! Women read about such things, and our hearts long for that kind of giving, protective, warrior-heart, self-sacrificing love. You can find it in Christ, but many women don't know or believe that. So they look for it in men, and that's custom-designed for disappointment. Not because men are worthless, but because they are human and subject to the flesh.

Another factor is that many women today find themselves struggling with disappointment and a sense of longing they don't quite understand. Some women are in roles God never intended them to take on--financial, emotional, even spiritual heads of household. As a consequence, these women are weary and discouraged and too often lack respect for men. Many women, deep in their hearts, long for a man who will stand for--and, if need be, stand up to--them; men who will shelter and protect them while treating them with respect; men in whom they can rest. Those are the kinds of men readers find in the romance novels.

Romance heroes are bold and just a little bit dangerous; they are forceful, strong, overpowering, but always because of love, always because they want the woman and will do anything to get her. Women want to feel cherished and desired and held and honored. And too few of them find that in real life. So today, when life seems so far off the mark of the fairy tales, when so many men are unwilling to fill the roles God designed, when relationships are fraught with disappointment and hurt, when romance and sex are so very hazardous--even life-threatening--women turn to vicarious experience in these novels.

Is there truth in romance novels? Absolutely, when they’re based in Christ and Scripture. Which Christian romance novels are.

Many women readers are looking for encouragement, answers, truth. They've been told from childhood that love is wonderful; Prince Charming is out there; and you're never so complete as when you're with a man who loves you. Then they grow up and bam! Reality smacks them right between the eyes. That happens for Christian women as often as it does for non-Christians. Relationships are hard, full of hurt and loss, and a lot of work. Men aren't princes, and love is often hollow--especially when you think sex is the proof it exists. And all of that is exactly why inspirational romances NEED to be there, why we have to give readers truth in a format they already love and enjoy.

Is it wrong for women to read romances? No. No more wrong than it is for men to read westerns or adventure novels. They’re just stories. But women are, for the most part, drawn to relationship. They're going to read romances. That's a given. Just look at the success of Princess Bride, You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle...and on and on. So why are women so drawn to these kinds of stories. Because they are responding to the longing God has planted within them to be loved completely and unconditionally. The longing of a bride for her groom. Women long to be loved by a man who is all that God intended him to be: a leader, a warrior, a mentor, a friend.
That's what appeals to women, that's what they long for. Like so many, they want the void inside to be filled. And like so many, they're looking in the wrong places for the answer, which is Christ. So let's get in there, let's jump in with all our energy and strength, and give them the TRUTH instead of the world's lies.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is the quintessential romance. It has it all. Every element you'll ever find or that readers could ever want in a romance--a best-selling, powerful, life-altering romance--is there. That book has enchanted and moved and inspired hundreds of thousands of readers. And it's a romance. It's a story that strikes at the heart of what women long for, what men need to know and be, and what God intended. And that's why it works. Those are the kinds of stories we need to give readers: powerful romances, stories that will transport the readers and uplift and inspire them. Stories where readers see romance in a whole new light.

So to all the writers I say let's give readers what they want: solid, powerful stories with characters they'll love. The ride of their lives. Inspirational romances can do that. But remember, when you step out to make a stand for God, especially when doing so takes you smack dab into enemy territory, opposition comes hot and heavy. So don't be surprised when people (nonChristians and Christians) fight us, when they make sarcastic or careless comments, when they say any woman who reads a romance must have something wrong with her. And the next time someone spouts off with: "How can you be involved in THAT market and call yourself a Christian?", square your shoulders, stand tall, and tell them the simple truth: Romance is the market to which God has called us. Which is why it's so important and exciting and powerful. And why we need to go in as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. This is where God has called us, and it's where we will go, whole-heartedly, equipped with God's armor and the sure knowledge that He's gone there before us to prepare the way and to prepare hearts for His truth.

Go get 'em, team. We're on the right side.

Karen Ball lives and writes and edits and expounds on life from her home in Oregon. See more of her work at http://www.karenballbooks.com.

10 Comments:

At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN, SISTER!
And, Amen, to Redeeming Love and Breaking Point as well. Less read, perhaps, but excellent nonetheless.
Romance is part of the female heart and soul. Whether or not she reads it or writes it, it is inherent in her design--however God has engineered it in an individual woman.
Men who chide women for reading romance novels are ignoring their basic needs as you so well described. And just because a man chooses not to understand it--much like Matt's example of women who condemn sports (Go Seahawks!!)--doesn't lessen its importance, its value, or their need for it as a woman.
Now a Christian woman reading secular romances probably has some issues that need attention.
You know, I've read Every Man's Battle so I could understand men for fully. I've read a lot of information on the character of men so I could write effective male characters (Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggrich). I've used my husband who came into the love of Christ from out of the world just like I did for research. I want my stories and my men and my women to be real.
I think there are a lot of men who could get a lot of much needed information about women, including some things about their wives, that they probably didn't know by reading a good Christian romance novel. In fact, I'm willing to guarantee it.
Anointed Christian romance is a ministry to the heart and soul of women and could be a boon to men's further understanding of the female gender if they had the nerve to read some of it.
Nicole Petrino-Salter

 
At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I apologize for my poor editing: so I could understand men MORE fully, not "for" fully. Good grief.)

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Rachel Hauck said...

Karen,
Can you hear my cheering and applause? Very well said. Thank you!

Let's keep writin'! ;)

Rachel

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

So eloquently stated! On the Kimani Authors site where a similar question was posed, I said:

Romantic stories are many things for me: affirmation, uplift, introspection, education, and pure entertainment.

Romance novels are comfort foods when I need a boost. They're also a square of luxurious dark chocolate when I wish for a sweet, indulgence, a treat for myself.


Last but not least, God is love! And romance is about loving relationships. Why wouldn't we wish to read stories that affirm Him, even when He isn't mentioned by name (as long as they do not contain elements that contradict or attempt to negate Scripture)? That's why romance speaks to us so deeply.

 
At 2:35 PM, Anonymous John Robinson said...

Interesting couple of blogs, Karen! I'll admit, I'm coming at it from a bit of a different direction (adventure/suspense books for the CBA men's market...what precious little there is of it) and I too get the glazed-eye syndrome. I even had a little old lady come up to me at my last book signing at church to specifically chide me for wanting to write fiction at all. "The Bible's good enough for me!" she gushed. "Yeah, me too, sister," (I felt like replying). I also wanted to say (as I resisted the urge to gently choke her) "This ain't holy writ, dear one; just some gnarly old stories for guys."

Oh well. Soldier on, all. (And if anybody feels like sending up a prayer for us male types, writing for other male types...well, I wouldn't be adverse). *G*

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Great blog posts. Thanks.

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger Matt E. said...

No complaints this time. Good post!

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous tina said...

Beautiful!

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger dianne_lone said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger dianne_lone said...

I am a hopeless romantic.. I like romance novels because it kinda fulfill my dream of being so in love.. Everytime I read these things, I imagine myself with a hot webdate guy who'd love me with all of him.=)

 

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