@Daeus-lamb whoops, thanks for the reminder. 😛
A lot of what I’d have to say has been said already. Just a few thoughts to add.
Disclaimer: I don’t really read romance as a genre. Jane Austen is as close as I get. I adore a good love story side plot though, and would definitely consider myself a ‘hopeless romantic’.
The problem with Christian romance as I understand it from knowing girls who read it and from glancing over the shelves in Christian bookstores, etc., is that it takes the world’s ideas of romance— wild physical attraction = love, ‘following your heart’, struggling girl meets perfect boy, love as a cure for all ills, etc.— and paints it up squeaky clean on the outside. It’s like tying a knife in pink ribbons and glittery wrapping paper and trying to pass it off as a bar of soap.
Not only does it paint falsely glowing pictures of the joys of love, it also glosses over the struggles. Because the stories are sanitized, they can’t address sexual desire or sexual sin. Girls who grow up reading about love as something entirely emotional, then begin to fall in love themselves, will receive a very rude awakening in the form of sexual temptations they aren’t equipped to deal with. They may even mistake the temptations for the ‘heart’ they’re supposed to follow, and only wake up to the truth once it’s too late.
The Christian label, more often than not, is just a mask that allows us to sin in secret, glutting ourselves on emotional drugs that feel oh, so good because we can point to the label and say ‘Look! Christian!’
Girls start thinking about love and marriage at the age of three, just about. (I can’t speak for you guys. ;P ) They’re going to form their opinions on it very, very early, and if they grow up reading sanitized Christian romances (ones that merely reflect the world’s perspectives, or even ones that present a clean picture of ‘what it should be’) they’re going to feel cheated and lost when their own love story begins and it’s nothing like what they were promised.
SO. We already covered all that, pretty much. XD Not only is Christian romance fairly useless, it can also be harmful. I think, though, that the fanatical addiction we see in some girls is simply due to the fact that their families ‘don’t talk about that’. As growing, curious humans who are aching to experience life and excited about every turn in the road, they’re going to satisfy that curiosity somehow. If the closest they can come to that is a barrage of romance novels… they’re going to read a barrage of romance novels. And since their families are holding ‘the talk’ off as long as they possibly can, girls blossom into adulthood with a growing, new curiosity about love, and still only have their romances to guide them.
You mentioned, Daeus, that the Song of Songs is addressed to the young maidens. I agree. But this is assuming, I think, that the young maidens already share the Song’s correct perspective on love in all its aspects, because they’ve been taught by their own mothers the importance of purity and chastity. Without that teaching, the Song would be shocking at the least, possibly even harmful, as it wakes up things that have slept until now and leaves them floundering without direction in an unfamiliar sea.
Romance is definitely something that needs to be addressed candidly and honestly in the home. Kids are sharp. They pick up a lot more than people expect, and if parents are naively believing that the discussion can be postponed until the girl begins to fall in love, they’re kidding themselves and cheating their daughters. (And sons— I’m a girl myself, so I guess I just take it from that perspective. :P) You wouldn’t wait until your child was faced with the temptation to murder before teaching them that murder was wrong, and while that’s slightly more drastic it still applies. These things need to be discussed.
As for writing, I’m not saying a love story has to be crammed full of temptation, darkness, sin, lust, etc. to be worth its salt. Not at all. Nor should sexual desire necessarily always be treated as wickedness, because it isn’t a wicked thing. It’s a gift— the thing is, it’s double-bladed. Swung the wrong way, it becomes an evil thing. That’s its danger. Real struggles need to be addressed— showing the consequences of sinful desire versus the rewards of desire within marriage, as the gift it was intended to be.
Nor am I saying love stories can’t end happily, or present a beautiful picture, because love is a beautiful thing. Every stage of the process, from the shock of the first realization, the clumsy attempts at getting on together before you’re really sure, the doubts, fears, confusion… the exhilaration of courtship, the joys and struggles, confidences and quarrels, of marriage, the fulfilment and challenge of working as a team to raise a family, and the peaceful contentment of growing old together, are all part of one of the most common and beautiful epics God ever gave us. It should be celebrated.
But it should be celebrated honestly. We need to show that the highest joys of love are a result of resisting the many temptations that come with it.
INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.