Christian Speculative Fiction discussion

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Romance in Christian Fiction

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message 1: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
I love a good love story and often include them, but I recently saw a lady express anger at Christian romance because she said it advocated for unhealthy impure relationships. I always thought Christian romance kind of tame, but the missionary dating, arranged/forced marriages, lustful teasing, and other themes among to main Christian characters she mentions are not healthy. I know paranormal romance is extremely popular right now, but I didn't expect it to seep over into Christian fiction. I have recently seen some indie writers include more explicit physical romance in their Christian or clean speculative fiction than what I have been comfortable with and find myself wondering where the line should be. It is more of an issue that I ever expected, probably because I write and read for younger audiences.

What do you all think? We do live in a world full of all sorts of unhealthy relationships, but romantic tension seems only human. How much tension becomes lustful and unhealthy? Just like our swearing topic, do we even need to describe what is going on in the world around our characters, such as homosexual relationships, or should we just side-step it? This is a broad topic, but it actually comes up more than I had expected even a year ago.


message 2: by Stoney (new)

Stoney deGeyter | 134 comments I've never read a romance novel so not sure I can contribute to that conversation specifically, but in the issue of relationships in the writing, I don't see any reason not to write what is real in today's world. Just be careful not to advocate for sinful behavior. I think it's fine if characters do things that are considered sinful, so long as it's recognized as such by one of the characters and that there isn't too much detail of what they are doing.

As for homosexuals in Christian fiction, this is a tough one. It seems whenever I see a homosexual character in a show I like my thought is "Of course, they just had to work that in." But at the same time, this is now the reality of the world we live in. I've considered writing in a homosexual character into my next book only because it would be logical to have a such a character in this particular setting. And I figure I might be able to use that to show Christlike love from the other characters.


message 3: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Stoney wrote: "I've never read a romance novel so not sure I can contribute to that conversation specifically, but in the issue of relationships in the writing, I don't see any reason not to write what is real in..."

I agree with your points. I do think it is important to have some character to point out or show what a healthy relationship is in contrast, without being preachy. I think quite a few people in our culture, even Christians, have been confused by the media and can't recognize what is healthy. In the writing I am currently working on, I am finding myself engaged in what is a healthy relationship and what is an abusive relationship. I think scripture helps us see this, but I think fiction helps us apply it.


message 4: by Stan (new)

Stan | 288 comments Mod
Lara wrote: "I love a good love story and often include them, but I recently saw a lady express anger at Christian romance because she said it advocated for unhealthy impure relationships."

It has been a long time since I read anything in this category. Unless, of course, you consider the Bible. Oops! Did I go there?

Back to my original thought for a response. Years ago my wife and I read the O'Malley series of books by Dee Henderson. Amazing concept that I really wish had been picked up by Christian TV or movies. Anyway, my one complaint is that pretty much all the women pursued millionaires. I found it to be highly unrealistic and setting a pretty bad conceptual framework for Christian women. I actually began to wonder whether the author could write a female character that wasn't a gold-digger. Anyway, there are many ways to write unhealthy relationships, and money is one of those ways.


message 5: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Stan wrote: "It has been a long time since I read anything in this category. Unless, of course, you consider the Bible. Oops! Did I go there?"

The Bible certainly has a lot of romance, both pure and not so pure. My favorite romantic story is Ruth who goes after a "millionaire" for all the right reasons! (Though I do agree that I get tired of gold-digger stories in literature.) I think when it comes to drawing lines in the sand, the Bible kind of obliterates it. I end up left with what is the spirit behind the relationship.

Manipulative relationships, co-dependency, and victim fantasies drive me nuts. This wasn't meant to be just about romance books specifically because I see this in fairytale style fantasy books A LOT.

A few books have an arranged marriage situation where the woman has to endure emotional abuse. Read two recently.

Multiple books have love triangles where characters act unfairly to other characters. I avoid those books as much as possible.

Some books have a male character enduring a bratty female character's verbal abuse because he is in love with her. This is the most common style of unhealthy relationships in some of the facebook indie book club groups I've been part of. Those make me really angry!

In Christian books, I haven't found as many flat female characters just there for a good-looking love interest. They are more common in secular fantasy fiction. I think perhaps it's because the Christian fantasy books I have read are written by women who I suspect are not married. I am not sure if these writers know how to make a strong female character who isn't bossy or a sensitive man character who isn't a push-over. Maybe I'm sexist. I have have been accused of it at times.

For me (very much my opinion here!), I feel like a strong female character is one who is confident, feminine, and perseveres. A women's strengths can be her sensitivity to the needs of others and a tenacity to get things done- a natural mama bear instinct. This can be done multiple ways and even add a sword to her hand.

A strong male character can be strong, competent, and compassionate. He doesn't have to be perfect, but a strong female character should lift him up with encouragement rather than make him feel stupid all the time. A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect and sensitivity. I have noticed that men have a strong instinct to protect. This should be a good thing rather than be constantly torn to shreds by a female character who wants to prove herself. I honestly feel sorry for the men in these books. Get out while you still can!

The couple should look out for each other and care for each other, rather than be in competition. I also hate when, even in Christian fiction, the love story is just built on lust and physical attraction. Appearance is fine, but people are more than just flesh. They should have something in common: values, interests, hopes, and dreams... maybe faith? Just saying.

I feel like this is the kind of relationship Paul continually tried to describe. Proverbs has much on this too. My study on the book of Ruth actually pulls this out with the constant theme of "loving-kindness" mentioned over and over again.

I'm really not answering my own original question, but I guess I am just ranting over the fact that I want more Christian love stories to be healthy!


message 6: by Stan (new)

Stan | 288 comments Mod
Lara wrote: "The Bible certainly has a lot of romance, both pure and not so pure. My favorite romantic story is Ruth who goes after a "millionaire" for all the right reasons!"

Of course, there is that troubling statement about Ruth uncovering Boaz's feet. I do like to give here the benefit of the doubt, but that cryptic statement can have a less than pure meaning.

As for the rest of your comments, I tend to agree. I think we need to see more Christian fiction that lines up with "husbands love your wives and wives respect your husbands." In today's world, whether it be TV or books, men, especially husbands and dads, are little more than comic relief, portrayed often as buffoons and with little, if any, respect from their wives and children.

Personally, I love the shield-maidens of Rohan. But, within their cultures there is proper respect.

Ok. I'll end my rant here.


message 7: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Stan wrote: "Of course, there is that troubling statement about Ruth uncovering Boaz's feet. I do like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but that cryptic statement can have a less than pure meaning."

I do know what you are talking about and have read a couple of commentaries on the subject. I have looked at the Hebrew myself, and it is just as vague in the original language too. It actually says feet, meaning exactly the same as in English. I can't find good proof that this phrasing is used in other places in the Bible either. The Bible tends to be blunter about sexual encounters than this. In my opinion, which is of a nonscholar, I can't see the story holding up with that being an impure scene. It ends up breaking down the virtue of both characters which then makes Ruth's reputation and Boaz praise of her nonsense. One would have to try to read the story behind the story to make it fit. The final narrator has both characters on a pedestal of goodness. In my innocent pretty little world, I believe feet actually means feet since I can't find good proof to show otherwise.

Still, the whole situation of Ruth exposing herself to a sexually dangerous situation does call into question my rant against sexual tension and teasing in a story. She is most definitely not safe in her approaching Boaz at night in a secluded place. I have argued in my women's Sunday school classes that this was the only place she could make her argument without anyone knowing about it. If she came to him during the day, it would be publically known that she came to ask this favor of him (which would look like gold-digging and an embarrassment) and the nearer relative would know about it. Very little stays secret in small towns and servants hear everything as they do in the David and Bathsheba story. It would also be inappropriate for a penniless widow to propose marriage to a man much higher in station to her, and it would be offensive if she tried to publicly make him do it with the kinsman-redeemer law. That is manipulative. She also has no man to negotiate this marriage on her behalf which is the way it was typically done in ancient Isreal. You never see a woman directly arrange her own marriage other than in this story, though she sometimes is asked her opinion in the case of Rebecca. With the request being in secret, Boaz can act independantly as he sees fit and isn't being forced into a specific action publicly. Ruth is actually preserving Boaz's dignity at the risk of her own virtue, and she is also making to request in the only way that would put her in a favorable light as well. This secrecy ends up giving him more power in the negotiations at the end.

The Bible certainly isn't for the prudish! Very few stories in the old testament paint the picture of a healthy relationship I described early. I guess it gives me something to ponder.


message 8: by Stan (new)

Stan | 288 comments Mod
Lara wrote: "Stan wrote: "Of course, there is that troubling statement about Ruth uncovering Boaz's feet. I do like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but that cryptic statement can have a less than pure mea..."

Good assessment! This is why I give Ruth the benefit of the doubt when this question comes up.

Of course, our concept of marriage is different than it was in OT times, which complicates our applications of OT stories to present day values. The story of Rebecca is particularly difficult with modern Western church teachings on what marriage is and what is appropriate before and after a wedding ceremony.

You definitely started an interesting conversation!


message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann | 50 comments I've enjoyed reading this conversation very much and I'm not sure if I have much to add. I haven't read too much Christian romance, but if there is a desire for romance in both men and women, God put it there for us to enjoy.

I agree with with Lara on your assessment with romance gone wrong. I remember one novel set in the reformation period of a preacher that thought his desire for his wife was sinful so the whole novel was centered on unfulfillment for both parties. Worst novel ever. I often have pondered Adam and Eve's romance. I'm sure that discovering each other and then putting up with each other must have been quite the inside story. Maybe one of you authors could write it for me? I'm still waiting for a man after God's own heart to recognize me and say, "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!"
One other thing is that romance isn't just for the young. I'm pushing 60 and the desire for romance hasn't diminished in the least.
Thanks for such a riveting conversation.


message 10: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Ann wrote: "I often have pondered Adam and Eve's romance. I'm sure that discovering each other and then putting up with each other must have been quite the inside story. Maybe one of you authors could write it for me?"

I think Peter just reviewed a book you may like that has a fictionalized Adam and Eve story:

Fallen: A Biblical Story of Good and Evil
Fallen A Biblical Story of Good and Evil by Melinda Viergever Inman


message 11: by Ann (new)

Ann | 50 comments Thank you! Sounds like a great read. I just put it on my want to read list.


message 12: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "I'm sorry I mentioned my own writing (it's ok if this message is taken down). Lara's passion for clean romance is something that I, too, share. So, I wanted to contribute from my heart. "

It's fine to mention your book since it is in the context of this topic. I like to write love stories too, but not all of my books have one. When I finished my first book, it was the only thing I could talk about!

I had never heard of "The Witch of Blackbird Pond." I'll have to look it up. I like how you describe it. My first book, Gryphendale, has two kisses. That's it. I am most definitely not against physical affection in a book, but I do think it often ends up the focus instead of the more lasting emotional and spiritual connection.

I recently read a really great fantasy fiction book that had a wonderful love story, but the author killed one of the characters off. Drat! Still, it makes me happy to see some good writers are out there who still understand what real love is.


message 13: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "I get so tired and burned out from all the new teen books (especially fantasy) having politically-leaning, feminist protagonists. It just feels like propaganda being shoved down my throat.
Why can't meekness be viewed as strength anymore? --or a gentle spirit be seen as an asset? "


Oh!!! This is a huge pet peeve of mine! I start ranting to my husband about popular fantasy fiction books having bitchy female characters all the time. He says I'm sexist. Lol!

I wish these writers would watch the most recent Wonder Woman movie. Never mind about the plot, Diana, though, is a fantastic example of a warrior woman who doesn't need a chip on her shoulder to be strong. Strength doesn't come from anger. Strength comes from competence and virtue (not that her virtue was perfect or Christian).

I also like the clever maid stereotype from classic fairy tales such as the "Fisherman's Daughter" or Morgiana in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." They don't really make movies of these stories much, and books are often not based on them, but the woman in these stories are super clever and protect the men in their lives without even picking up a sword. I am working on a book called "The Secrets of Cinnamon Cinderguard," and she saves her nation without a sword or magic powers. She is just daring and clever.

Women have strength in being women, and I feel like the modern feminist want women to become men to have value. I once read a quote that I liked: "A woman who wants to be a man lacks ambition." We need more books with strong women who have virtue and strength in their God-given gifts without anger or bitterness to drive them.

Rant over. Lol!


message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve Pillinger | 517 comments Mod
Lara wrote: …"A woman who wants to be a man lacks ambition."

I like that!


message 15: by Lara (new)

Lara Lee | 507 comments Mod
Thanks! I wish I knew who actually said it first, but it's been attributed to at least four different historical women.


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