The Emotional Pornography of Nicholas Sparks
When the church talks about pornography (which they do often), they talk about how:
It normalizes the abnormal
It stunts instead of liberating natural desires
It promotes unattainable standards
It rewires the brain
These things may be true, but they’re also true of an area that the church all but ignores.
Questioning the romance industry
Whether it’s romance novels, rom-coms, Disney princesses, or The Bachelor, we unquestioningly steep ourselves in a fantasy that relationships can somehow be different than they are.
As Christians, you’d think that we’d value the gritty truth over the glittering nonsense, but we don’t. In place of Harlequin novels, we offer the passionate Quaker romance combined with just enough Jesus to give it a gospel tract flavor.
From these offerings we get idealized images of manly and rough men who are also appropriately vulnerable and sensitive. We get stunning women who roll out of bed with perfect hair and have never destroyed a bathroom. And we get the endorphin rush of perfect, never-failing love.
This illusion seeps back into the church via sermons, relationship books, and blog posts that promise that these model relationships are just a marriage conference and date night away.
Romance and the Bible
If we use Nicholas Sparks novels as a standard by which we judge our relationships, we’re going to hate our weaknesses and resent the failures of our loved ones. We’re going to be slogging through the daily grinds of our relationships thinking that that someone else out there is having the love life we’ve been promised.
The truth is sometimes love is rapture and sometimes it’s just routine. Sometimes there’s no place you’d rather be than by their side and other times the best you can hope for is a case of Stockholm syndrome. Love is just as full of little betrayals as it is roses and heart-shaped candies. We’re a mess, life’s a mess, and relationships are a mess.
One thing I love about Scripture is that there isn’t any of these idealized, perfect, Disney couplings. The people are honest and more of a mess than we allow ourselves to be—and so are their relationships.
The more you know about the stories of lovers in the Bible, the more you see relationships you would never want to emulate. Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, and Adam and Eve: every one of these relationship includes failures and disappointments—some of them excessive.
Even the Song of Solomon, the Bible’s erotic poem of love was most likely written for one of, if not from an amalgamation of, the author’s multiple wives.
When Scripture is so transparent in its honesty about what life and love is like, why do we force ourselves to strain and push for an idealized fantasy? I don’t think we need to dump romantic novels and films, but maybe it’s time we accepted the fact that they’re emotional pornography.