I was put off by that very excess of romanticism; real love does not occur instantaneously; other people and pursuits do matter; no love is unconditional, and shouldn’t be. Edward now seems to me not romantic but creepy: breaking into Bella’s house to watch her sleep, obsessing over her every move, all but stalking her. She seems to me immature in her disdain for everyone but Edward: the “friends” she makes at school, the father who gives her a home and tries to please her, the entire Olympic Peninsula. The vampirism, in fact, seemed to me more believable than the relationship
Her remarks encapsulated what I’ve heard from others, but they also made me wonder: In a similar way, do we Christian writers romanticize Christ?
It’s hard to do, He being perfect and all. How do you make perfect look better than it is?
Perhaps His very perfection makes it daunting for authors to put Him in their stories at all, even in their fantasies. After all, characters need to be three dimensional, the writing experts tell us. We need to show strengths and weaknesses if a character is to be realistic. Putting a perfect Christ-figure into a story, then, would break all the writing rules (even the ones that don’t actually exist 😉 ).
Maybe this is why Aslan and Narnia are so popular. Lewis showed Christ, depicting Him as strong yet loving, still without fault and clearly believable — hence, no hint of romanticism.
I suspect, however, that the problem for most Christian fiction isn’t in romanticizing Christ — because, quite frankly, He isn’t in most Christian fiction, not even in a lot of speculative fiction. Rather we might be romanticizing our relationship with Him.
Christ, like His unseen Father, might be talked about and even talked to. Occasionally characters might hear His voice, though not audibly. And yet this relationship seems perfect. It changes people inside out and heals hurts, provides answers, lifts burdens.
Are there no rocky times? Do characters ever say no to the voice of God? Do they, like Jonah, ever head in the opposite direction, knowing that they are the cause of the disaster that befalls them? Do we only show David defeating Goliah, never him deserting to the Philistines?
And after characters say yes to God, do they ever split from their ministry partner like Paul did from Barnabas? Do they ever act the hypocrite as Peter did with the Gentile Christians when the Jewish ones showed up?
Yes, those last things might happen in our stories, but do we show them as part of imperfect human relationships or part of an imperfect relationship with Jesus?
And in the end, do we resolve the struggle in a way that suggests it is forever resolved?
Fairytale love stories ended, And they lived happily ever after. Is the same ending the implied promise of Christian fiction?
And how, since we know that there actually is an ultimate happily-ever-after ending which comes from our relationship with Christ, do we depict the not so happy here and now that a character must face even after meeting Him? If we leave that part out of the story, are we not creating a romanticized version of our relationship with Christ, one that ends up actually looking immature if not a little creepy to someone on the outside?