Our culture loves romance. Pop music is full of it, it has a book genre named after it, whole movie genres centre around it and many magazines devote themselves to the romances of the famous. Romance even has a special day dedicated to it- Valentine’s day.
Christian culture also likes romance. We may seek to present a more wholesome version of it, but nonetheless, romance is given a valued place in Christian culture. We talk about true love waiting or finding our soul mate. We preach sermons on the goodness of marriage. Christian bookstores are filled with books about getting or staying married.
On the surface these all seem like wonderful things. Some of them are good, biblical things. However, in chapter 2 of Sacred Unions, Sacred passions, Dan Brennan contends that there is an dark side to our elevation of romantic relationships.
Brennan argues that elevating romantic relationships to being the highest, closest and most fulfilling form of male-female relationship is not particularly healthy. Couples get to be seen as tight units that are very distinct from society. Under this model close non-romantic friendships are discouraged on the basis of being a threat to romantic relationships. Rather than protecting romantic relationships, he suggests that we may be damaging them. Romance cannot substitute for deep friendship and the elevation of romance risks encouraging too much credence being given to the impossible ideal of a perfect soul mate.
Singles suffer too under the elevation of romance. Not being able to experience romantic love comes to seem cruel. Brennan goes as far as to say that some Christian thinking implies that single Christians cannot know God as well as the married.
Most central to the message of the chapter and the book is how the elevation of romance robs us of close friendships between men and women and even friendships between people of the same gender. When so many expressions of closeness are assumed to almost always have romantic connotations, we loose valuable ways of knowing people as friends.
As a single woman, I have experienced the effects of these ideas. It is entirely too easy to start wondering if romance is what will fulfill me rather than seeking to draw near to God and develop deep friendships. Contentment in singleness is not always easy. It also can be easy to slip into evaluating guys on the basis of romantic potential rather than valuing them for the friend that they are.
1. Do you think Brennan is right in thinking we make too much of romance?
2. What are some examples you have seen of these ideas in practice?
3. How might the lessons of this chapter make a difference to how we live?