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 (Manna 59: Technology and Entertainment)
Romance in Entertainment Media
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Romance in Entertainment Media

Rebecca Yuan—Canoga Park, California, USA

To relax and take a break from our work or studies, we often turn to media entertainment, which may be more easily accessible than other hobbies or activities.

But before we decide to spend three minutes listening to a song, two hours watching a movie, or ten hours reading a bestselling novel, we need to consider what we are putting into our heart through our eyes and ears. Will our choice of entertainment help us stay pure, or will it pollute the wellspring of our life?


From children’s animated movies to television dramas, romance seems to be everywhere. Cartoons teach preschoolers that the prince and princess meet, kiss, marry, and live happily ever after. Teen-oriented books constantly rehash the age-old themes of first and forbidden love. The airwaves are inundated with songs about love or lost love.

Media producers continue making romantically-themed products because they know that people naturally desire love and are willing to pay to vicariously experience the excitement of being in love.

Unfortunately, without God, many producers misconstrue true love, and the notions that they sell in their romances can really harm our spiritual health and relationships.

What are some dangers to being emotionally entangled in fictional romance? How can we protect ourselves from being spiritually weakened by too much romantic media?

Danger #1: Confusing Love with Desire

The Bible tells us that the meaning of true love is sacrifice. As 1 John says,

            [F]or love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 Jn 4:7-10, NIV)

But too often the media interprets desire as love in the same way that Shechem did. Shechem was a young man who “fell in love” with Jacob’s daughter, Dinah. However, to instantly gratify his desire, he forced himself upon her. The Bible records:

            And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. (Gen 34:2, 3)

Did Shechem really love Dinah? Not according to God’s definition of true love. Instead of being willing to sacrifice, Shechem’s love was a selfish and covetous desire that disregarded Dinah’s will and purity.

Romantic storylines are not usually as violent, but they often encourage us to strongly desire, objectify, and pursue the opposite sex in the same carnal way that Shechem did. They preach the instant gratification of desire through the thrill of pursuit (flirtation, flowers, candle-lit dinners) and physical intimacy (passionate kissing, long embraces, sexual contact).

Kissing is portrayed as an innocent act, the loss of virginity mistaken as a rite of passage, fornication justified as a consummation of love, and adultery excused as long as people are escaping loveless marriages.

In short, modern-day romantic media promote an unbridled desire that is not held back by purity, patience, commitment, or the fear of God.

If we find ourselves rooting for our hero or heroine’s impure actions; if we start enjoying the sights and sounds of improper conduct in God’s eyes; if we find ourselves drawn to desire masquerading as love, then perhaps we need to reconsider what we are putting into our hearts. Let us remember that the consequence of unchecked desire is death.

            But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (Jas 1:14, 15)

As Christians, we simply cannot confuse love and desire because we are holy to the Lord.

            But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph 5:3, NIV)

Danger #2: Distracting the Unmarried from God

Singlehood is often the best time to serve God because it is a period with the least familial responsibilities. That is why Paul tells us:

            He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. (1 Cor 7:32-34)

Unfortunately, unmarried Christians are often distracted from God because of secular ideas of romance. Consuming too much romance causes us to awaken love before its time (Song 2:7) and seek to please the opposite sex before the proper time of marriage.

Instead of doing all we can for the Lord, we spend our time pining for that prince in shining armor or the fair maiden who will fulfill our heart’s desire. Sometimes we worry so much over finding that perfect someone that we lose our focus and inner peace. As James describes,

            Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have…. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (Jas 4:1-3)

If this is the case, let us stand up to the media’s message that we need to find someone to “complete us” and strive to become “perfect and complete” in the Lord (Jas 1:4). Let us also hold onto the promise that if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” God will take care of all our other needs (Mt 6:33).

Danger #3: Creating Unrealistic Expectations for Marriage

Another danger of romance in the media is that it helps create unrealistic expectations for a spouse or future spouse.

In romances, leading men are usually handsome, fit, well-dressed, charming, and attentive to every whim of his lady. Leading women have gorgeous figures, flattering clothes, flawless faces, and rarely nag. They seldom have financial problems and their houses are always clean.

If people internalize these traits of perfect husbands and wives, they may become bitterly disappointed by the discrepancies between fantasy and reality.

To counter the media’s idea of marital expectations, let us focus on the spousal responsibilities given to us by the Bible:

            Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her… let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:22-25, 33)

More importantly, let us remember that contrary to what the media tell us, our goal on earth is not merely finding romantic love or fulfillment. As the Bible tells us,

            [W]hatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23, 24)


If we are a regular consumer of romantically-themed media (movies, dramas, music, books, etc.), let us ask ourselves the following questions:

1.      Do I find myself living vicariously through the romance of fictional characters?

2.      Does my media consumption cause me to desire the opposite sex in a way that is not pleasing to God?

3.      Do I have a hard time walking away from romantically-themed media entertainment?

4.      Does my media choice distract me from being wholeheartedly devoted to God in my singlehood?

5.      Do I fantasize about a fictional character and view them as my ideal mate?

6.      Does my media choice cause me to form unrealistic expectations for my spouse or future spouse?

If we answered “yes” to any of the questions above, perhaps we have already fallen into the entanglements of fictional romance. What, then, can we do to escape?

Action #1: Reduce Romantic Media Consumption

If romantic media is causing us to stray from God’s teachings, the most immediate action we can take is to exercise self-control and reduce our media consumption. It may be painful to lessen or forgo something we enjoy so much, but we must remember that we are constantly in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12).

In order to resist being eaten alive by the devil, we must be sober and vigilant (1 Pet 5:8). We must be like Paul, who said,

            But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27)

Action #2: Replace Romantic Media Consumption with More Beneficial Activities

When we make the determination to reduce romantic media consumption, we should also make plans to fill the gap in our schedule with something more beneficial to our spiritual health. Otherwise, we may feel bored, restless, and tempted to return to romance.

There are a variety of activities that will allow us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time” (Eph 5:15, 16). We just need to be a little more creative.

Instead of indulging in romantic media, we can find activities that are both enjoyable and useful in our service to the Lord.

We can strengthen our bodies through exercise, refine or acquire new skills (for example, in cooking, music, languages, crafts, writing, art, computers, organization, cleaning, fixing appliances, to name a few), or help someone in need (encourage a friend, send a care package, volunteer, etc.).

When choosing the replacement activity, let us remember Paul’s encouragement on what we should fill our minds with:

            [W]hatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil 4:8)

Action #3: Renew Our Commitment to Stay Holy and Pure

Most importantly, as we escape the entanglements of romantic media, we need to pray to God and renew our commitment to be holy and pure.

God is holy and intends for us to be holy (1 Pet 1:13-16). He also knows our struggles because He was tempted like us (Heb 4:15). If we come before Him to ask for help, He will help us overcome our temptations.

As James tells us,

            Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (Jas 4:7, 8)

May we honestly evaluate our relationship with media romance. If need be, let us make the determination to break free from its influence. Let us ask for God’s guidance so we may redeem our precious time on earth and live our lives worthy of the Lord.


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Author: Rebecca Yuan