by Julie Lessman, @julielessman
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? In a world where our God created passion and romance, wouldn’t it be amazing if a Christian romance novel topped the best-seller lists around the world? Sold over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015? Was translated into 52 languages? Set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time? Became a box-office breaking movie?
I’m talking, of course, about the runaway bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, a romance novel that single-handedly catapulted erotica to the top of TBR lists everywhere.
I wonder, does this tick anybody else off? I hope so. Because the truth is we followers of Christ are supposed to be salt in an unsavory world, and trust me, it doesn’t get anymore “unsavory” than the romance genre. A genre with approximately $1.08 billion in sales in 2013 per Romance Writers of America and cinching 34% of the U.S. fiction market in 2015.
According to an American Religious Identification Survey “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” Ironically, most of these women who do read romance wouldn’t choose Christian romance to save their soul. Why, you may ask? Well, those I’ve talked to say they prefer more heart-pounding, 21st-century romantic passion realistic to today’s society. As a result, most of my friends, Christian and non, read secular romance, which, of course, generally promotes the world’s amoral lifestyle rather than God’s. What’s wrong with this picture? I mean if the world can take something God created and use it to sell its amoral agenda, then why can’t Christians utilize this God-given passion to promote Him and His precepts?
Look at the world today—it’s obsessed with illicit passion. Hollywood promotes adultery and unmarried couples sleeping together as sexy, and living together is “the new normal,” according to Pamela J. Smock, Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. Why? Because passion is important! Not just to romance readers, but to everyone on the planet. We were created that way by a passionate God who analogizes His own depth of love for each of us in a very passionate love letter called “Song of Solomon.” And what happens? The world uses this beautiful, God-given gift to shove sin down peoples’ throats, and I, for one, am really sick of it. I’d love to see the Christian market broaden its tent pegs to use romantic passion to teach people God’s precepts and therein, His love.
The cry of my heart is that my stories of romantic passion translate into passion for God, which is why my tagline is “Passion With a Purpose.” But those who disagree with me do give me pause to think … and pray … that I stay the course with God’s plan and not my own. I thank them for their passion for purity, which I assure them, is as fervent as mine, something I’ve expounded on in greater detail in my blog entitled, Life on the Edge.
I truly understand the concern and “passion” of those who feel Christian romance must remain chaste and pure. But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Christians like me, who worry that “chaste and pure” will not reach the Fifty Shades of Grey or MTV crowd anymore than old-time Gospel music will reach those who listen to Christian rock such as Pillar or Underoath. The Body of Christ is just that—a body of human beings at varying levels of faith. It’s not one size fits all in reaching people for Christ, but it’s the cry of St. Paul who said “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
Salt … in an unsavory world.
So at the core of who I am as a woman and a writer, I have this deep, primal longing to please and honor my God, something I pray about often. In fact, I was praying about it with my prayer partner one day when her 25-year-old daughter stopped by, a girl who had strayed from her Christian roots—living with her boyfriend, not going to church anymore, heavy drinking, etc.
This young women proceeded to tell me that when she read my books, she actually got angry at me. Why? Because the spiritual parts convicted her so much that she wanted to throw the books out. But she didn’t, she said, because the passion and intense romance so grabbed her by the throat, that she was compelled to finish the books. And when she turned the last page of one of them, she told me it had brought her up to a whole other level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him.
Call me “edgy” if you will, but for me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
So … “Fifty Shades of Grey?” Or “Fifty Shades of Pray?” My hope is for the latter… and so are my prayers.
FIFTY SHADES OF … PRAY? by @julielessman on @NovelRocket #writng http://bit.ly/2vJ1Slx
Christian Romance in a secular world. The harvest is great, but the workers are few @julielessman @NovelRocket http://bit.ly/2vJ1Slx
Salt … in an unsavory world. @julielessman on @NovelRocket #writng http://bit.ly/2vJ1Slx
His Steadfast Love
(Book 3 in the Isle of Hope Series)
She’s a prodigal. He’s a pastor.
Will his steadfast love woo her back home?
Cat O’Bryen is not happy with God. First the pastor father with whom she finally with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.
Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who almost destroyed his life, ex-Navy-Seal Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back, both to them and to her faith. But when the attraction she poses proves too strong to resist, he must rely on a higher strength to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God Whose love is wooing her home.
A Glimmer of Hope, prequel novella to the Isle of Hope Series is currently available as a FREE DOWNLOAD.
Isle of Hope, book 1 in the Isle of Hope Series is currently on e-sale for 99 cents.
Love Everlasting, book 2 in the Isle of Hope Series is currently on e-sale at 50%.
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015 and 2014 as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets.
Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com