(This blog is about an 11 minute read)
As we think about St Valentine’s Day coming up this Sunday, it is easy to get caught up in the Hollywood version of romance and relationships. In that narrative, romantic love, passion, sex and attraction are the four key ingredients in a good relationship. While all four are important – I want to argue that liking the other person’s company, sacrificial love, compatibility and trust are the four key foundational ingredients.
The Transformation of Western Culture
Up until the 1920s, in what was known as the long era of Christendom’s hegemony or dominance, couples came together through a courtship process that was well defined and effective, and sought to honour the biblical way. However, with the rise of American cinema in the 1920s and 30s, both in the Silent movies and into the era of the Talkies, as they called them, the Hollywood idea of dating came much more to the fore.
Courtship was a community defined process for the couple to get to know each other at a much deeper level, the wider families got to know the other families, and the community was able to be part of supporting them; whereas, dating was an American construct highlighting the much more individualistic nature of the American society.
The issue with the United States was that it was a melting pot for people coming from different cultures and backgrounds to meet and live in a nation driven by the ‘American Dream’ of getting ahead and becoming rich and successful. Many of these immigrants came alone as young people with no parents in tow; and therefore, they now had an unprecedented amount of personal freedom to indulge their passions compared to the morally stricter societies they came from.
Part of this freedom was to personalise how couples met and developed their relationships. Of course as the American society developed, then the impact of Christian morals became more pronounced; however, the seeds of the laissez-faire culture were already sown deep into the American consciousness – it means letting people do their own things without interfering too much.
The Impact of the Movies
Hollywood, and the Movie Industries in many other countries too, were populated by a lot of Bohemian type people whose Moral outlook on life was decidedly against what God’s word said it should be. It was supposed to be a Christian society, but the rot at the heart of the movie industry in Hollywood, the Weimar Republic in Germany, Italy and France seeped out through the movies into the wider society.
A lot, not all, but still a significant number of the Directors, Producers and senior people in the Motion Picture Industry were men with questionable morals. In fact, many were narcissistic, controlling and depraved who used their power to gratify their own evil desires.
I used to love watching old movies, but now every time I do so – I look at the actresses, and many of the young actors, in them and think, ‘I wonder as a young woman, or man, coming to Hollywood, what you had to endure in order to get hired when you first started your career – how your life was ruined by the sexual predators you encountered and were expected to submit to (many were sadly raped and suffered terrible maltreatment)?’
The high rates of divorce, affairs and promiscuity in the industry speaks of people whose moral compass had been subverted at some point. I could even go farther and say that many of them exhibited behaviour consistent with being sexual abuse victims. The large volume of drug and alcohol misuse, and destructive patterns of many of their lives would support that.
The stories that have come out through the ‘Me Too Movement’ of Hollywood are shameful and a disgrace. The ‘Casting Couch’ experiences many of these actresses and actors experienced actually makes me feel really sad at the way, often innocent, young women, and men, were violated and corrupted by a brutal industry that set itself up as the bright and shining hope presenting visions of a better, glamorised, consumer-driven world.
The truth is that it has been going on in Hollywood, the wider Movie Industry, and even in the TV Industries, around the world, from their founding right up to the present day. This is a disgrace, a heinous betrayal of trust, and a terrible blight on the world. God will hold to account those who perpetrated these terrible crimes; they were great sins, and have indoctrinated the wider society through the portrayal of standards for society in its films and on TV which are antichrist in nature and unchristian in practice.
The nature of Western Society has been shaped more by the Movies in this last 100 years than other single factor – certainly more than by Christianity. I had never given this much thought until a few years ago. The more I have thought about it, the more I have realised how Hollywood’s, and the wider TV and Movie industries, have transformed our views of what is acceptable, what is honourable, and what is a godly relationship.
Godly Relationships Honour Trust
So what is a godly relationship? I think it is one full of grace, humility, compassion sacrificial love and trust. In a long relationship there are seasons when different parts of the relationship can wax and wane; yet, in my experience, the one area that is almost sacrosanct is trust.
If trust is diluted, comes under pressure, or is broken – then that relationship is in trouble. Trust is the foundation stone upon which everything else stands. To maintain trust – godly wisdom, forgiveness offered and given, a determination to honour our vows, and to keep the marriage bed undefiled are vital.
Even sacrificial love can ebb and flow, attraction, passion and sex can lose their zest, we can go through times of not really needing to spend much time together, we all change and develop in the relationship – if we are wise and continue to speak well of and to each other, demonstrate care and understanding, and support each other loving and respecting each other unconditionally, then everything else can come back better than ever; particularly as Christians, if both keep Christ at the centre of their relationship. He works with and in the couple, and enables the bonds of holy marriage to be strengthened.
We Need to Speak of What a Good Relationship Looks Like
This is the insight and understanding that needs to be taught more and modelled in our conversations, teaching and friendships. The ebb and flow in a relationship is a natural rhythm – there are times when the clouds come, outside pressures impact, busyness can affect how we are with each other, and distractions can make us feel differently.
The solid thing is that in a Christian marriage, we have vowed our troth to each other till death do us part, and thus, our will and mindset overrides our emotions and feelings at any given period of time. As long as we know our spouse is a person of good heart and good intention, even when they get things wrong, sin and act in very human ways, trust remains and we grow stronger together in the long run.
However, if trust is undermined or broken, it requires a completely different level of support, intervention and focus. If it is undermined by bad behaviour, a bad attitude, or a foolish statement – then in time, with due care and attention, trust can be rebuilt.
If it is broken completely, then it is a long, hard, difficult, redemptive road back which will require a lot of humility, patience and good grace, and outside counsel and support; it can be healed, but there will always be the mark or scar where trust broke.
Our Hope is Christ
Christ is a specialist in redemption redeeming the most impossible of people, and the most broken of relationships. They say time is a healer – time is only a healer if godly steps are taken to aid the process of healing. If things are brushed under the carpet, they fester and that baggage remains in the relationship weighing it down and removing joy from the relationship.
Baggage can grow as people avoid dealing with the big issues and eventually the relationship breaks down, or the people live separate, emotionally distant lives while still being in a relationship in name only. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. God is able. Many can testify to Christ redeeming the most broken of people, and even the most seemingly broken of relationships.
Our joy is also a precious commodity, and as Christians, the source of our joy is external – the joy of the Lord is our strength. This means that even when things are tough – His joy remains our invisible source of strength. Trust and joy, unconditional love and respect, and a firm commitment are all factors that contribute to a stable, good, healthy and fulfilling relationship.
May God grant us insight and understanding of the times we are living in, and the knowledge to know what we should do to root Christ at the heart of our society, change the culture in godly ways, and establish strong, beautiful relationships that point people to Christ, and reflect well on His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). Amen