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December 5, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | December 5, 2008 |

I warred with myself over purchasing this book. It wasn’t over the price, because it was just under my joke purchase price ceiling, but rather because I couldn’t decide if the pleasure of schadenfreude over reading this book would be worth the pain and humiliation of actually purchasing it. Ultimately, I did decide to buy it, because I thought it would be less humiliating to buy with cash anonymously rather than check it out at the library and have that shit go on record with the NSA.

For those of you not in the know, The Love Dare was the god-spawn of the wonderful soon-to-be-nominated-for-multiple-Oscars Fireproof, which features the incomparable Kurt Cameron as a firefighter who is considering divorcing his wife, but saves his marriage by reading a fictional book that shows him the way and the light. The movie’s producers saw an opportunity to make money on idiot Christians wanted to reach out and help people in troubled marriages similar to the one portrayed on the silver screen. It’s a self help book, set up with forty chapters, one for each day of the ‘journey,’ giving you advice about what love is and then assigning you homework about how to best apply the lesson to your spouse, and a place to journal about the experience. The homework is written as a ‘dare’ — as in, I dare you to actually listen to your wife when she speaks or I dare you to ask God to make the sex you are going to initiate today enjoyable. Because apparently, people who turn to Jesus books to save their marriages are also 8-year-olds who respond to reverse psychology.

Obviously, I didn’t journal. Nor did conduct any of the experiments with my spouse, mostly because my wife and I only got ‘married’ as a show of solidarity with other gay couples, and it wasn’t a real marriage as it was officiated by a drag queen and our wedding rings were ring pops.

The book starts off by quoting one of my favorite passages (my third favorite, to be exact) from the bible — 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

If I speak with the tongues of men and
of angels, but do not have love, I have
become a noisy gong of a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy,
and know all mysteries and all
knowledge; and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to
feed the poor, and if I surrender my
body to be burned, but do not have love,
it profiteth me nothing.

What does this have to do with the book? Nothing. Not that I know a whole lot about marriage, but I’ve seen enough fail to know that love isn’t the only thing it needs to survive. Marriage is complicated, and getting advice on how to save it from jesus freaks who wrote a movie about it probably isn’t going to help.

Which isn’t to say the book is evil — most of the advice is decent: listen to your spouse, consider their needs, don’t be a jerk. But if you need Bible references to teach you to not be a dick, maybe you shouldn’t be married in the first place.

The prose, by the way, is flat out terrible: “Anger almost never makes things better. In fact, it usually generates new problems. But Patience stops problems in their tracks.” “Someone who knows us this intimately can either love us at depths we never imagined, or can wound us in ways we may never fully recover from. It’s both the fire and the fear of marriage.” Fire and fear? What the fuck does that even mean?

Of course it goes without saying that it’s entirely sexist. Every example always involves men watching football and women cooking, and the subtle implication in every paragraph is that if your marriage is failing, it’s probably the woman’s fault. Sure, as a husband you need to be more understanding with your wife’s inability to communicate like a man, and you need to not be so angry at her, but she’s the idiot who always locks her keys in the car and lashes out in petty and passive aggressive ways when she’s unhappy.

But really, besides the sexist overtones, there’s nothing really objectionable about the book, but ultimately, it made me feel dirty. Not in a ‘all Christians are pathetic’ kind of way, although I can see how this review may lead to to think I’m an elitist douchenozzle*. It was more that they’ve managed to boil down an incredibly complex institution to fortune cookie messages that make me think of old Roy Orbison songs. Each chapter title starts with “Love is…” and ends with a random assortment of adjectives — Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind, Love Is Jesus Christ**, Love is a Battlefield***.

If nothing else, it’s a nice addition to add to my collection of books that confuse people who know me. I’m placing it right between A staggering work of heartbreaking genius A bold fresh piece of humanity by Bill O’Rielly and Atlas Shrugged.

*I am.
**Unless you’re gay. Faggot.
***Not in the book, but still true.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Marra Alane’s reviews.

Cannonball Read / Marra Alane

Books | December 5, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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