If you do not know something about 50 Shades of Grey, you might just be living in a cave. I know very little about it except that it seems to be a romance story including extramarital sex that would be non-standard for most people. What is more prevalent to me is the Christian outrage over the movie and how it cheapens the sexual relationship God intended between a husband and wife. I actually have a problem with the outrage and I’ll give several reasons why.
I’m sure the book and movie cheapen the sexual relationship God intended but does it really do that any more than the bazillions of other movies coming out in the recent past? Is it that the movie challenges God’s standards or our standards? Hint: every movie with anything less than sacrificially loving sex between a husband and wife following Jesus together challenges God’s standards but there are not 50 million Christian blog posts about them. If you should determine it’s more about offending your standard than God’s standard then that’s the definition of self-righteousness.
Let me give you an example. We watched the 2008 movie Iron Man the other night. Almost at the beginning of the movie the main character hooks up with a reporter, abandons her at his home and leaves his assistant to get rid of her (which she describes as “taking out the trash”). Is that more honoring marriage and keeping the marriage bed undefiled (Heb 13:4) than 50 Shades?
Inequity Part 2
How about movies and books that celebrate kids rebelling against their parents or something like The Blindside that was praised in Christian circles but showed Sandra Bullock as the controlling wife and mom clearly leading her family more than her husband? Where are the 50 million blog posts opposing envy and strife and jealousy? According to Galatians 5, these seem to offend God just as much as sexual immorality and impurity.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19 – 21 ESV)
Proof of Cultural Disengagement?
After the obligatory nod to the number of immoral movies available, one popular Christian blogger wrote “I believe that 50 Shades of Grey can serve as a kind of cultural barometer that alerts us to the colossal changes that have been occurring in recent years, and to the consequences they bring.”
Sometimes I wonder how much contact with unbelievers most evangelical Christians have. Outside the evangelical subculture the “phenomenon” of 50 shades is just not that big of a deal, any more than the phenomenon of Harry Potter increased the practice of witchcraft. Yes, it’s true that pushing sexual boundaries is more available than turning beetles into dragons, but it’s fiction written for an audience the author expected would like it. If people had not already turned their hearts against God’s standard for sex this book would have never gotten past the initial editor.
Here’s the reality: Back in 2011 Forbes reported that 13% of all internet searches were for porn. That’s not 50%, but it’s clearly sufficient to demonstrate that 50 Shades is nothing shocking or special. It’s the logical and predictable extension of where the culture has been going for a long time.
More than that, America is not the most sexualized culture in history. In Paul’s day, sex was part of their formal religion. If a movie rather than a shrine filled with temple prostitutes, is the cultural barometer then we should not be making this seem like somehow it’s proof that world is so bad the rapture must be right around the corner.
Which Leads Us To…
What did we expect? Are we so insulated from the world that we are shocked by when it acts like the Bible says it’s supposed to act? Are we so ready to be offended when sin is around us that we choose to further distance ourselves from the sinners who desperately need us to compassionately love them and show them the Rescuer of their souls and the real source of abundant life?
Yes it is sad that people we see every day have chosen to drink water from broken cisterns they have created rather than run to the River of Life (Jer 2:13), but outrage is not the proper response. Love is. Next time I write I’ll share some thoughts about how this book and movie actually helps the Kingdom of God.