Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Watch 50 Shades of Grey Christianly

How to Watch 50 Shades of Grey Christianly
by Jordan Holmes

A few days ago the first trailer for 50 Shades of Grey came out.  The book has taken the world by storm and I assume the movie will do no less.  So as with everything in our culture, at this point we should be asking the question of how we can engage and respond Christianly to this cultural event.  Apparently, however, some people don’t believe that this can be done.

But I would like to politely disagree.  Based on the number of Christian women I’ve seen reading the book and expressing excitement about the new movie, I can only conclude that celebrating sadomasochism and violent sex are very Christian things indeed.

Fifty Shades of Grey is controversial, but it’s not what you think.  It’s only the story of a successful, wealthy man introducing a young, innocent, virgin girl to the depths of sexual bondage and sadism.  It’s one the whole family can enjoy!

Instead of boycotting as some misguided people are proposing, we should of course be celebrating that our culture has been so liberated that we are now able to cheer on the sexual plunder of a neophyte by a sadist from the comfort of our wingback reading chair, coffee in hand.

And don’t be silly now, this celebration would definitely have nothing to do with a lustful indulgence in deviant sexual appetites.  It’s about the story; it’s art.  Nothing pornographic about it.  We all appreciate good literature don’t we?

While we’re on the topic, it should go without saying that a man engaging in sexual entertainment, is deviant and pornographic; let’s get that out of the way.  But for obvious reasons it makes no sense to say the same of women.  A woman indulging in the erotic, is art and literature; and of course for many of my readers, a very christian thing to do.

We should be thankful that our culture has shaken off the puritanical shackles which suppressed our raging sexualities for so long.  Even us prudish Christians are now free to appreciate the literary entertainment value of bondage, sadism and the loss of virginity by a sexual predator.

So yes, despite the protestations, it is possible to watch 50 Shades of Grey Christianly, meaning of course in a Christlike way.

Sound ridiculous?  That’s because it is.  But strangely, the obvious contradictions seem lost on way too many people.

Very often in my blog I focus on the question of how we can live Christianly in any number of situations.  In some situations however, this question is nonsense, because though we strive to live Christianly always, some situations by their very nature don’t allow for it.  A Christian enjoying and indulging in 50 Shades of Grey would be one of those situations.

But you’re being legalistic!  Yes, legalism is bad, but so is the other extreme: the idea that moral behavior and adherence to moral law are irrelevant to our Christian faith.  The argument goes something like this: we are saved by grace through faith alone and it therefore doesn’t matter what we do; we’ll be saved in the end anyway.  Luther coined a term for this that is admittedly an unnecessarily big word, antinomianism.

So on one hand we have legalism (overemphasis on rules and moral law), and on the other we have “antinomianism” (underemphasis on rules and moral law).  Both extremes are wrong.

Sometimes the tension between these extremes is a difficult tightrope to walk; and sometimes it’s not.  But if 50 Shades of Grey is not one of the instances which should be easy for us to discern, I have no idea what it is.

I’d like to give you three reasons you should be uncomfortable with 50 Shades of Grey:

  1. It celebrates and normalizes sexual promiscuity, deviance and manipulation.  Sexuality is beautiful and God given.  But when it is abused, literally, in the case of BDSM, it is dehumanizing and alienating.  God wants us to have a fulfilling and loving sexuality; 50 Shades of Grey is the exact opposite of that.
  2. Christian behavior does matter.  It is our behavior and practice which enables us to grow more like Christ.  We should be growing and deepening in our faith, mere mental assent is not enough; growth requires practice in Christian behavior and discipline.  We are new creation, we live life differently, renewed in mind and spirit.  So if we take seriously our vocation as image bearing creatures, reflecting God’s glory into creation, then we must also take seriously how our actions, behaviors and interests serve to reflect that glory; both now and in eternity.
  3. Just because erotic literature and deviant sexuality are now in the cultural mainstream does not mean it should be in the Christian mainstream.  And that is the audience to whom I am really writing today.  Those who are Christ followers, image bearers and glory reflectors: please have the moral aptitude to know that 50 Shades of Grey is not something that a Christian should be able to read or watch comfortably.

Ultimately, we are responsible for discerning those things which build character, virtue and Christlikeness in our lives.  We have the ability to choose behaviors and activities which contribute to our spiritual, emotional and physical well being.  For Christians, it’s difficult to see how erotic literature fits.

So, can you be a Christian and watch 50 Shades of Grey?  Technically, yes.  But can you watch watch 50 Shades of Grey Christianly?  No.  And if we’re serious about our faith, that should be a problem.


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