Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey and One Bolt of Truth

This Valentine's weekend the widely anticipated movie Fifty Shades of Grey will come to theaters. The book upon which the movie is based is notable for its "its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices" involving bondage, dominance, forcible submission, sadism and masochism. Already the movie has drawn more pre-release ticket orders than any other R-rated movie in the history of film.

That can only mean a number of men and women who follow Jesus will be drawn to see the movie, if not for any other reason than the 'buzz' the movie is creating in popular culture. I've reflected on the appropriate response to church members who ask me about the movie or the book. Contrary to popular opinion, "Just Say No" doesn't work for some. Young people want reasons; logical, relational, personal reasons for any course of action. Saying "no" to a movie that promises us "an escape from our mundane lives into a world of passion and ecstasy" requires a reason that is far more exciting and passionate than the movie itself.

I think I've found that reason.

It comes from one of my heroes, a man named C.S. Lewis.  Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James' chose the title based on her belief that "nothing is black or white. Unlike his British counterpart, C.S. Lewis expresses a truth about sex that has no shade of gray. I hope his words strike your heart like a lightening bolt from heaven:
Sex is a sensory pleasure; that is, an event occurring within one's own body. We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he "wants a woman." Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes). Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman."  - C.S. Lewis
Real eros wants one particular woman. I'm reminded this Valentine's Day that I've found her. I love my wife for who she is, inside and out. I respect her strengths, accept her weaknesses, and enjoy the differences between her and me. I know this one particular woman. I see into her; she sees into me. The overflow of this into-me-you-see is a passion and an ecstasy that people without grace can only imitate but never facilitate. We share spiritual, emotional and personal intimacy that blossoms into passionate ecstasy. To tweak Lewis' analogy: "We both drink the wine and treasure the bottles."

If you find yourself drawn to watch Fifty Shades of Grey, you'll see visual images of sexual domination, physical bondage, and intense sadomasochism. In the midst of such cinematic portrayals you may hear sounds of sensory pleasure, but don't be fooled. During the intervening quiet moments, if you listen carefully, you'll hear the crushing of a soul.

May it not be yours.


jasonk said...

I did not read the books, but my wife did. All three. I teased her about it--that it is porn for mommies. Her response to all the criticism (which causes her to lose exactly zero sleep at night): "read the book, you might be surprised." As it turns out, by the end of the trilogy, the two get married. Now, that's what she left it with, but I agree with you and C.S. Lewis--this is largely an attempt to emulate genuine passion between two people that lasts longer than a few minutes. Maybe as a result of this film people will recognize their emptiness, and turn to Christ.

Wade Burleson said...


Admire your transparency. One church member told me the exact same thing. What is not seemingly understood by the "but they got married" commenters is any marriage based on domination and forcible submission for sensory pleasure is the exact opposite of Christ's command for selfless sacrifice and mutual grace in marriage. Two people building a marriage on the five senses are in trouble the moment someone else enters the picture who makes the sensory motors purr louder and longer. In other words, the movie actually damns true intimacy in marriage by its false portrayal of what makes a marriage work.

Anonymous said...

(Saw a typ-o in my original post and had to delete and re-post it)

I bet this post gets a lot of response! SEX!

Once had a good friend in his 70s ask me (Why ask ME?), "Rick, why in the world did God create us with such an intense sexual desire that makes it so hard for us to control?"

Just the discussion of this movie elicits a desire to watch it and see what it's all about and maybe see some "skin". The movie makers know this. Books AND movies like this are decadent and straight from the bowels of hell! We can sense the demonic hoard of Satan pulling us into his sticky web. For we Christians, Satan knows that for us to turn our heads for an instance and observe the images portrayed in the books and movies are immediately imprinted into our souls like a searing branding iron.

It diminishes our sanctification and our holiness and impedes our closeness to our Lord. The Holy Spirit that dwells in us is repulsed by it and He lets us be fully aware of that unless we have already so far distanced ourselves from Christ that we have become desensitized to the smell of the feces that Satan is throwing in our faces as we intentionally seek and are romanticized into rationalizing why we are asking for more.

Lest anyone ( including my friend in his 70s; Won't be long and I'll be there too!) think that I am some raving, self-righteous, sexually deprived maniac; I struggle in my battle with Satan over the sexual temptations that are constantly thrown at us through so many media sources today. I too often fail and turn a head to look twice and immediately regret it and beg for forgiveness and ask for strength to live in this world as a Child of God that is effective in representing the Kingdom of my Master in a world that is coming unraveled.

I read 2 Timothy 2:21 over and over again in my mind and pray for purification from any lingering taints of the smell of Satan that may be present in my soul's eye.

God help our young people whose adult, "Christian" role models often diminish the poison of movies and books like this by justifying their involvement by saying things like, "Well, they act like dogs but in the end they get married!"

If you're my friend and Christian brother, DON'T tell me the benefits of smelling such filth so as to entice me to take a sniff. Tell me and remind me, like my TRUE brother, Wade, why I should not be duped into even considering watching a trailer or read an article about such toxic waste. Protect me, don't pass me the needle

Victorious said...

RRR said
...sexual temptations that are constantly thrown at us through so many media sources today.

So true. In our sex-saturated society, if one isn't reading about it, watching it, hearing about it, they are thinking about it!

We are kidding ourselves imo if we believe sex can be confined to marriage in such an environment.

Fred said...

Wade, thank you for this! It is so easy to objectify our sexual appetite and forget that there is another person with emotions and feelings involved.

Billy Graham said there are three kinds of pleasure lustful, legitimate and lasting pleasure. Legitimate is okay but cannot take the place of God and lasting is the love that comes from the Holy Spirit. This 50 shades stuff is atrocious and we can easily slip into the lie that its legitimate or lasting pleasure. Its lust and it makes my soul cringe.

Victorious said...


...and forget that there is another person with emotions and feelings involved.

Easy to forget when a woman is thought of as a "necessary apparatus" or an empty cigarette carton not worth saving. The words by C.S. Lewis is among many where women are compared to inanimate objects for the sake of making an analogy.


Christiane said...

Movies can be a problem, or sometimes they can show us something about ourselves in how we react to them, and herein lies my story:

some years ago, I saw the film 'Rob Roy' starring Liam Neeson. I felt a very strong and strange attraction to the actor which surprised me and worried me a bit UNTIL we purchased the film and watched it en famille. It was then that I got the answer to my wierd crush on Liam Neeson. In the scene at the end, when the actor is walking down the hill towards his home, my son says, 'he looks like Dad'. . .

end of mid-life crisis, big sigh, 'giggle', and a confirming realization that, yes, I was and am in love with my own dear husband

do movies affect us?

Gina Clark said...

Thank you Wade.
As an avid reader I am always on the defensive end of keeping my mind and therefore my soul free of the endless supply of things like 50 Shades of Gray.
I recently saw an interview with the author on a morning news program and I was just sad for the truth she shared.
Writing the book out 'boredom and mid-life crisis' she spoke non-nonchalantly about researching the book. She talked about she and her husband doing many of sexual acts portrayed in the book. She also talked in a very normal way about the process of writing the book, under a different name -speaks volumes to me about an underlying embarrassment but that was brushed aside by focusing her preference to be called by her actual name and the success of the books- and sharing it with friends in a sort of 'girls night out fashion'.
As I said the whole interview just made me feel sad for her and for anyone who has been taken by such writing. It's not easy to escape but it's possible and worth every effort.
My husband asks me if I'd read it and I told him I had no interest in a book that existed to solicit my thoughts away from him. It says as much in its own synopsis. How can I justify that as 'inspiration for my own marriage'? Well, it's just that. Justification.
The whole business just brings me a sincere sadness.

Sallie Borrink said...

"We are kidding ourselves imo if we believe sex can be confined to marriage in such an environment."

I respectfully disagree. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Sex can happily be confined to a marriage. The problem is many people allow themselves to watch, listen to, and read things that do nothing to strengthen their resolve to confine sex to marriage.

We don't watch movies with sex and perversion. We don't listen to music saturated with sex and perversion. We don't surf the internet looking for sex and perversion. We don't have cable in our home. We don't even have rabbit ears.

It's really not that complicated. Avoid stuff that makes you think about sex all the time. The problem is most people aren't willing to go the extra mile to eliminate the steady influx of filth into their homes and minds.

I challenge anyone who struggles with this stuff to turn off the TV for six months. When you turn it on again, you'll be shocked at what you see. The stuff they run on COMMERCIALS used to be R rated in films.

As a man thinketh (and vieweth) so he becomes.

Victorious said...

The problem is most people aren't willing to go the extra mile to eliminate the steady influx of filth into their homes and minds.

Sally, you didn't really disagree as evidenced by arriving at nearly-the-same conclusion I did. Even if “most” people were willing to go the extra mile, they still can't eliminate the steady influx...because It's everywhere. It's in the neighborhood, in churches, on billboards, on magazine covers, in the daily newspapers, etc.

While I was waiting in line at the local Publix grocery store, I noticed several magazines that I would not have wanted anyone to be exposed to (especially young children.) I called for the manager and pointed the magazines out and expressed my thoughts about the covers. One in particular showed a couple nearly having sex in nearly nothing clothing. She looked at me as though I was from outer space and said, “it's nothing different than you would see at the beach.” :( I gently replied that I was not at the beach. Publix now covers questionable magazines with a plastic opaque cover.

One down...a billion to go.

Some 30 yrs. Ago when my boys were attending public school, I found out the teachers were providing birth control to the boys so they wouldn't have to worry about getting a girl pregnant. My son told me one of his friend's girlfriends had already had 2-3 abortions. And that was 30 yrs. ago!!

So, we can protect our homes, but it's been infiltrating everywhere else since the dawn of time. And imho we are just being naive if we think we can eliminate thoughts.

Sallie Borrink said...

But there is a difference between being exposed to it in settings where you can't avoid it (such as a billboard) and inviting it into your home and seeking it out for entertainment.

No, we cannot completely avoid it. But most people aren't even willing to do the easy part of turning off the wretched music, TV shows, etc.

People have no idea how desensitized they are until they walk away from it for an extended period of time and then try to go back to it. That's why I say if someone will give it all up for six months (especially TV and movies) and fill their minds with things that are true, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, etc. they will be shocked when they go back to the filth.

Victorious said...

Sallie, I guess it depends somewhat on what "people" we're talking about here. I (don't laugh) wouldn't allow my boys to watch Star Trek when it first aired on TV. I thought, based on the commercials for the upcoming series, it was going to be some kind of kinky-sexual trip in outer space. I wouldn't allow them to go to see Alice Cooper or listen to Molly Hatchet, etc.

I was a stay-at-home mom, dedicated to the well-being of my family, but guess what...one of my sons is a sex addict.

I think some things that enter into the home setting might provide an opportunity for discussion rather than protection from an inevitable encounter elsewhere.

Today's technology also lends itself to easy explicit sexual content. Graphic ads are everywhere even tho they're uninvited.

As I mentioned, the avenues through which we are exposed may be different, but history confirms the easy availability and popularity as well from the beginning of time.

Aussie John said...


Such material is offensive, to say the least, as is a large amount of the so-called drama being fed into homes!

My concern is for those claiming to be Christians who pass it off as "It's only a novel",or, "only a film".

Sallie Borrink said...

I'm so sorry about your son. I can imagine how hard it is to see your son struggle. We can only do the best we can when it comes to raising our children. There are no guarantees for any of us as parents.

I love my husband and truly believe he is a gift from God. I don't want to do anything to mess up what we have. I'd rather not give the enemy a foothold in my life by dabbling in things that aren't profitable and good. So we take a strong stand in our lives in keeping away from junk that can help us start down a path we don't want to go down. That's our conviction that we live by. I'd far rather fall on the side of caution in these areas.

Victorious said...

Wise words and precautions on your and your husband's part, Sallie. May the Lord bless your efforts to keep and maintain the purity of your family.

Thanks for your empathy as well.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your post for many years.Thank you for this one.

Will you prayerfully consider writing a post on SAME SEX MARRIAGE. I am not a writer, but deeply concerned.

Troy M Long

Anonymous said...


I would rather see more dialogue and expressions of concern written about abortion. I personally think ALL other social ills in our society pale in comparison yet we hear little about it and our responsibility as the people of God to actively dissuade others from its practice.

Ramesh said...

I have a different perspective on this. Though I have not read the book yet I offer my two cents :)

What happens between two adults on their own volition who happen to engage in acts that cause either or pleasure and pain.

Now contrast this where one person (mostly male) forces themselves on women without their consent by causing extreme pain by on demand sex.

I am talking from experiences of two women from southern baptist churches where man with a penis is the boss and the woman has to submit. Every day. Worse on fathers day.

Mind you these men are not monsters or an aberration. They are normal men. Yet in sex this is the norm.

I consider this to be more vile than the book or movie about partners causing pain by their own volition vs. by edict or perverse beliefs.

I understand Paul in his epistles suggests for both men and women to submit to each other during sex (married people of course) ... but how often if a woman is feeling like having sex do men submit?

Anonymous said...

"Mind you these men are not monsters or an aberration. They are normal men. Yet in sex this is the norm."

The behavior may be "the norm" for those two men but the men are NOT "normal".

Ramesh said...

I personally think sex is overrated. For anyone interested in good posts on C.S. Lewis : Brain Pickings > Posts tagged C.S.Lewis

Ramesh said...

Here is a good review : Gidget goes submissive

But alas, the film is neither comedy, nor is it drama. Nor is it particularly kinky (despite the lovingly fetishistic camera pans of the various accoutrements that adorn Christian’s “play room”). And perhaps most notably, it’s not in the least bit sexy. In fact, it barely qualifies as soft core; it’s about as erotic as a TV ad for Viagra.

LoddieR said...

I am amazed at how Christians seem clueless when it comes to the things of Christ. One constant in both the Old Testament and New Testament is God's demand that there be no mixture in the lives of his children. In the title of this book is the word "gray" which is a mixture of white and black, light and darkness. Can we take the things of Christ and mix them with the things of the world and truly believe Jesus will be pleased with it. Consider Christ's letter to the church at Laodicea. He can accept either hot or cold but not a mixture of both, lukewarmness. Our Lord is very clear that such mixture is sickening to him.

It is difficult for me to believe that one's heart can be deeply rooted in the love of Jesus and yet easily drawn to the world's sordid view of sexual fantasy and pleasure. If so, that does not say much for the love of Christ or our need for His love.

Unknown said...

I think it's important that we represent a Christian viewpoint in the whole debate. We can't just be opposed to it, we need to have something to present that engages those hoodwinked by the original 50 shades enough to show them that Christianity has a valid (better) alternative.
I've talked to people til I'm blue in the face about the movie and domestic violence and respect etc etc but it's hard to make them listen. I did though find a Christian fiction alternative that is mirrored on the
story but presents God's love not the fake and manipulative 50 shades love. I've found a few of my secular friends have said, oh okay if you're just giving me a novel I'll read it whereas they wouldn't have engaged in a full blown debate over it.
Two of those friends have now
started to (periodically) attend church. One said to me 'I didn't know you had a bigger love until I read that book.'
Drawback is it's only on kindle though