March 21, 2013
Caryn, that's exactly why I hope to avoid reading things like 50 Shades as well. I know what it can do to me, and it's not good. If others can read it without blackening their hearts, all it proves is they are different from me.
It's certainly not a question of which of us is more meritorious; true merit is found in Jesus, and he's the only place I'm looking for it.
Amen, sister. I swear you have channeled my very thought process on this. I've read many things bad and good, light and dark. I've thought about reading the "Gray" books. In some ways it seems the "adult" version of the dark fantasy that is the "Twilight" book series, striking a very vulnerable spot in the underbelly of its audience. As someone who writes reviews for a living, it would be pretty easy to pass reading these books off as keeping up with the culture and knowing what people are talking about. But in this case, I just don't think it's worth it; I fear losing more than I would gain. I can only imagine what comes of the now-planned movie version.
There's a reason for your Twilight impression, the book was originally published online as Twilight fanfiction.
"You might say Iâ€™ve been around the library a few times. Know what I mean?"
Oh yes. And this comment won my heart entirely.
I've skipped 50 Shades because I had no use for Twilight and I like my heroines to have a backbone and a mind of their own.
I finally started Fifty Shades when it came up in my intro-ethics class in two consecutive semesters. (One of the papers we discuss looks at why slavery is wrong, and we talk about whether it's wrong for people to let someone else take complete control over their life. There actually is a very real parallel with the book.) So I wanted to know at least the basic premise and characters, so I could understand what my students were saying. I gave up after forty pages - it was simply so badly written it wasn't worth my time.
If it was better written, I probably would have seen it through, though. I find the way authors approach sexuality fascinating in a kind of abstract way - it's tied to how we see ourselves in relationship to other people and looks at some really interesting areas of human experience and identity. I also have a fairly low sex drive, so I'm not affected by sexually explicit writing the way a lot of people are. This means things like this aren't as "dangerous" to me as they might be to others, or I don't think they are. But I certainly wouldn't recommend it to someone who feels like they couldn't handle it well, or wasn't spiritually mature enough to make the call here. It's a meat/milk thing for me.
One interesting thing one of my students told me: she admitted that the books were bad, but that she claimed to have read them as an act of defiance against folks who thought women shouldn't enjoy sex and needed to be controlled here. She came from a conservative Catholic family, and when she had Fifty Shades on her bookshelf, it was her way of saying that she rejected that whole mindset. It was her way of saying that she could be good without being virginal, without actually having to harm herself by being promiscuous. But even she admitted she'd read them once and hadn't cracked the books since then. The symbol was worth much more to her than the actual reading of the books.
It's a shame that your fear of being corrupted by a book would stop you from reading something that has such an impact on nice, Christian women, without blackening their hearts.
Admittedly, at first I couldn't believe this tripe made it onto the bestsellers list! But there had to be something of merit, or else it wouldn't be so popular. So I finished it, I read all three, and I loved it.
Why is this book so profound to some and so offensive to others even within Christian discussion groups? And more importantly, by what right do some people think they can denigrate a book they've not even read?
The answer lies in its title. As long as we still believe the world is black and white, we will continue to polarise these discussions. As long as people make ignorant, misinformed judgements and believe they can condemn or vilify something or someone based on their own moral code, then FSoG will continue to be misunderstood and dismissed. To take a few quotes out of context, or to make a judgement based on flicking through a few pages or reading other reviews and calling yourself informed, is akin to declaring that the Bible is rubbish. It is in seeing past the surface of this book to the characters and their psychological and emotional journey that we find a message surprisingly similar to Christianity itself.
First, let me dispel the myths: FSoG is not a glorification or even an accurate depiction of the BDSM lifestyle. It does not condone domestic violence against women, and contains no rape or non-consensual sex or sexual acts. It champions monogamy, waiting for the right partner, and honest, open discussion of the needs and limits of both sexual partners in a healthy relationship. It also strongly condemns drug use, paedophilia and child abuse.
The book is about a young man tormented by his childhood in which he was cruelly mistreated, who despite his overwhelming success in the business world, believes himself to be incapable of giving or receiving love. It is also about a young woman who has waited for the â€˜right manâ€™, only to find that he is far from perfect, presenting challenges for her in loving him unconditionally.
While content in this book may offend our sensibilities as clean-living Christians, remember that part of what we have been called to do as Christians is to spread the message of God's love to everyone. So in reading this book we are confronted with questions about our own morality and how it affects the way we love others not just in our sexual relationship but in our calling to spread Christian love to the world. Do we really love unconditionally, or do we pass moral judgement first and then withdraw love at our discretion? Is that how Jesus taught us to love?
Ana's willingness to freely submit to Christian in a sexual context doesn't make her weak. There is remarkable courage and strength in waiting to find a man that she loves, in loving him despite his faults, in striving to see the good in him and helping him to see it in himself. Ana retains her free will, challenges Christianâ€™s need to control and refuses to submit completely to him, despite the threat of punishment. She is continually aware of what she wants from the relationship and shows courage in fighting for that, while being mindful of her partnerâ€™s issues and continuing to love him. It is her unwillingness to give up her free will that continually challenges Christian to examine what he needs from Ana, and to ultimately choose love.
But is Christian undeserving of love? We can feel love and compassion for the tormented child, but what about the adult he becomes? Do his money, power and success make him unworthy of our unconditional love and compassion? And does the presence of open, honest sexuality lead us to judge this book by its cover, so to speak â€“ to dismiss it as filth and so fail to see the good in it? What does that say about what and who we dismiss in the world as filth, and how does that limit our ability to love as Jesus taught us?
FSoG challenges us to see the impossibility of imposing binaries on the human experience. The opposites of right/wrong, love/hate, and light/dark are false constructs that limit our perception of a world that is shades of grey. Making judgements such as evil, wrong, hate and darkness allow us to withdraw our love from the world as we see fit, and it is this withdrawal of love and the conditions we place on giving love that lead to depravation, poverty, despair, and ultimately to conflict, violence and war.
If we are to truly spread the message that Jesus taught us, we must eliminate these words of judgement and describe them more accurately as a lack (not absence) of light, a lack of goodness and especially a lack of the unconditional love we have been asked by Jesus to give to the world â€“ and to give without prejudice. It is then that we may see our true purpose.
THAT is what I got from this book you so easily dismiss.
Great post. I really appreciate your admission to being "afraid" of this. I try to avoid a lot of things for that reason, but you articulated that aspect really well.
As I read your article and these comments, I noticed that most debated if it was good for us or not. What about this book being offensive to the Holy Spirit in us and to Christ who gave his life for us with his precious blood? I have become to a place after mediating much on what Christ and the apostles left for us in the scriptures to question why we take such a causal attitude towards sensuality these days?
What keeps me from reading stuff like this is not the just the admonition of not doing it but the possibility of missing out on knowing God in a way that cannot be known without purity in both body and in our thinking. This author's book is full of sensuality and it only takes reading someone's summary of it to know this. It hardens our minds to God and increases the effects of sin's power over us. Some have attempted to say that it has some virtue in it but a milkshake with dung would not edible so why we want to indulge in something so obviously wrong?
I have been a believer for 30 years by the grace of Christ and every time I see people began to justify compromising on what they see and watch, it eventually leads them to spiritual blindness not aware that it is deadening their hearts to the Spirit's voice. That is a scary place to be and so I in love encourage everyone including myself who claims faith in Christ to run from sensuality as Paul told Timothy. God has something better than a book based on human carnality can give us.
This is not about judging but about being honest with ourselves that that we were told clearly on how to live by what we read in the words of Christ and the new testament writers. God is not mocked. We are either sowing to the Spirit or the flesh and the payoff is greater with purity than the short term gratification of this book. The old self in us craves stuff like this but we must remember who we are supposed to be in Christ a new people who hunger for righteousness not sensuality.
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.
"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity.
2nd Timothy 2:20-22
"In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.
22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
I agree this book sound very evil. I do not need to read it and have no desire to. I love reading. Books that have meaning or you can find so wisdom in a book to feel your not alone in the suffering that you go through. One book I have finally started reading is the Bible,it is changing my life in a very good way! Thank you for this write up!
Your article about 50 Shades made me realize I'm not alone. I'm an avid reader, quick to shun an indecent movie without a second thought, but when it comes to books I don't have the same moral code. Thank you for reminding me what the Word says about guarding our hearts.
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