Who Cares if Christians See ’50 Shades’?

img_7049(Article originally published in 2015 before premiere of 50 Shades of Grey)

I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of articles floating around seeking to persuade Christians to please, pretty please, not go see 50 Shades of Grey this weekend. They argue that it lays a foundation for perverted sexual desire, normalized sexual abuse, and aberrant male fantasy–not to mention a guaranteed visual assault of sexually explicit images, sounds, and dialogue.

And they are right. But to be honest, I don’t know why pastors, bloggers, and Christians out there feel like 50 Shades is a make-or-break situation. Why do they care so much whether Christians go see this one specific movie?

Let’s be honest.

If your idea of entertainment is going to watch actors get paid millions of dollars to perform or simulate sex acts for the viewing pleasure of the general public, not seeing 50 Shades isn’t going to fix that. It is a long road to get to the place where viewing another couple have sex is a viable Valentine’s Day option, and I don’t understand what audience Christian bloggers are trying to reach. Who is reading The Gospel Coalition or the Baptist News and also thinks watching pornography in a movie theater with popcorn sounds like a wholesome date night?

I understand that this trilogy indicates a dangerous trend in our culture, but it’s not like 50 Shades is breaking new ground in the film industry. If anything, the novels were more of a literary trendsetter–bringing pornographic prose into the mainstream for women. Although, raunchy nickel and dime romance novels have been around for a long time. So even there, 50 Shades has only popularized something that was already widely preexistent.

It’s one tree in a sex jungle.

52986141Here’s what I don’t understand: If I write vehemently against this particular movie, and even if I do persuade you not to see it, what have I accomplished? It’s like chopping down one tree in the Amazon rainforest. It’s a bad plan of action to try to fight the movie industry one movie at a time. Better to spend time talking to our people about the entire sex jungle than trying to chop the trees down individually. We are missing the forest for a tree.

Christians shouldn’t even have to think twice about seeing 50 Shades. It should be a complete no-brainer.  If you have to be convinced not to see it, the battleground is not to be fought over this movie or the next. We need to go back to the drawing board on what it means to have a transformed Christian mind (Romans 12:1). We need to have some honest conversations about what it looks like “to take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). We need to do some in-depth study of 1 John, namely, what John means when he says the true child of God “purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

Ever the voyeurist.

There is a word for watching others disrobe and share an intimate moment: voyeurism. Voyeurism is when you experience illicit pleasure vicariously through the experiences of others from an external vantage point. The 50 Shades novels present voyeurism in literature form. The 50 Shades films provide voyeurism in a visual format–and so does nearly every movie churned out of Hollywood these days. I can’t tell you the dozens of movies I’ve been excited to see until I checked the parental guide only to find they were riddled through with pervasive sexual content.

One or two sex scenes in every movie adds up. Many of us have played the voyeurist to the content of a dozen 50 Shades films over the course of our movie viewing lifetime. Does it really make a difference whether you choose to view it in a two hour sitting this weekend or in five minute installments each week?

I am sometimes astonished at what many Christians will tolerate in the movies they view, claiming, “It’s such a raw display of human depravity!” We can say in our hearts, “This is terrible, despicable, depraved sin,” all we want. When it all boils down, we are still watching two people have sex, or a rape in progress, or whatever other gritty scenes are deemed necessary for an accurate display of human nature. Telling ourselves “It’s just a movie!” doesn’t make it any less voyeurism.

You may try not to enjoy it, you may resist lustful thought, but you are still the voyeurist–hiding behind a curtain in a bedroom looking into what should never be seen.

(photo credit)

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

4 thoughts on “Who Cares if Christians See ’50 Shades’?

  1. I am having a hard time understanding your position, especially as a pastor. At first blush, I agreed with your thoughts. After all, sin is sin and we don’t get nearly as upset about other sins as we are making a deal out of this movie. However, I then read a synopsis. The problem became more clear to me. This is not simple pornography. This is not even simple S&M. In our culture today, with the father of lies spreading filth everywhere, what other trends have become popular? Sex trafficking. Sex slavery. Of adult women and of children. So if a book becomes sensationalized as a social phenomenon of enjoyment, and then a movie is made out of that book, it is lighter fluid on fire with our present lack of boundaries or morality in how sick the world has returned to in viewing sexual pleasure and sexual dominance. THAT is what is at stake. Teens or college girls fantasizing about a sex life that is a trap. How are we to justify not protecting the people more impressionable to the allure of the biggest lie ever told? I do not understand your stance.

  2. BOOM. I think that is the problem with alot of Christians today with many problems facing our culture. (myself included.) We want to focus all of our strength and efforts into cutting down one tree while missing the fact that there is a whole forest.
    It kind of reminds me about taking the plank out of my eye before pointing out the spec in others. This was a vast perspective change of how I have view some of the major issues that Christians are dealing with in our culture.
    Thank you for being bold enough to post such amazing content!

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