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.
Here’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.