Fifty Shades of Mike: One Pastor’s Thoughts
As I read through my Facebook status my heart turned sick. There were numerous posts, both positive and negative, about the book Fifty Shades of Grey and the movie Magic Mike. The cultural buzz surrounding these newest additions to the “mommy porn” genera are generating quite a buzz lately. My initial reaction was to not post anything about it at all. I don’t want to open portals of curiosity on a topic that don’t need opened just because I have an opinion. I had hoped to speak to the issue from the pulpit, which I still plan to do, but after reading Karen Yates article Why Pastors Should Respond to Fifty Shades of Grey I felt compelled to offer my thoughts on this issue now.
Let me just start with this admission: I have not and do not plan to read this book or watch this movie. I don’t have to watch or read them to know they contain aspects that would prove to be dangerous to my spiritual walk. I made it a practice long ago to check out movies and books before I watch or read them so I can avoid these things. Satan is good enough at his job without my help. The one time I didn’t thoroughly check out a movie before I watched it (X-men First Class), I left very disappointed that I hadn’t.
So much of the time people dismiss what a church person would say about movies like Mike or books like Fifty simply because the church has tended to be overly repressed when dealing with sexual issues for so many years. So, I read some non-church people for their opinion about Fifty. I do not endorse reading these blogs yourself, but if you want to read the source article, the link is provided.
In an article by for WTOP.com Amy Hunter interviews Dr. Drew Pensky, famous for his radio show Loveline and hit TV show Celebrity Rehab, about Fifty. Dr. Drew has many critiques on the quality of the writing but his strongest concerns are for the quality of the relationship that is described of the books main characters. “Why women would pick this up as any sort of substitute for intimacy or any sort of model for a reasonable relationship, I find just sort of disturbing.” As a trained clinician myself, I share the same unsettling opinion, but like Dr. Drew my concern is also for the younger mind who may pick up the material. As he states, "I worry about the 15-year-olds and 19-year-olds reading this and formulating a notion that this is anything close to a reasonable relationship," he says. "I worry that this is going to be a model for something pathological."
For a completely different view I read a post by AV Flox, the section editor of Love & Sex and Health on BlogHer. She has a completely different perspective than I ever would have, but still found the book to be troubling. “I wasn't far into the story when I realized that Fifty Shades of Grey not only sets people who live a BDSM lifestyle back decades in terms of being understood by society, but that it eroticizes dangerous practices as well...” She goes on to describe the danger of the practices described in the book from the perspective of a person who is in favor of the BDSM lifestyle. Be warned before you read her post it goes into graphic detail to make her point.
Whitney Frink, a writer and producer for the NBC Universal show Access Hollywood writes this about her experience with Fifty , “What I found, however, was a dangerous story about control, abuse and a young woman desperate to please a man. Pretty much everything I despise.” However the graphic sex wasn’t as disturbing as the misogyny, “the feminist in me was clawing to get out as I read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” If S&M is your thing, be my guest. If vapid books are your thing, to each their own. If it helps awaken your bedroom imagination, so be it. But let’s not tout this book as anything other than the big step backwards that it is.”
Feminist author and professor Gina Barreca goes even farther than Frink in writing, “Just when we thought our daughter's futures would be defined, stronger positions in the worlds of the culture, the workplace, the family and politics, it turns a lot of women are soaking up this message, "You want me to make choices? OK, then! I am choosing to be submissive to a man who has a playroom of pain and who wants to decide what I eat, where I go and purchases my electronic devices." Do we really want to keep underscoring the lesson that women will obey you if 1) Cash is dangled front of them; and 2) They are treated poorly emotionally and physically?”
While I am certainly not a feminist, I agree with these women. I am raising a daughter myself. I want her to be strong, independent, and respected by the young men that will pursue her. One thing I have learned from counseling many abuse victims, is that weak men tend to lure women into abusive and controlling relationships through manipulation and once they have them it is almost impossible for them to get out and when they do the scars are serious. I have no desire what so ever to expose any of my children to any material that could light the spark of curiosity that encourages them down these dangerous paths.
After reading these few reviews, and these are the only ones I have read, I know all I need to know to make the decision not to read Fifty or to recommend it to someone who is looking for something to do on a lazy weekend and I haven’t even grabbed my Bible yet. (Check out Galatians 5:16-26 for a Biblical perspective) To me it is obvious that Fifty, and Mike for similar reasons, are wastes of time, money, and are poisonous to my spiritual vitality.
All the above being said though as I read through many threads on Facebook and various blogs the response of Christians to people who choose to read or watch these works is also disturbing.
Christians, Judgement, and Love
Somewhere along the way we who call ourselves believers have gotten the mixed up notion that we aren’t supposed to judge anyone or anything, ever. It is an idea based on scripture for sure, but it is an incomplete understanding of scripture that has tripped us up. When Jesus taught specifically on judging others in Matthew 7:1-2 by starting with the simple command “Do not judge.” it is plainly meant as less a total prohibition on judging others and more of a caution that we are to be careful about the manner in which judgements are made because, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul offers further clarification on this issue by addressing a specific issue in the church that just happens to revolve around sex. In it he clarifies who we are to judge and who we are not to judge.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.
-1 Corinthians 5:12-13
As Andy Stanley has so eloquently put it, “We are to judge the believin’ not the heathen.” We are to judge other believers in order to help them continue in a faithful walk, but our attitude must be the same as that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2) or we will do more harm than good. I can honestly say the most un-Christlike Christians I have ever known have been the ones who seem to live to pass judgement.
Even with this prohibition, Paul still directs the Corinthian church not only to make a judgement but to also take action:
“hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”
-1 Corinthians 5:5
Take note of the intention of the judgment and removal. Why is he commanding it? It is so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. It is for the eternal benefit of the persons who are engaged in the sin, not the church or individual members of the church. The motive behind these actions is love. Love, not self righteous ego inflation. Love not a desire to embarrass someone. Love, not the unending morass of social oneupmanship that pollutes Facebook, Twitter, the online universe, and churches across the globe.
Believers need to speak out as well as be more discerning and God honoring in their entertainment choices. That is the point of this blog post. But if all we bring to the discussion is condemnation, judgement, scolding, and the wagging finger of Phariseeism we are doing a disservice to Jesus and to the Kingdom.
Time and time again we are told to:
Speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
Restore our brothers and sisters in gentleness. Galatians 6:1
Embrace humility in our relationships. Philippians 2:3-4
Be even tempered and quick to forgive. Colossians 3:13
Be at peace with everyone as much as possible. Romans 12:19
Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Allow iron to sharpen iron which requires a little friction from time to time. Proverbs 27:17
These verses and many others remind us that we who believe are a community of faith. We are to love, pray for, and bear with each others weaknesses, but we are also to address them in a spirit of love, humility, compassion and immediacy. As Paul reminds us without love we are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1) Who wants to hear that?
The truth is that just as we are to address others in this fashion, we are to receive their rebuke in a like manner. That part isn’t much fun, but it is vital to be able to take instruction and correction from people in life who obviously love us in order to grow into the mature disciples we are all called to be.
In the aftermath of all of this I believe God is calling us to raise our standard not only in our choice of entertainment but also in the nature of our Christian fellowship and accountability. Being part of the Body of Christ necessitates that we walk in loving relationship with other believers, it is part of God’s plan. In doing so it means we often have to repent, confess, forgive, and reconcile with others when our sin causes harm whether we see it or not.
My prayer is that Fifty and Mike, and other similar media, would ultimately lead us to Jesus, as awkward as that may sound. I also pray that those who find themselves as believers buying into all the hype would be able to hear love and concern from others that are able to see the clear and present danger some appear to be blind to. And that through loving interaction we as the Body and Bride of Christ might become more unified in Him rather than divided in our pride.