Thirty-nine million dollars. That’s the gross for the weekend’s #1 film. . . the just-released Fifty Shades Freed. . . the third installment in the Fifty Shades series. We all know what the movie is about. No need to go see it or recount the plot. But that’s certainly not what everyone is believing and doing. Just like with the Fifty Shades books and the previous two films, there is an eager and excited audience that should never be part of the audience at all.
Once again, we’re hearing about mothers, fathers, kids, and yes. . . even youth workers. . . all self-identified Christians. . . who are publicly sharing their excitement about the release of the film. On the one hand, public pronouncements like these indicate that the folks making the pronouncements don’t see the films as pornography, or perhaps they don’t see pornography as sin. On the other hand, this trend indicates the growing influx of the world into the church, as opposed to the church finding its place in but not of the world. And for every Christian who boldly and publicly proclaims their positive intentions regarding the film, there are most likely many more who are secretly indulging in things which they do believe are wrong.
Because the Fifty Shades franchise has once again moved front and center onto the pop culture landscape, I thought I would share words that I wrote in a blog post this week three years ago when the fit film came on the scene. . .
And so it arrives. It’s already proclaimed a blockbuster and judging from the predictions of those who seem to know about these things, it will most likely bring in about $90 million over its first three days, an opening which will rival the record-setting opening of American Sniper. That’s not at all surprising since the books have sold over 100 million copies and there will be much-anticipated sequels to this first film in the series.
Now. . . the big question. . . Are you going? Seriously. Are you going? Or, are you planning on viewing the film sometime in the future, perhaps in the comfort of your own home?
These are necessary questions for us to answer as parents, youth workers, and most importantly, followers of Jesus Christ.
If our hearts are truly in line with the way and will of our Creator and our desire is to flourish in our humanity by honoring His borders and boundaries for His great and glorious gift of our sexuality, well. . . the answer should be clear.
Sadly, based on what I’m hearing, the answer’s not so clear. Just as I heard with the books, a large number of Christian women, young and old alike, mothers and grandmothers, singles and marrieds, are eagerly anticipating and can’t wait for their trip to the movies this weekend. Many are giddy with excitement. And, we can expect that some Christian men will be there as well. . . some brought by their wives. . . both of them expecting the film to spice it up for them a little over the Valentine’s Day weekend.
The reality is that there’s not one of us who doesn’t have to deal with our own sexual brokenness and the temptations that come with that. There’s not one of us who hasn’t stepped out of the will of God and into sexual sin in thought, word, and deed. But to knowingly invite, entertain, and indulge sexual temptation while making a clear decision to step into sexual sin. . . well. . . that’s where we need to be stepping up and calling each other out with a good dose of Biblical accountability.
God’s design for His grand and glorious gift of sex is this. . . that sex is a gift to be indulged by one man and one woman within the context of an exclusive, monogamous, covenantal, life-long marriage. That’s it, plain and simple. Sex is something God made, gave to us, and enthusiastically declared “Good!” But with everything else, we go and mess it up. And when the Bible commands us to “flee from sexual immorality,” the word that it uses is porneia, which means “to practice prostitution, sexual immorality, or fornication.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word in reference to any kind of sinful and illegitimate sexual activity. Porneia is, in fact, the very thing from which followers of Jesus are commanded to “flee!” (I Corinthians 6:18). (To learn more about Sexual Integrity, check out CPYU’s new Sexual Integrity Initiative).
And so tomorrow, millions of folks will pay to settle down in dark theaters to be entertained by, get lost in, and be provoked to enter their own little world of sexual fantasizing by watching a young man with a penchant for BDSM systematically and intentionally stalk, seduce, and deflower a young virgin. This is not a film where non-gratuitous depictions of sexuality are truthful in nature, adding to the story. In this case, sexual fantasies and BDSM are the story and they are the draw. In other words, millions will pay to sit in a dark theater and indulge in pornography. . . a practice that is not only sinful, but highly destructive and addictive.
Yes, pornography! And if you are considering indulging in Fifty Shades of Grey, please take a minute to consider these definitions of pornography that I’ve found to be particularly helpful. . .
- From Tim Chester in his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free: “Pornography is anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.”
- From my friends at HarvestUSA: “Pornography is anything that the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.”
- From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”
Still undecided? Consider the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has indeed been fairly labeled as “mommy porn.” Then let me ask you to consider these questions as you ponder your decision. . .
- Is “It’s just a movie!” a reasonable justification for sin? Couldn’t we also be saying, “Come on, it’s just a magazine, or a DVD, or an on-demand movie, or an adult-bookstore, or a free website!”
- Have you considered the fact that when you view pornography you are complicit in sexual trafficking? Yes, whether the individuals depicted are actors or real people, or if they are appearing willingly or by coercion, your presence, attention, and payment all combine to make you a willing consumer and market expander of the ever-growing and always exploitative pornography industry.
- If you are a young mother, an older mother, or grandmother, how would you feel if it was your precious children on that screen in that darkened theater. . . again, willingly or coerced? Would you want your son to, in real life, become a Christian Grey? Or, would you want your daughter, in real life, to be pursued and seduced like Anastasia Steele?
- What kind of model does God call us to present to your watching and growing children? Are they learning about the joy of healthy, biblical sexuality? Or if they watch you will they be learning something else?
- Do you really believe that in a day and age when sexual assault and violence are pervasive, that we should actually be choosing to celebrate depictions of such on the big screen?
- Do you really believe in a day and age where women are objectified and stripped of their dignity by men who see them as nothing but objects to be used, that it is a positive thing to carve out time and eagerly indulge in viewing a film which does the same?
- Do you realize that pornography doesn’t spice up and improve the marriage bed or marriage, but rather, it drains the life out of and destroys a marriage?
- And finally, are you willing to take something that God has given you that is amazingly good, and twist it in a way that does not bring glory to God, but instead brings glory to the kingdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Or simply stated, are you willing to willingly go your way rather than God’s? Remember, that’s what got us human beings in trouble in the first place.
I’m not so sure that the biggest problem here is the book or the film Fifty Shades of Grey. This kind of stuff has always existed. And in a broken world, sadly, it will continue to exist. Our greater concern should be the widespread appeal, the ready acceptance, and even the willingness to engage in secretly reading the books or sneaking off to the film. . . an indication that we know that there’s something that’s just not right about what we’re doing. We’re now talking about mainstream stuff. This isn’t some dark corner or fringe. And as one who studies youth culture I wonder. . . . what will middle school-aged kids do with this one it’s on DVD and Netflix? Or, what will this stuff do to middle school-aged kids. The most pressing issue is the heart that’s drawn to and shaped by this stuff.
Perhaps today is a great day. . . THE day. . . to leverage all the attention our culture is giving this film and sit down to talk with our kids. . . openly, frankly, seriously, and honestly. . . about the very real pull, power, and dangers related to pornography use. . . to talk about what it will do to us and what God is calling us to do with it. (Click here for a resource you can use to get the discussion started)
The great Reformer Martin Luther once famously said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” That’s a clear and powerful picture of the difference between the temptations we face and the sins we choose. I pray that this weekend, none of us will have allowed pornography to nest on or in our heads.
Because of my own brokenness, I’ve learned to constantly remind myself that every time I make a choice, I’m choosing sides.
Which side will it be this weekend? The Gospel offers so much more!
To learn about helpful resources on pornography and sexual integrity from CPYU, click here.
Here’s a link to CPYU’s brand new Sexual Integrity Initiative website.
To read a helpful article, “Sexual Sanity for Women in a World Gone Mad,” click here.