It’s not our main mission, but here at Speculative Faith we spend a fair amount of time debunking myths (and sometimes plain lies) that Christians believe about stories. So it’s almost refreshing to have one kind come along that I can whole-heartedly condemn.
Moreover, I don’t even need to work hard at the condemnation.
Why are big-city bookstores putting displays of overt immorality up front? Even they don’t do the same for magazines or videos featuring naked people. Why did I see a copy lying face-up, unhidden, on a woman’s desk in a professional office environment? No man would leave similar material on his work desk or computer screen. Why the double standard?
Furthermore, why are professing Christian readers, mostly women, reading and enjoying the pornographic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and are overtly defending this practice?
This is worse than Harry Potter hysteria or angst over supposed witchcraft in stories. And it’s not even a slightly trickier issue, like a TV series such as Game of Thrones or a movie such as Titanic that does show naked people but also have other things going on. It’s not even a “romance” novel that merely contains sex scenes. The book I’m talking about is plain sin, impure and simple. That’s its only intent. What’s so difficult about discerning it as such?
First, Scripture itself refutes the lie that any practice is by default “neutral”:
[…] Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Note: this applies even to things that are, by themselves, not sin-causing! How much more does this apply to something utterly un-redemptive!
[Paul quotes the equivalent of Corinthian advertising slogans] “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
1 Corinthians 6: 12-15
Note: Paul, inspired by the Spirit, never condemns us being exposed to violence or swearing or false beliefs — he only condemns exposure to sexual immorality.
Again I can cheat, by quoting the Biblical wisdom of friends, other bloggers, and Christian reviewers who have challenged this disturbing trend. It also helps that they’re women.
What makes a book filled with descriptive sex any different than pornography? Both are visually stimulating. Both contain graphic content. And both are addictive.
I write this post as a call to Christian women. For some, it is a warning about books like these. I stumbled into these kinds of books when I was a young girl and wish I had never opened the covers. I had no idea books with graphic sex existed. I had been taught that to look at naked people in photos was wrong, but not about books with naked people. So as a fellow Christian woman to another, I am warning you now that these books exist, and to be careful with what you read.
[…] Reading books like these is no different than your husband sitting down with the latest Playboy. How would you feel if you saw him do it? How do you think he would feel about your book?
From homeschool mom and anti-unbiblical-“patriarchy” advocate Karen Campbell:
There are other reasons Christian women are reading and recommending this series of books without thought to how they are opening the door wide open for husbands to look at porn and children to allow “naughtiness,” ie, fornication and perversion, into their own lives. In a sex saturated culture where commercials for hamburgers and back to school clothing at Penny’s threaten the purity of the marriage bed, lust is never satisfied. Perhaps the simple beauty of a married and committed one man, one woman relationship seems boring if not antiquated but we are foolish to think so.
From Dannah Gresh at TrueWoman.com:
Fifty Shades of Grey is classified as erotic fiction. According to one online dictionary, this genre of literature is defined as that which has “no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.” I’ve been studying what God says about sexuality for fifteen years. According to Him, there is only one who should stimulate sexual desire in me: my husband. Since that’s God’s plan for my sexual desire, anything other than my husband creating arousal in me would be missing the mark of God’s intention. (Translation: It is sin.)
We could end the discussion here: It’s sin. Don’t do it.
Someone might say, and the thought has also occurred to me: “Being tempted isn’t a sin, only following that temptation. So I could read this, take the good parts, and not really sin.”
That’s fine, just so long as I could also enjoy some porn movies, take the “good parts” and “not sin.” Wish me and other Christian men good luck, because that’s all the good we’ll have with that — God’s goodness and glory wouldn’t be the aim of such debauchery. Also, women can see through such stupid excuse-making a mile away. Let’s be consistent here.
Apart from that, during a recent discussion, friend and SF contributor Adam Ross helped clarify the difference between temptation and sin, relating to pornographic fiction:
I’m reading an awful lot here that confuses temptation and sin. […] Looking at porn is not the temptation but the sin. The temptation is the desire or thought of opening up a browser window and typing in an address. When you do that, you’ve crossed over into enacting the temptation. This confusion clearly illustrates the pressing need to address temptation in the Church, I think.
Finally, perhaps the best commentary on the subject comes from my friend, Christian:
I’d prefer Fifty Shades of Earl Grey.
“Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.” That’s a kind of heat anyone (tea lovers, anyway) can appreciate with pure motives.
Now for questions.
- What are your thoughts about this book and “erotic fiction”?
- What story or kind of story have you read and later regretted?
- What books or even genres do you, right or wrong, consider irredeemable?
(Note: because of last Saturday’s cancellation of the live Reading Group at my church, that series will continue next week.)