Fifty Shades of Grey

A Review from a Biblical Perspective

By September Grace

A note from the editor: When September told me she was going to read Fifty Shades of Grey and asked if I'd like a review, I said yes. Neither of us had read a review with a biblical perspective from someone who had actually read the book. She didn't want to read the book, but was willing to, in order to be able to give a solid and biblically based review. We at Blogos respect her discernment and appreciate her work.

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Why is Fifty Shades of Grey so popular?

There are many women who love Fifty Shades of Grey for the exciting element they say it adds to their sex lives. Other women call it porn, like it as porn, and make no other defense as to why they read and enjoy the books. E.L. James herself said she doesn't know why her books are selling so insanely fast, that it was just her own personal "mid-life crisis" fantasy [5]. But when asked if she thought women secretly desired to be submissive, she answered with, "Possibly, yes. You're in charge of your job, your house, your children, getting food on the table and doing all of this all of the time, it'd be nice for someone else to be in charge for a bit." [5]

But Grey's in-chargeness should not be viewed as a positive or desired image of leadership. Whereas Biblical leadership lies in the husband's sacrifice to give himself to his wife and to seek her best interests, Grey's dominance is just greedy possession of Ana as a means to an end. Similarly, Ana isn't submissive because of the love and trust built between her and Grey, she's merely silenced into a pattern of passivity and docile acceptance.

Fifty Shades of Grey paints an image for women that being devalued and used is desirable. It perpetuates the idea that true masculinity means being uncontrollably violent. (Both of these concepts perpetuate the problem of downplaying the seriousness of rape.) Fifty Shades speaks of an exclusively selfish and manipulative definition of "love."

If women want a strong man, they would not want Christian Grey, because it takes more strength to love than to harm. If women want a man that showcases true masculinity, they do not want Christian Grey, because true masculinity lies in self-control, taking responsibility, and caring for the weak and timid — not exploiting them.

On a Personal Note...

I'll be honest. I haven't read many romance novels. They're not really my thing. However, I have discussed — at length and in-depth — the romance novel industry with a close Christian friend who is directly involved with it. Personally, I don't like the treatment of sex as a mandatory plot point, and I don't like the general pitying attitude toward virginity.

But I have no issue with those who enjoy reading romance novels. I believe that it is up to each individual Christian to thoughtfully consider and decide what they will and will not read (Romans 14). Because of this, I would have brushed off Fifty Shades of Grey as just another book that wasn't my cup of tea. And that's what I did for the last few years, figuring it would just fade away like everything else.

But instead of fading into the background, Fifty Shades of Grey has thrown open doors that used to be collectively ignored as taboo. While this isn't always a bad thing, it is a bad thing when those doors are not treated with discernment. While it's rash to throw the baby out with the bath water, it's just as reckless to automatically accept something as harmless or prudent merely because it's slipped into general conversation or acceptance.

As I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey there were multiple points where I felt so filthy that I wound up taking an extra shower. For me, this was not an enjoyable read. Instead of being able to laugh it off, or being able to see it as a harmless fantasy, I just felt incredibly depressed by the time I closed the book. While Fifty Shades of Grey did help me appreciate the real men in my life all the more in contrast to Christian Grey, it also placed a seed of discouragement in my heart that men might be getting the idea that Grey is the type of man women want. He certainly isn't the type of man I'd want. But a poor view of men and women wasn't the only damaging misinformation this book propagated.

Instead of carefully and delicately handling the highly sensitive topics of sex and BDSM, Fifty Shades of Grey flaunts the topics like it has just unearthed the juiciest town gossip ever. Because of this book, millions of people have been given an immature, ill-advised and harmful introduction to the BDSM subculture, and they are anxious to try it out. Because of this book, erotic romance and erotica (which many call literary porn) have become mainstream and acceptable. It's not the book itself that really matters, but rather the shift in culture it has encouraged, and the subliminal messages its popularity could be planting in our moral compasses.

Many people see nothing wrong with this book. Many people see nothing wrong with Christian Grey or Anastasia Steele or how their relationship works. And, in all fairness, whether or not someone chooses to read Fifty Shades of Grey is not a salvation issue. Nor should it be treated as such.

However, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey does open up a unique opportunity to discuss the true biblical definition of love that centers around sacrifice, not selfishness. If we have friends who adore the book, we can talk about it with them. Why do they like it? What draws them in? Would they want Christian Grey as a significant other or to be in Anastasia Steele's shoes? If so, why? We cannot change anyone's mind, but we can be open to respectful and kind discussion. Perhaps God will even use some of our questions and inquiries to grow people or draw people to Him. We really can never know.

Right now Fifty Shades of Grey is just fun, dirty reading for many people, but it's possible that for many others, Fifty Shades of Grey is, or will become, a frightening reality. We need to be ready to respond to the potential repercussions of this culture shift — not just in a reactionary way, but in a biblically sound and compassionate manner.

[1] Paul Bentley; "'Mummy porn' Fifty Shades of Grey outstrips Harry Potter to become fastest selling paperback of all time;" Daily Mail.

[2] Steve Cooper; "Fifty Shades Arouses More Than Book Sales;" Forbes.

[3] "Boom in rope sales tied to bondage novel?;" NBC News.

[4] avflox; "The Troubling Message in Fifty Shades of Grey;" BlogHer.

[5] Michelle Kosinski; "'Fifty Shades' author 'stunned' at success of erotic trilogy;" Today Books.

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Christian-Life  |  Controversial-Issues  |  Current-Issues  |  Personal-Relationships  |  Sin-Evil  |  Womens-Issues

Published 9-17-14