Fights can get pretty ugly, especially between women. This has been very clearly demonstrated over the last several weeks in regards to the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. As I have been on the book team for Pulling Back the Shades, I have encountered articles and comments of women who are passionately arguing for Fifty Shades. These books and this movie are a hot button topic. Women are obsessed, or dare I say addicted, to them. They are very adamant to defend their choice, and call out anyone who questions that choice. The love of these books and this movie is so great, I even heard that fist fight broke out between two women at the premiere in our local theater because one of them wouldn't be quite. Yikes!
I have been thinking about what to write on this blog, I feel compelled to address the five main arguments I have seen women making in defense of these books and the movie. I am not an experienced writer or debater, but I will do my best to explain their arguments and the answers from both Christian and logical perspectives, in hopes that everyone can see my point.
1) Don’t Judge Them Unless You've Read Them
This is by far the most common argument for the books, and honestly the most frustrating to me personally. They claim that it is impossible for us to make any sort of educated judgment if we have not read them. Christians and non-Christian readers alike are saying we should read them for ourselves before we decide if they are good or bad.
There is major fault in this line of logic that is very easy to see. I will illustrate by asking a few questions.
- Do I have to be try cocaine to know that I don’t want to be addicted?
- Do I have to have a heart attack to know it doesn't feel good and should be avoided?
- Do I have to experience suicide to know its consequences?
I think these examples should be sufficient to illustrating the error in this line of logic. I don’t have to experience any of those things to know that they are not wise or good for me. In order to know pros and cons in any of these cases, there are two ways to figure it out before diving in: research and wise counsel.
Research should be an important part of every decision we make if we want to be wise. For the Christian, the first place we should look is the Bible, to see if God’s word reveals the truth about a particular subject. Then, we should look to those who are well-informed to seek out the right opinions. Sometimes, your best friend’s opinion or your friend's recommendation isn't going to cut it, if you want to make a wise choice. Look up reviews or articles to see if something is worth your investment. Then, go seek out the wisdom of someone you trust, like an older mentor, to see if they think it is wise to pursue. If after all that all lights are still green, then you can go into it without regrets. If not, then you should probably avoid it.
As far as Fifty Shades is concerned, I have not, nor do I plan to, read the books or see the movies. But this does not mean I cannot have an educated opinion about it. I have done my research. I have read Pulling Back the Shades, several posts and articles, and plot summaries. I have several people in my life older and wiser than me that think it’s not beneficial, and I trust their counsel. I have done the same thing (researched and sort out counsel) for both the Twilight saga and the Harry Potter saga, and I came to similar conclusions (Those stories may be saved for other posts). I do not walk into this discussion with uneducated answers, and assuming that everyone who disagrees can’t have educated answers is faulty logic and an arrogant assumption of their part.
2) But It’s a Love Story
I have made a comparison chart of one of the greatest descriptions of love to ever be written, 1 Corinthians 13, and love as it is portrayed specifically in Christian's actions (based on my research of the book). It’s pretty obvious they don’t match up. In fact, most of his actions are the opposite of love, as the Corinthians passage defines it.
It grieves me to think that so many women have been deceived by these books, which are a wolf in sheep’s clothing as far as love and romance are concerned. Christian and Ana’s story disguises itself as a love story when it reality, it’s the exact opposite of what love should be, according to 1 Corinthians 13. Don’t be deceived.
3) If They Both Consented, What’s the Problem?
Many Christians struggle with having a “sexual theology.” In other words, we don’t bring God and His word into the bedroom, and as a result, we become sexual atheists that buy into the definition of sex that our culture sells us (a game between consenting adults). That's when we fall into the danger of making us our own sexual reality, just like Christian Grey. I don’t think I fully understood this until I watched this video. This is John Mark Comer, author of the book “Loveology” (This video was uploaded to Jefferson Bethke’s YouTube channel, one of my favorites Youtubers).
When you consider the way that we should view sex according to this teaching, the kind of behavior that is glorified in Fifty Shades is even more dehumanizing than what John describes. For Christian, Ana became an object for his self-gratification, and he had enough sexual partners previously that Christian has been hallowed out, just like John talks about. Those are the major problems with their sexual relationship, despite the fact that it was consensual.
4) But They Get Married
Many women claim that because they get married, and because they have some sort of “happily ever after,” that the story is good. They also talk about how Ana’s love changes him and makes him into a better person. According to their logic, how can the story be all bad if "all's well that ends well"? I get back to this question in a moment.
If it is true that “All’s well that ends well,” then why does the Shakespeare’s play of this title result in a man being forced to stay in a marriage with a women he didn't love? Because Bertram was initially forced to marry Helena, he runs away, telling her that he would not return to her unless she got his family’s signet ring off his finger and became pregnant with his child. She has to use deceitful means to fulfill this conditions, and when she does, he reluctantly returns to her. There is meant to be an irony in this title that I think is somewhat reflected in the Fifty Shades series. Even though it is portrayed as a “happily ever after” ending, it may not be as resolved as it is meant to look. If it were more realistic, the ending would not be so pretty.
5) If You Don’t Like It, Just Leave It Alone
This is the argument where the fans basically tell those of us that voice an opposing opinion to mind our own business. They tell us that if we think it’s wrong, just leave it alone and let those that do enjoy it do whatever they want. They tell us it’s their choice to read the books or see the movie, and we have no right to criticize their choices if they do.
There is some validity to this argument if you are a Christian and they are not, and let me explain why. We cannot hold a non-Christian accountable to your personal moral standard if they haven’t chosen to live by that standard themselves. In that respect, they are totally right. I feel like that is one of the easiest moments for hypocrisy to creep in and taint our witness to non-believers.
That being said, I don’t think Christians should keep their mouths shut if they believe this to be wrong. If you do your research, you will find that these books are doing damage to many marriages, are drawing women towards the BDSM lifestyle, and are tainting God’s design for sexuality. We should be grieved to hear these stories, to the point that we want to take action, but how? If you are convicted that this is wrong, then how to we tell them the truth without judging or “Bible-thumping”?
We must be careful when approaching the situation because these stories have created a moral and emotional fantasy in their minds, and that is one of the reasons they are quick to call anyone out for judging them. Did you catch that? This story alters a moral reality, one in which things that were once black and white are now grey, and this alteration is hidden behind all the emotion and good feelings the women get from reading them. Because their moral reality has been effected, they have become quick to judge anyone who questions their choice. We need to keep this in the back of our minds and the front of our prayers as we come to these discussions.
I believe that we should think of what we are doing as a warning. If I know someone is going the wrong direction while traveling, I will tell them to reconsider their route if the opportunity comes for me to tell them. If I think someone is about to walk into a dangerous situation, I will do my best to warn them if I am given the opportunity, but in the end allow them to make their own choice. This is the way I try to think of it. That is the best mindset we can have in this discussion, especially when dealing with non-Christians. If you have a personal relationship with the person you discussing this with, they will hopeful be able to see the concern you have for them if you use this approach.
Speaking the Truth In Love
I hope these tips will help you in your discussions about Fifty Shades. This is not necessarily in-depth or definitive, but I hope it will help you see that many of the women that are infatuated with these books and movies have been deceived. This deception is worked so deeper into the themes of the book, it has manifest itself in these arguments consistently. It isn't always easy to reverse a deception, especially one that is becoming so deeply embedded in our culture. But this is a topic that we cannot avoid anymore. We must do what we can to take back sexuality from Satan’s grasp so that we can reveal its divine and holy intent to a world that needs to know the truth. Now that I know the truth, I must do what I can to speak the truth in love. I hope some of you will join me in this fight.
Valentine’s Day can sometimes be a real pain. Seriously. If you don’t have a valentine, you either feel left out or you end up annoyed with the world for putting this day up on a pedestal just to sell cards, roses, and candy. I've been on both sides. More recently, I've been getting frustrated when people use Valentine’s Day to emphasis love in the wrong ways. The fluffy love they talk about is the love of fairy tales, the type of love dependent on feelings and emotions, and ends up being quite selfish. That’s not what God intended love to be. It also upsets me because the man we should be remembering on the day did not condone that type of love either. In fact, I think Saint Valentine would be against it.
The Story of Saint Valentine
There isn't complete agreement about the life of Saint Valentine. Some would argue that much of what is believed about him is not based on historic fact. However, about 10 years ago, Focus on the Family released an episode of Adventures in Odyssey (LOVED that radio show when I was a kid) about Saint Valentine called “The Last ‘I Do.’” I want to share the story of Saint Valentine based on their interpretation. (I tried to distinguish some of the details I know were made up for the show by adding "In Odyssey") Here’s what you learn in that episode:
Now I know that this version of the story was fictionalized, but I still think that some of these stories are true. Many of these details are pretty consistent throughout all the different versions of his life, specifically the healing the jailer's daughter, his refusal to renounce his faith, and his martyrdom on what became his Saint Day. As I listened to this version of his story, two things stand out to me, things that I think should be the emphasis of Valentine’s Day: marriage and sacrificial love.
Marriage – Something Worth Fighting For
Valentine was one of the greatest champions for marriage to ever live. He died in the defense of marriage. It doesn't get any more real than that. However, Valentine’s Day has become a day to celebrate all types of relationships. Dating relationships and even crushes are also celebrated on Valentine’s Day. I think that in many ways, we miss the point when we choose to focus on all relationships instead of marriage specifically.
Valentine believed that marriage was an institution created by God and that no man should have the right to take away or change this institution. To be frank, I think Valentine would be grieved to see what has become of marriage and relationships in our world today. It is no longer holy. It is no longer permanent. Many spend extravagant amounts of money to make a wedding fancy, but end up saying vows that they don’t really intend to live out. Many are being extremely irresponsible with their sexual lives, to the point that marriage has become less important than “being in love,” or experiencing sexual pleasure. Marriage is no longer a necessity to parent a child. Families are not the backbone of society that they used to be, and we are paying the price for this cultural shift. This should not be.
On Valentine’s Day, I think we should celebrate marriage as the blessing from God that it is. It is a commitment between a man and a woman to be joined spiritually and sexually until death separates them. This is a beautiful thing, and a metaphor of God’s love for us. We should not allow anyone or anything to taint marriage any more that it has already been distorted by our culture. We need to win back marriage and sex from Satan’s grasp so that we can help our world see God’s divine intention for them. The sacred love within a marriage is something worth fighting for. This what this song from the movie Fireproof tells us.
Love – Giving Up Yourself
The other thing that stands out about Saint Valentine is that he cared enough about those around him that he gave up his life for their sake. He came to care for Julia so much that he did not want to leave her fatherless. He cared about those he married so much that he gave up his life so that they could be united. That’s incredible. That’s not the love of fairytales or a love based on feelings. It was even a parallel to what Jesus did for the church.
Jesus did not want us to be fatherless either. He did not want us to be without a way to know the Heavenly Father intimately and personally, so he came down to earth as a man, and became the Ransom for all transgressions. This hope we have in salvation was the ultimate motivation for Saint Valentine to give up his life, but he was able to do so because he knew the ultimate example of sacrificial love.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings. When Frodo tells Sam that he would be leaving over Sea, Sam has a hard time accepting it. He makes a statement I will never forget, and I may expound on further in another post. This is one of the best ways that sacrifice has ever been defined.
"I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so Sam, when things are in danger. Someone must give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."
This is the type of love that we are supposed to have for each other, especially husbands and wives. It is your motivation and your ultimate goal. You put their needs ahead your own. You don’t think about what you can get in return. You protect and defend them, no matter what. You choose forgiveness over bitterness. You let them be right instead of arguing. You chose to love them despite their flaws. You endure even when you want to give up. That is true love, and anything short of this is a counterfeit.
Sacrificial Love Isn't Grey
The kind of love people really want to know, the sacrificial love we as Christians know, isn't grey; it’s black and white. Our culture wants to believe in this type of love, but when they can’t find it, they settle for the counterfeit versions our world is selling them. That's why Fifty Shades has become so popular. We haven't given them a better alternative. We haven't given the ability to find the love that will really satisfy them. This needs to change.
As Christians, we need to learn how to have sacrificial love in our marriages and in our other relationships, so that we can demonstrate it to a world so desperately needs to know what true love is. Then, we can lead them to the foot of the cross, where they will find the love that will endure all, and teach them how to live out that same type of love in our own lives. This will be the type of love that will matter for eternity, not some man-made version with mushy feelings and "happily ever after's." As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we need to focus on celebrating the right kind of love, and how to identify when someone is trying to sell us the counterfeit.
True love is not found in porn or erotica. It’s not found in uncommitted relationships. It’s not found in many of our favorite chick flicks. It’s not found in cheesy cards and fancy dinners. It’s not even found in fancy weddings.
True love found in a marriage grounded in Christ. It’s found in the man willing to do anything to protect and provide for his family. It’s found in the woman who gives up her dreams to support her husband’s dreams. It’s found in a child that gives expecting nothing in return. It’s found at the foot of the cross. That’s where I look for it. How about you?
To conclude this post, I want to share my newest YouTube video about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s a spoken word poem that further addresses my perspective on the subject. I hope that all of you will know how to be pursue sacrificial love, this Valentine's Day, and everyday.
February 6, 2013
This day is one that is etched deep into my memory. At first, it seemed like a normal day. I was in one of my last semesters at Ozark Christian College. Some of our classes that day had been replaced by some missions lectures for our International Focus Week, but other than that, it was same as most others Wednesdays I had in school. I went to church that evening to help with my brother-in-law’s youth group, as I normally did on Wednesdays.
After youth group and a grocery trip to Wal-mart, I went back to campus. When I got back, I walked into my dorm lobby, and I sensed something was wrong. There was a group of girls with sad looks on their faces, but I didn't know why. I went up to my floor, and saw another group of girls with sad looks, and even tears, on their faces. I knew something was very wrong, but I wanted to take care of my frozen groceries before I investigated. As I was doing this, someone knocked on my door. It was my next door neighbor and another friend.
“Bethel, did you hear what happened?”
“No. I didn't have a chance to ask yet. What happened?”
“Brandon Stuckey was killed in a car accident.”
I gasped. They also told me a group was going to pray in the lobby in a few minutes and invited me to join. I thanked them for telling me, and then proceeded to finished with my groceries. As soon as I was done, I remember leaning on the back of my desk chair as the reality of what I had just been told to me was hitting me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't believe that my friend Brandon was gone.
Because of this moment and others to follow, that was one of the most unforgettable and tragic days of my college career, and my young adult life. Brandon’s death shocked and devastated the whole OCC family, but for those of us who were close to him, the grief we felt that night was unimaginable. I never would have imagined that the friend that sat next to me in class one day would be gone the next. However, some of the memories of that time, as painful as they were, were also some of the most precious memories I have from my entire college experience. On the second anniversary of the day Brandon went home to be with the Lord, I am compelled to share the lessons that I learned through losing a friend.
1) Believe in the Hope of Heaven
I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have faced Brandon's death without the hope of heaven in my heart. It simply would have hurt too much. Especially when someone young dies, it’s harder to accept their absence if you think that this life is all that there is. So many try to blame God when this kind of tragedy happens to us, either getting mad because He didn’t stop it, or claiming that the tragedy is evidence that He doesn’t exist. Neither one helps the healing process at all.
What happened to Brandon was tragic. There was no way around this fact. He was only 22 years old. He had so many God-given dreams that were never fulfilled in this life. I know he wanted to get married and raise a family. I know he wanted to preach the gospel to those than needed to hear it. He even had plans to spend the summer of 2013 in Mongolia. But there is so much more to this tragedy than the fact that he is no longer with us or all the things that Brandon never had the chance to do.
My greatest comfort in process of grieving is knowing that Brandon is no longer burdened by the troubles of this life. He is now whole and complete in the presence of the Savior that died to redeem him. This redemption, the heart of the gospel, was something that Brandon spent the short years of his life declaring. Among all the hopes he had in this life, I know that he, like all of us who have our hope in Christ, longed for the day when we will see our Savior face-to-face, and now he has. It makes me happy for him, and in fact makes me long for the hope of heaven even more. The redemption and the wholeness he now has in the presence of our Savior is something that I did my best to remember, even in the midst of grief. When I attended Brandon’s funeral, I wore a black dress, but I also wore red shoes and a red headband, as a reminder of the blood that had redeemed my friend.
2) Cherish Community
Surrounding yourself with community is crucial during times of extreme grief. It’s not just a good idea; it is essential to the grieving process. These type of situations are part of God’s design for community. Mourning with those who mourn is one of many elements listed in Romans 12 as part of our love for each other being sincere or genuine (Rom 12:15b). We are called to do more than comfort each other if one of us is hurting: we are called to cry with them and share the burden of their grief. I never understood this better than I did in the days following Brandon’s death, because of the way this was demonstrated toward me. I will never forget:
- How many of us gathered outside of Brandon’s dorm that night while we prayed, sang songs about hope and heaven, and comforted each other in our tears.
- How one of my RA’s (resident assistants) stayed by my side for hours that night. Don't know what I would have done without Marley that night.
- How multiple friends on my dorm floor offered to let me stay with them that night because of my roommate’s absence. I declined, but I was touched to know so many of my friends cared.
- How both of my RA’s sandwich-hugged me at 2:30 in the morning when I was so overwhelmed by grief and confusion, I began to bawl. I pretty much collapsed into Dani's arms and Marley held me from the other side while I cried for another 10 minutes or so. I don't think I will ever forget that bittersweet memory.
- How many people offered to let me sit with them in the class the next day where I used to sit next to Brandon. I declined because I wanted to sit where Brandon invited me to sit, but I was grateful to know they were all mindful of how hard that day would be for me.
- How two girls I’d never met (at separate times) saw me crying in the bathroom during all campus devotions the next night, and each one stopped everything to see if I was OK and prayed with me
- How many hugs I got during that time, especially the night he died and at his funeral. Some were from people I was not close to, but knew I need them
- How many people asked me if I was OK during that time, even people I didn't know
I had never before experienced community in such a powerful way. Our campus as whole remained close throughout the rest of that semester in a way I had not seen before or since, because of the tragedy we endured together. As one of the RA’s from Brandon’s dorm posted that night on Facebook:
I so strongly agree. It was even further defined when, about a year later, I discovered that another Bible college had heard about what happened to Brandon (the brother of Brandon's roommate attended Johnson University). Many of their students were grieving for us and with us. That's amazing.
3) Out of the Ashes, Beauty Will Rise
In the initial moments of grief, it is not easy to see God’s plan, or what the future will hold beyond those moments. But one of the sources of comfort I found during this time was Steven Curtis Chapman’s album Beauty Will Rise. This is the album he wrote about the tragedy of losing his daughter. There are so many wonderful songs that helped me through this time, but two parts of the title song stand out to me:
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
We will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of darkness, new light will shine
For we know the joy that’s coming in the morning
It will take our breath away to see the beauty that He’s made out of ashes
These thoughts gave me a sense of hope in this situation that I had never expected. I began to realize that God can take all of our pain, our sufferings, and even our sin, and make it into a beautiful mosaic for His glory. And when we finally get to see this masterpiece for ourselves, it will take our breath away by its beauty and its creativity. No matter how difficult it is to go through at the moment, God will use it and not let it be in vain. It is all part of God’s plan to reconcile our broken world. Now that’s powerful.
God did bring beauty out of the grief of losing Brandon. The fact that I am writing about this now proves this to be true. Those of us that knew him looked at Brandon’s short life and were able to see a good man with a heart for the gospel and a heart for people, and we were inspired to be the same. We learned the power of Christian community in the days surrounding his death. We learned to be vulnerable with each other. We learned to grieve with hope.
Gone but Not Forgotten
Although I wasn’t “super close” to Brandon, I was close enough that his death did make an impact on my life. I am forever grateful that God brought Brandon into my life, because I learned so much more from him than I could have ever imagined. This was reflected in the last conversation we had, the day before he died.
We were in class together, the class where we sat next to each other. Before class started, we were talking about life, some of our ministry and mission aspirations, and eventually the conversation landed on relationships. I found myself telling him that I had not been in a relationship before. Just as our professor was starting class, he leaned towards me and whispered:
“Don’t worry. You’ll find someone someday.”
I cherish these words for two reasons. It’s not because this is a guarantee that I will find a husband or a promise of a fairy tale ending. It’s because, first of all, his last words to me were so uplifting and hopeful. And second, because it reminds me that God has a greater purpose for my life that I have for myself, and if I have my assurance in that purpose, I don’t have to worry. Brandon had assurance in the Lord's plan for his life, and because of that, I know he is now in the presence of His Savior. I hope that if Brandon’s prediction is true, then I will marry a man that has his assurance in God’s plan too, just like Brandon.
Brandon is still missed by those of us who called him our friend, but his memory and his legacy live on. Thanks to Brandon, I now know what it means to grieve with hope. I hope this post will help others learn how to do the same.