Beyond the Talking Points: Why I am Ignoring “50 Shades of Gray”

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Before I get going, that title up there is a complete misnomer.  I totally misspelled “gray” and I did it on purpose to show you how clueless I am about the movie (or is it book?).  I also am not really ignoring “50 Shades of Grey” because if I were, I would not be writing this blog.

Still, I have not read the book and do not plan to see the movie.  I have, however, read the Wikipedia synopsis.

On Wikipedia the description of the plot sounded like your average run-of-the-mill soap opera or harlequin novel, both things we don’t need more of.  More than that, I was rather dismayed that sensual violence was now mainstream.

Still, the plot synopsis mentioned that the couple broke up in the end because they were incompatible.  At the time I thought that line would be a good conversation starter on true intimacy and compatibility.  After all, even by the plot’s own admission signed contracts of submission and dominance seem to run counter to intimacy.  But without having read the book, that conversation is one I won’t have.

Still, I wish there was some way to honestly begin conversations about the increasingly violent and erotic fiction that now lines our bookshelves and fills our televisions.  Heck, last night I was watching Gotham, a prime time, network TV show based off of Batman.  A side plot of the episode involved two mobsters kidnapping a judge and having a scantily clad prostitute beat him with a whip.  That scene would have been the stuff of late night HBO just 10 years ago.  Now there it is, on Fox at 8.

Perhaps somebody should start an honest conversation about that.

But here is the thing:  Evangelical Christians cannot have that conversation.

And here is why:  We have wasted our conversation capitol on things that don’t matter.

Over the last 30 years Evangelical Christians have led the country in mean and nasty attacks about insignificant cultural wars.  We have picked fights on everything from gun laws, to Harry Potter to Presidential Elections to mainstream media to trying to prove Barack Obama is a secret muslim who wasn’t born in America.

All of these ridiculous debates have exhausted whatever respect we had.

So when a novel comes out about a man beating a woman senseless and that novel goes mainstream and becomes a movie and we start to say, “Hey, maybe as a society we shouldn’t go here” we are laughed at and dismissed as another bunch of crazy religious fanatics who still think Barack Obama is the antichrist.

With that said, this post is not meant to be a lament.  Although I am in mourning over the respect we have squandered, I would like to wipe away the tears and see the “50 Shades” phenomenon as an opportunity to reclaim some ground.

There is an opportunity here to have a real dialogue about true sexual intimacy.  That dialog would have to proceed from respect, seek understanding and clarify our support for sexual wholeness.  It would not be easy, especially for evangelicals who often get emotional and angry while we let our good sense catch up.

Still it is possible to begin that conversation and here is how I think it might work:

1)  I would actually read the book.  I would not do so because I want too.  Let me be clear, there are some TV shows, movies and books that have erotic or violent content that I want to watch and read.  And I avoid them for my own spiritual health.  This is not one of those books.  I have zero desire to read erotic romance.  However, if I wanted to speak truth into this “phenomenon” I would have to take the hit and actually read the book.  Until I did that, my opinion would be easily dismissed and I would look like an idiot.

2)  I would acknowledge there is something very real drawing mostly women to the novel.  And I would not readily dismiss that something as “sinful” like many are doing.

3)  I would begin with the end of the book where the couple break up, blaming “incompatibility.”  That would be a wonderful launching point to discussions about intimacy.  After all intimacy seems to be underlying much of the force driving all of this.

4)  I would admit I do not have the answers to true intimacy.  I have been married 6 and a half years (which feels like forever) and just this month found out my wife likes 100 Grand candy bars (or was it Take 5’s?).  There are times when we are of one mind and spirit (and flesh) and times when I look at my wife wondering, “Why did I marry her” and “The Good Lord only knows why she married me?”  There are times when I want to race home just to be in the same room as her other times when I wonder if I could get away with sleeping at the church from here on out.  I do not have the answers to intimacy and I would be very honest about my own rough road in sexuality and marriage.

5) I would be very apologetic and humble about the harmful views my church has espoused about intimacy.  Let’s face it, we have said and believed some really stupid things.  Let’s also admit that we currently say and believe some really stupid things.  In 2015 there are still Christians arguing you only have one shot at intimacy and it is your honeymoon night.  Before and after that, you are doomed.  I am really sorry those morons exist.

6) The goal of the conversation would be truth, not judgment or even doctrinal/ethical clarity.  I really believe “50 Shades of Grey” probably has something to teach us about intimacy, even if it just shows us something to avoid at all costs (which it certainly does).  I also think its popularity has something to teach us about each other.  If I were to engage this cultural expression it would be with the hopes of helping people find out what that was.

But as that title above states, I am ignoring this particular debate so this is all hypothetical.

Maybe one day they will make a “Sword of Shannara” movie.  Then I will be all game.  I loved those books as a kid!

**After I posted this I realized that this book was actually the first in a trilogy and that the couple do end up married in the end.**

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