The Truth: 50 Shades of Grey

I am so excited right now about the sermon series going on at my church. For the first time in my personal experience, a pastor was speaking the truth about sexual violence, sexual brokenness as well as sexual wholeness and freedom from the pulpit!

Now, I have watched plenty of sermons on sexuality. I have even come across very open individuals who will talk openly about sexual behaviors. But very few of these pastors spend time addressing the sexual violence in our world, and the biblical and research perspectives on why that violence exists and why we need to respond to it.

On Sunday, Pastor Peter at Substance Church shared with us why he wanted to do this series on sex. In a few days, 50 Shades of Grey will be released as a major motion picture.

The story is about a relationship focused on BDSM, a form of sexual expression that encourages and promotes sexual violence in a sort of “consensual” way. I say consensual in quotations because review of the 50 Shades storyline reveals very clear signs of an abusive relationship that, if real, would not be consensual.

50 Shades promotes and romanticizes abuse.

Now, you may remember that I wrote about another piece of media that depicts abuse, the Love the Way You Lie song and video by Eminem and Rihanna (originally written by Skylar Grey). The difference I see there is that that song was clearly described by the artists as a way to demonstrate the real emotions behind abuse, but they still recognized it as abusive.

50 Shades on the other hand views this relationship as harmless fantasy.

But abuse is from harmless. In fact, a recent study shows that young women who have read 50 Shades of Grey are engaged in abusive relationships themselves or engaging in behaviors that make them especially vulnerable to partner abuse.

While the study can’t conclude that these things began because of the book, they can conclude, based on numerous studies that have proven this to be the case, that the “normalizing” of this sexual violence has negative effects on individuals, relationships and the overall community.

And if you recognize that erotic novels have a similar effect on the brain as porn does, you can find even more research on the negative side effects of this book.

You can read about many of these side effects at Pastor Peter’s blog.

While I will write another post about this past weekend’s sermon, I did want to repeat a verse Peter highlighted on Sunday:

“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.”    — Rev 2:19-21

Now, if you are unfamiliar with the God of the Bible, or have been handed a limited view of God through religious traditions, you may see this as incredibly judgmental. But consider the following perspectives:

a) God loves His people and does not want them to simply live in the brokenness of the world, a world where sexual violence is normal. As a father instructs children what is right out of love and a desire for their best wellbeing, so God is saying this out of concern.

b) Those in the Church are to uphold justice. Even if you are not a Christian, you would expect Christians to actually do what they say they believe, right? That’s what God is pointing out in the Church in this story.

The point of this verse is to remind the Church that they are tolerating something that is harmful to others. In this case, tolerating it to the point they are allowing this woman teach a sexual perspective that is opposite of that which God calls for in the Bible.

Let’s not be this kind of Church. Let’s not be tolerant of the normalcy of sexual violence. Let’s recognize it for what it is, love on those who have been hurt by it, bring justice to those who promote it, and encourage hope and healing.