Fifty Shades of Truth
fiftyshades

I’ve been hearing about a book making the rounds, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Naturally, being a writer and voracious reader, I check out books that people are talking about.

I hit up Google and typed in a search and up pops this description: Fifty Shades of Grey is a New York Times bestselling erotic fiction paperback and e-book by E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, the trilogy traces the deepening relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steel and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM.1

Well, that was definitely enough to make me decide NOT to read the book(s). Why not? Because I get the appeal that books with explicit sex scenes have. I went through a very long phase where all I read were romance novels. I am a firm believer that these types of books can be to women what pornography is to men. I was still reading these books early in my marriage. Whenever my husband and I got into a fight I would shut the door, pick up one of my books and stew about how my husband wasn’t anything like the romantic male characters. I compared my husband constantly to what some writer was telling me was the ideal.

Sound familiar?

Women, what do you feel if you know your husband is looking at pornography? That you can’t measure up to his idea of perfect? That you can’t perform in bed to his satisfaction so he has to turn somewhere else?

These books aren’t a whole lot different.

Dr. Oz recently did a show on “Books Women Read” and he mentioned Fifty Shades of Grey. He was quoted saying: “What it is about is people having an honest conversation about what sex should be like, what makes it better, what are the timing issues, how do we make it an important issue in our life rather than an afterthought.”2

That quote gets me. We should be honest about our sex lives with our partners. We should be able to express what we want, how it feels, how to make it an important part of our lives. We should already be doing that with our spouse. A healthy, fulfilling sex life is important in a marriage and to God! There is a shade of truth to his statement. But that shade of truth can put the thought in your head that this book will help you. It can draw you to pick up this book and read it.

That’s how we stumble, isn’t it? Listening to a shade of truth. And the enemy has more than fifty shades of the truth; he has countless numbers of them.

So, how do we avoid the trap of falling for a shade of the truth? Be in the Word. Read your Bible. Use it as your measuring stick.

Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV) says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

It’s not the act of looking; it’s the act of looking lustfully. It’s the thought behind it. Whether the person is real or fictional, if what we are looking at or reading is causing us to think lustfully about anyone other than our spouse then we are sinning.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 NIV

Let us be people that strive to live in the full light of the truth, not in the shadowy grey shades of it.

 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

[2] http://www.chron.com/news/article/Men-are-fans-too-of-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-3511870.php

28 Comments
28 Comments
  1. Beautiful Jordan, I appreciate your honest and cautionary words.
    Thank you!

  2. Great article – I love the way you have painted a picture of “shades of truth”. I’ve thought about this a lot and like that word picture. I’ve heard a great deal about the book as well and also made the decision not to read it. I think one of the areas that I am increasingly troubled about is our idolizing of sex. It seemingly carries far more weight in relationships than was ever intended yet to verbalize this one can be labeled as puritanical. Much more for a longer conversation but thank you for this.

    • Marilyn, thanks for your comment. I feel sex is a very important part of a relationship but when we start bringing other people into it (through pornography of graphic books) we are making it into something God did not intend. It should be an expression and celebration of your desire and love for EACH OTHER not other people.

  3. Great Article Jordan!

  4. Great article filled with truth! Thank you for these words! I just recently learned about this book, and it is sweeping our city (Charlotte) like a wildfire. It seems everywhere I am turning, I keep hearing from women, “You have to read this book!” Really, do I? Really, do you know what I “need” to read? Do you really know I can handle these kinds of books/stories? Do you really know me? The answers to all these questions is profoundly one simple one…no.

    We must be very careful with what books we recommend to people. I read Twilight, Harry Potter and a vast array of other fantastical story books…and I can handle those stories. They don’t affect me the way perhaps they may affect someone else. However, this kind of book from the description alone turned me off like a light switch. Why? Because my mind can easily become ensnared in such a story line in a manner that isn’t good. So I must be very careful to not only choose my books carefully when it comes to fiction, but also to recommend such books to anyone unless I truly know they can handle them (which happens rarely). So I usually stick with recommending books that truly can help people. Books that provide God-focused insight that lead us to further study of His word on our own. Books that uplift and point toward Christ. What I read on the side of these books, for my own fantastical imaginary getaway, I table for myself and keep from the ears of others.

  5. Jordan,

    I love this! You hit the nail on the head–I’ve been prepping for a sermon regarding ‘The Single Life’, and am touching on the same thing–Christian romance books set our women up for disappointment if they think what they are reading is reality. Unfortunately, I know some well meaning Christian readers who have a hard time believing it is fiction and –have experienced some great disappointment and letdown that has led to bitterness. I think back to the Christy Miller series from when we were young, and the idea of finding love on the tea cups at Disney–I was just on the teacups…with a boy who loved Jesus very much…and we didn’t fall in love. haha

    We all do want a story worth telling though, don’t we?

    • Thanks, Janette! Good luck with the sermon. And yes, we do all want a story worth telling – let’s keep our focus on telling the greatest love story of all and let God worry about ours.

  6. Jordan, I enjoyed your viewpoint on this. Believe it or not, I’m working on a book review of this tome for Provoketive. I’m doing it for a lot of reasons. I think books are more than books – they carry a message. And like you said, people need to be careful about what they read. I published a blog post today on my blog about what I’ll be writing next week and I quoted your article there – http://fallenpastor.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/exciting-upcoming-posts-on-fallenpastor-com/

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your heart here because I plan on quoting your article in my book review. God bless.

  7. Although I might see it from a different perspective, I enjoyed reading your post.

    Nearly every woman I know has read, or is currently reading this book (and that’s not an exaggeration). Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with someone reading this type of book, and I actually think it can be a healthy read for some people. The real question for me was why are so many women drawn to it? Is it because they are missing something? Maybe because they don’t feel comfortable being open about it because any time they’ve been honest about sex, they paid the consequences from the other person’s reaction? Maybe because it feels naughty? Or is it simply that it’s fun to read something we would never do ourselves?…

    So I asked many women who’ve read the book, “what draws you in to the book?” and it opened up some awesome, honest, vulnerable dialogue. Had I told them the reasons they probably shouldn’t read the book, I would have missed out on vulnerable dialogue these women were willing to have when in a safe environment for such a discussion.

    Personally, I think more relationships need to explore sexual experiences and for one of the women I know, this book probably saved her relationship because it sparked something in her that her partner simply didn’t naturally spark in her. I don’t think it’s a sin. They have an amazing relationship and they are faithful, in love, and together for a lot longer than most couples I know. However, many people have psychological, physical, emotional, and neurological mysteries that I believe are human conditions that we can’t always explain. So, what might be wrong for one person could be the right prescription for someone else.

    And then another question comes to my mind: why do women put so much pressure on a man to fulfill her every sexual need? In the case of my friend, this book sparked something in her that her man couldn’t provide, and in return it caused her to consider being more sexually adventurous with him, and he was so stunned (in a good way) that he naturally felt more confident being naked with her, and the end result is that they can’t stop having sex, now. Based on this case study, I can’t judge the book, negatively.

    • You should write a post and share your experience and perspective on this. Sounds like you have a ton to offer.

    • Raelene, thanks for your reply. I love how you open dialogue with women who read this book by asking them what drew them to the book in the first place. I think that’s great.

      What troubles me about the hoopla surrounding this book is that many women are turning to this book as an answer to their sexual frustration. I can see how it would do that—short term. The book would create desire in people that they can then act out with the person they are in relationship with. But what about long-term? What will they have to turn to next once the passion fades again?

      I believe that God created sex to be full of passion and my question is why are we turning to erotic novels to fix what God created? Why not turn to God? I believe that He alone is the ultimate healer of our emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and sexual defects and, if we let Him, He can provide wholeness in our sexual lives. Some people may think that is a whacked out concept…God having interest in our sex lives…I can see the headlines now :) But for those of us who want to love the Lord with all our minds, souls, hearts and strength then I think this is a legitimate question.

      Thanks again for your comment and point of view. I agree with Jonathan (above). You should write a post and share your experience and perspective. Would love to read it!

      Jordan

      • Maybe I’ll write a post, then. : ) In the meantime…

        “Why not turn to God?” I hear ya. That is the ideal objective…and one that I treasure; but, there is a large population of women who don’t wake up thinking, “my husband hasn’t touched me for years and when he does, it does nothing for me. Let me pray.” Ideally, God is exactly where the answers are, but sometimes it takes something else–in our own language–that leads us there.

        Maybe this book is written in a language and context that is a familiar language for some women. Whereas, maybe the Bible, prayer, etc. is a “foreign” language to them. If a women is drawn to an erotic novel, the very mention of God (had I brought it up) would most likely steer them away, or cause them to feel shameful. What if God positioned this book in the right spot for some women to pick up and read because he knew it would lead them to comfortably talk to me about it and then it opens up the environment for comfortable dialogue? In those kind of moments, I would never mention God because it would most likely close the conversation. But weeks after I had these conversations with these women, they asked me some questions, one being, “Why are you so comfortable talking about sex?” And it gave me the opportunity to say, “because God gave us this gift and it’s a freedom I cherish, and one that I have no shame.” They were more open to talking about God in this moment than any other moment. My point being, sometimes what might appear to be so wrong, might be the very thing that opens up needed conversations. Sometimes it leads to God. Sometimes it doesn’t.

        Even though it could potentially just be a short-term solution to sexual frustrations, I think it goes deeper than that. There are more discussions among women talking about sex and their frustrations since this book that I think it’s awesome. It’s healthy and therapeutic for them to get it off their chest. I choose not to stop that conversation, even if the initial objective was to find an out through erotic reading. I think I tend to take this approach to most things in my life (just letting people be exactly who they are and comfortably expose their brokenness) because as people feel safe in that, they reveal exactly what they need. Then, when I want to share my relationship with God, and way of life, I can plug that in when I recognize it wouldn’t be a foreign language for them.

        • Hi Raelene, I hear you. All your points are valid when talking to women who do not know God and know what His plan is for a healthy sexual relationship. This book does create a lot of great dialogue as you have experienced first hand.

          When I wrote my article it was for the church—for the people who are reading this book who know God’s truths. God wants us to cast all our cares upon Him. God wants our lives to be above reproach and not cause others to stumble. It causes questions in my heart when I hear of Christians reading this book. I know for myself that I shouldn’t read this book because it wouldn’t help my marriage at all, it would harm it and I know a lot of women who find this true for them as well.

          I believe you don’t have to read the book to have the dialogue with people. I have the conversations myself. And when the appropriate moments comes up in conversation I tell them I won’t read the book and why. I too try to foster an atmosphere of love, acceptance and non-judgement when talking to people but I don’t have to read erotic novels or watch porn in order to make other people feel they can talk to me.

          I hear your heart. The typical, modern church has not exactly fostered an atmosphere where people can be broken and vulnerable without receiving condemnation and I challenge the church in that area as well. God accepts people just as they are and we need to do the same. But we who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord also need to be aware that at some point God will want us to point the same broken people to Him, to tell them of His love and His desires to heal them and of His amazing Grace. Our lives should glorify Him, our conversations should glorify Him, what we read and watch should glorify Him.

          Loving the dialogue, Raelene! Thank you.

          Jordan

          • I love the dialogue, too. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I completely understand your points. And you’re absolutely correct that believers in Christ don’t need to practice the things of unbelievers to create a comfortable environment.

            I think, for me, the challenge is, when attempting to lead unbelievers to God, how do we determine what is “glorifying” Him, in order to lead an unbeliever in the “right” direction. Although scripture can clarify it to a degree, I say degree because it’s still interpretation/translation/perspective/specific time in history, etc….and how that translates in today’s world is not simple.

            I get so stumped by the awesome questions and rebuttal from non-believers that I end up saying, “I don’t know the truth. You don’t know the truth. Nobody truly knows the truth. We can only have faith that what we’re reading and researching was interpreted accurately and when in prayer with God, he will place the truth on your heart, mind, and soul. Regardless of how strange it might be to believe certain stories in the Bible, I know for a fact, what I’ve experienced in my own life, God was there. You will know it. And if I’m wrong, I lost nothing. If I choose a different belief system, I lose eternal life and much more.”

            (I’ve read many books that would be on the “bad” list of many other Christians. And honestly, I wouldn’t change that and I’m thankful I don’t feel shame about it. If it’s impacted my life negatively, I haven’t noticed. I read my Bible just as much. A part of me seems to enjoy the well-rounded perspective because I feel I can naturally engage a variety people with differing perspectives. I suppose I look at it as research.)

  8. If one is confident in their beliefs, they should be able to read, view, talk about, and expose themselves to anything and the “truth” or “light” will prevail. I see Christian editing, and akwardness in unsavory situations as dark spots where the weakness of faith is exposed. If ones faith is strong, and you are right…then the light should follow.

    In my view…full freedom is knowing EVERYTHING and deciding FOR something. When we make things Taboo we empower that thing. I have never come across a untravelled, unexperienced person who was more influencial than someone who has lived a life, and spoke from real experince given similar intelect and ability to be introspective.

    If something is a conversation starter…I say read it and have the conversation. A REAL discussion includes insights most people who regularly impose righteous filtering on themselves just can’t muster.

    …..in my experience.

    • I agree with every word you wrote, Jamie. That’s exactly why I stated in previous comments that I see it as a form of research because I, too, believe we empower the things we make Taboo. It reminds me of parenting my own child. Anytime I tell her something is not “right” or not to do something, she becomes more curious, ask more questions, and will even do the very thing I said not to do, simply because I gave that particular thing/situation/etc. power.

      • More dialogue! Great! Although, Raelene, you’ve made a very generalized sweeping statement. What about if you ask your child not to touch a hot stove, or run out into the street. There are many times in parenting when it is appropriate to tell your child not to do something and explain why. I believe God operates the same way. The Bible clearly states many things that we should NOT do because it leads to death (as well as a lot of things we should). I don’t think this gives power to the thing that can harm them, rather shows the child the rightness behind the request when they understand why.

        And Jamie, based on what you stated I could then assume that you would think it would be okay to look at something like child pornography (not that you would!) since you state you can expose yourself to anything and ‘truth’ will prevail. Again, it’s a generalized sweeping statement that I will have to disagree with.

        I could also argue that by reading/viewing/writing ‘anything’ that’s when those things have power. By reading erotica novels you showing publishers there is a demand which will then increase the amount of that type of content, same with viewing pornography (of any kind)—is that your intent? I think by choosing NOT to read/write/view certain things that’s when you are taking the power away from that thing. I have had no issues engaging people in dialogue about something that they have read that I have not. I can ask them about the book, why they read it, what is it about, what I can see could be appealing and why I would choose not read it without having read it or making them feel judged that they have.

        There are some people that feel they can read “Fifty Shades of Grey” with a clear conscience before God. That is fine. I am not one of those people, and I know of many others. Some people aren’t sure if they can or can’t and I hope my article and these comments (thanks guys!) will help them make their decision with confidence whatever way they choose.

        I do believe I hear both of your hearts. The Christian market does tend to censor things to the extreme where it ceases to feel “real”. Showing real and raw situations and then showing how God can show up takes a lot of talent that few seem to have. One book that does this extremely well is “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. The author manages to tell the story with scenes that have child molestation, rape and prostitution without giving you the nitty gritty but still letting you know it happened and hitting you in the gut with it.

  9. Jordan,

    I guess I could have been more clear in my statement. I assumed a understanding that it is never OK to explote others, especially children. Your choice in examples is a strawman aurguement that is beyond the realm I was suggesting. To view naked pictures of a child is a horrific abuse of the bounderies every person should have the choice to require, with full mental facalties having been developed.

    But I can use this example in a more to my point scenerio…

    Say a child was sexually abused by a secondary family memeber, and you brought her or him to a psychiacrist

    • Hi Jaime, I’m not sure if you had more to say. I think your full thought wasn’t published. I know you made the assumption that people would know it is not okay to exploit others. However, I have learned the hard way that I am responsible for the words I leave out on the internet and I try not to leave room for people to make permissible for themselves things I understand God’s word would not make permissible. I mentioned I learned this the hard right, right? :)

  10. I guess I could have been more clear in my statement. I assumed a understanding that it is never OK to explote others, especially children. Your choice in examples is a strawman aurguement that is beyond the realm I was suggesting. To view naked pictures of a child is a horrific abuse of the bounderies every person should have the choice to require, with full mental facalties having been developed.

    But I can use this example in a more to my point scenerio…

    Say a child was sexually abused by a secondary family memeber, and you brought her or him to a psychiatrist to deal with that trauma. Would you want that Dr. to have read full depositions of what happened? Would you want them to have full knowledge of what happens to these kids so they can speak to the hurt and suffering that has taken place? Can you imagine a councilor having a ears in the finger moment or lacking the true understanding od what REALLY is happening to these poor kids?

    Catch all phrases like “Cast all your cares on Jesus” and “Turn to God” always used to seem trite and way to ambiguous to me.

    Kinda like a picture I saw of a man and woman handing a bible to a earthquake victim in Haiti with the caption… “Thanks, these look delicious!”

    I realize that this is now a reverse strawman argument suggesting the only times to subject yourselves to unsavory subjects is during reasearch to help others. I am not even suggesting that. I am aurguing that full knowlege, and discloser are the most powerful, longlasting manors to base long lasting stable decisions. If you read a book like 50 Shades and it brings up something surprising for you….that’s great! Unpack that and deal with it…..make some choices and be proactive about it. I would be greatful to have made some movement on a once dormant issue.

    I realize scripure is pretty clear on this. But it is also pretty clear that I should stone my daughter if I find she has lost her virginity before she marries, and slavery is just fine so….

  11. Sorry….computer glitch.

  12. Yep, I accept responcibility for not being clear enough.

    …and man, I am way too used to the edit function on Facebook. II need to fix all those typo’s! :)

    • Jamie, thanks for the dialogue. I think we did a good job arguing both our points so I will leave it at that. I appreciate your insight and hope that others find it helpful as well. Always enjoy a good discussion.

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