Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shades of Gray and the Christian

As I was watching TV last night, I was also messing around on my iPhone and seeing what was up on Facebook.  I came across a status from an acquaintance who went to Auburn with me, and what she said gave me pause for thought.  It was about the 50 Shades of Gray Trilogy and her thoughts on it as a Christian woman.  Many of our mutual friends "liked" her status and she had a few supportive comments as well. I've heard about this series although I have not read it myself. I've had it recommended by good friends, but I've been hesitant to read it and I most likely will not.  As I got in bed, I read the status to Jason and we talked about the books, being a Christian, what kind of things we should put in our minds, etc.

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning, wide awake, and still thinking on it.  Now, I'm going to admit something about myself and I can't decide if it is positive or negative but here it is.  I hate controversy and confrontation.  I will keep quiet, walk away, smile and act supportive when I am not - all to avoid it.  Part of that is because most of the time my thoughts on an issue, whether I agree or not, don't really matter.  The issue isn't that important nor is my opinion.  Another reason is I often question myself and want to think about what I think before I share what I think.

Either way, when I see crazy things or thought-provoking things on Facebook, I rarely get involved.  Part of that is who I am and part of it is that I usually do not take Facebook seriously.  However, this time was different for some reason.  Here is the status itself:

"I am a Christian woman and I just finished reading the 50 shades trilogy, with all the hype around it I thought I would give my thoughts...It is a fabulous story of healing and redemption and for someone who had the scare of her life this year, it is a great reminder that we can overcome anything!! It has enhanced my marriage and sparked many great and creative conversations with my spouse!! I agree with Dr. Oz that it will make you connect with your spouse and can do wonders for a marriage! It is very sexual explicit but I have to say for me, I would rather read that than about kids killing kids, ie. Hungar Games......just sayin!"

Not having read the books, I was very hesitant to say what I thought, but then I wondered if I should speak up anyway.  Here is why it mattered to me:

1. I think the gray areas (no pun intended) are trouble and Christians often get lost in them (sometimes purposefully so).  I have been one of those people guilty of dabbling in the gray areas, of wanting them to truly exist so I could do what I wanted while knowing deep down (or not so deep down) it was wrong.  I don't think God and His word leave a lot of gray, though. 

2. I think what we put into our heads matters a lot.  When I read or watch something, it is in my head for keeps, and I cannot tell you how many things I wish I could take back out. There are things I've allowed in my mind that I know I shouldn't, and I've let them grow and breed actions that were not right either. I continue to fight against this and will always, most likely.  A verse I once memorized comes to mind... "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about these things." (Phil 4:8).  And call me Pollyanna, but I LOVE thinking about things like that.

3. Sometimes keeping quiet makes me guilty.  I may not like controversy and confrontation.  I may not like it if someone gets angry at me for a differing opinion.  And there is always the possibility that someone will misunderstand what I said or my motives and think I'm a loser, a fanatic, a dork, or a prude.  Still, the Example I'm supposed to follow did not back down from uncomfortable moments of controversy or confrontation.  Of course, He got killed for it, but if I truly follow Him, he DID ask me to pick up my cross too... (And let's just admit it, our "crosses" these days are quite small). 

So even though it would be easier to have a lovely chat with Jason about the status above, go to sleep, and wake up in my happy little world of pregnancy, babies, pink and green colored nurseries, sunshine on my shoulders, dreams of running etc... I disagreed with that status enough that I decided to comment.  And if you put something out there publicly on Facebook or a blog... aren't you opening yourself up to commentary from others?

I wanted to be careful as I commented, however, because I'm not judging her or anyone else who reads those books.  I am guilty of reading or watching things I had no business putting into my mind, and I have rationalized them to make them right. (It's just entertainment.  I'm married, so this is okay now.  I'm not going to agree with or do what these characters are doing.  It's just a story. Etc.)  So I'm not pointing a finger.  I recognize my own humanness and I remain humble about it.  But if those books contain what I'm told they contain...surely we should be approaching such material with caution.  Especially if we claim to follow Christ and want to be like Him. 

So here is what I said.

"I haven't read the books myself so I have to admit mostly ignorance as I comment, but I'm wondering if it is possible to have/find/experience all those things you mentioned above (enhanced marriage, creative conversations with a spouse, reminders that we can overcome anything, etc.) without reading about explicit sex scenes and acts. My husband and I had a great conversation simply based on your status. :) Again, I know very little other than the hype you mentioned, and Heaven knows I've read many questionable things for mere entertainment value alone (The Hunger Games for example), but I think I'd rather read a story about what you and your family have overcome in the last year* than what 50 Shades has to offer. I guess I approach these books with caution because they have the potential to affect a marriage (and a mind) quite differently than they have with you and Wes. I think it is pretty great, however, that you took what you read and used it so positively in your marriage, and I think that is attributed more to you and who you are than it is to the books themselves. Your status definitely made me think about what I'm reading and what I'm doing with what I read."

* She has been battling cancer and undergoing chemo, and that is what she and I both reference.  

I tried to remain humble and kind.  I think I said what my heart and mind wanted to say.  It is true, I wanted all of those who "liked" or agreed with her to read what I wrote and consider it before picking up those books if they haven't already. It is possible that what they liked about the status was how she applied what she read to her marriage, and I liked that too.  However, I do believe there are other ways to go about improving one's marriage than by reading sexually explicit books. I admitted to my ignorance of the story line, although I was told what else they contain when they were recommended to me.

In essence, I could be wrong.  I haven't read the books so I don't really know.  But I felt I knew enough to comment, so I did.  Who knows what sort of response will come of it today.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe some good and maybe some of what I fear that usually keeps me quiet.  Either way, I prayed about it and did the best I could.  If God can use that book to improve marriages, he can use my bumbling opinions to share something good too.

So what do you think?  Did you read them?   Did you decide not to read them for the reasons I gave?  Are there truly shades of gray and is this book one of them? As I stated before, putting anything out in public like this always opens the door to commentary, whether those commenting agree or not.  Either way, I welcome your thoughts on the matter.


  1. You said that well and very non-judgmentally too. I've seen almost "wars" on FB break out about this book among my friends and their friends, etc. It is really dividing a lot of Christians. I love the verse you quoted. We have brought that verse up in SS before. Through discussions about it, we gave up cable t.v. at our house (and many other friends did the same). As long as we are really thinking and praying about what we read, watch, etc. I think we will make the right choices. For my family, this is something that has become much more of a priority now that our kids are older. We are really trying to make good choices for the whole family.

  2. Really interesting. I haven't read the books either and won't for many of the reasons you brought up. Thanks for sharing. -Angie

  3. I didn't read them. Call me a prude, but I'm too afraid of the subject matter! Four kids or not, I still giggle at the word 'sex' and I think those books would make my head explode! I went to the bookstore and picked up a copy of 50 Shades and opened to a random page. I was so embarrassed by the few sentences I read, I quickly put it down and went over to the ghost story section :) I am now the proud owner of "Hauntings of the White House"...much more my fare :)

  4. Good for you, Jane! I haven't read the book(s) and I won't, because I just think it's opening a dangerous door. Women act like reading these books isn't the same as a guy watching porn, but it is the same. Thing. It is porn for women. I've been pretty horrified at Facebook statuses about this series, and how comfortable my Christian friends seem to feel about reading it. Look. I know that talking about intimate things with your spouse is good for your marriage, but like you said -- there are healthy ways to talk about things like this WITHOUT supporting and reading what I'm pretty sure is just smut. This is going to sound so cliche and Bible-beating crazy, I'm sure, but I always go back to what my Dad used to say to me when I was a kid -- "If Jesus were looking over your shoulder, would you still be reading/watching/doing what you're reading/watching/doing?"

  5. I too have been really surprised at just who exactly says they are reading those books. I don't expect Christians to be perfect and to never make mistakes or bad choices (Heaven knows I make my fair share and will unfortunately continue to do so), but I do expect Christians to try and I really can't see how that trilogy could be right or good at all. I can't see how it is different than pornography, and I think I can bring a spark into my marriage or renew that part of us should it need renewing, without bringing that kind of thing into it.

    Thanks so much for your comments! It encourages me to know others feel the same way about it.

  6. I am so glad you posted this today. I applaud you on your bravery and your tact in handling your friend's facebook post.
    God wants us to meditate on those things that are pure and holy. I haven't read the book- nor will I. Here is a link to another blog that addresses the idea of porn in the context of Christian life. http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/index.php?id=1836 . Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a Christian women's speaker, recently also addressed this book. I love her website at www.revivourhearts.com .