“Our hearts are the biggest factor though. As the Reformer John Calvin reminded us, they are an idol-making factory. The place where we time and again decide that we want a certain experience, a certain kind of relationship, a certain kind of security, a certain kind of pleasure—and want those things more than we want God.”
Fifty Shades Darker hits cinemas this weekend—and many Christian women find such films very appealing.
I imagine I’ve just divided the readership of this blog. Statements like that usually do.
Some will be shocked. How can you even begin to say that many Christians like this stuff? That’s ridiculous! After all, we’ve been warned that “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5 v 3). In a similar vein, the Bible encourages us with the words, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 such things” (Philippians 4 v 8). The Fifty Shades phenomenon—and other erotic films—are unlikely to help us think that way!
But others reading this will be quietly nodding their heads—conscious that they (or their children, or their friends) are entranced by what the story of Mr. Grey and Ana has to offer.
The struggle is real
I have the privilege of mentoring and counseling many Christians who struggle in this area. Many believers (many women believers included) who know the daily tension that exists between their desire to honor Christ with their minds and bodies—and the relentless temptations to fantasize about sex outside marriage with an individual who can weave together pleasure and pain. It’s not something that gets discussed over coffee after the average church service but the thoughts are there… and it’s those thoughts that lead many Christians to buy the books, watch the films, relive the images quietly at home in ways that arouse and then carry burdens of guilt that drag them down day after day.
The reasons behind the tension can be complex.
Our past experiences may plan a part. If we’ve known the horrors of childhood sexual abuse, we may know the way in which fear, pain and arousal can so easily intertwine. If we’ve been rejected, we may know the desire to control others so history can’t repeat itself.
Our present experiences can influence too. Singleness can be great—it’s a gift from the God who adores us and knows it’s just what we need at this moment in time to help us become more like Christ—but it can be sexually frustrating. Lack of spouse doesn’t automatically mean lack of physical drive and if, as believers, we choose not to express those urges with another human being, it’s easy to “find release” through participating in a film. Marriage can be great too—but not all marriages are happy ones. Sometimes they are abusive—sometimes they are loveless—sometimes they are sexless … how easy it is to fantasize about what things could be like if only we were with someone else.