Young Men in the Shadow of Christian Grey

Much is said about the potential damage that 50 Shades of Grey could cause women but I’m not hearing much about the damage it will cause to men.

I spoke recently with a young man who walked in on a 50 Shades of Grey event at a local establishment. He was clearly confused by it. “That’s the kind of stuff that comes into a guy’s head sometimes but then the guy usually knows to get rid of it because it’s wrong. Now, here I was, surrounded by women wearing handcuffs “just for fun” and asking me to blindfold them. I guess I should have liked it but it was so out of whack I left. When I think about it, it just messes with my head. It seems stupid now to reject it when so many women seem to want it but I’m not really into hurting women.

It’s sexist and naïve to think that sado-masochistic role playing and/or experimenting with abusive sex will only be harmful to the women involved. The men in my world are as imperfect as the women and they struggle, too, to work out their relationships in ways that get their needs met and honor both God and the other people involved. Now, they have Christian Grey out there acting like a funhouse mirror of the total man. He’s always been there, of course. Like the young man told me – it’s stuff that comes into a person’s head. But in the past, the Christian Grey’s haven’t been celebrated on morning news shows and no teenage boys found books about him on their mothers’ bedside tables.

I have NEVER heard Galatians 3:28, so frequently cited by women in defending women, cited to defend a man but I will do that now. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Just as 50 Shades of Gray is detrimental to women, so it is for men. Just as it’s challenging to be a woman in this culture, it is also hard to find your way into a manhood worthy of celebration and respect. This movie does nothing to help that.

Do we want young men who have been hurt or damaged in their childhood to imagine the pathway to healing and freedom is to inflict pain on others? From what I understand, Christian and Anastasia wind up married, loving and accepting one another but none of the parties celebrating this story are centered on healing and marriage. The parties and the media focus on the bondage and pain. The Christian Grey who is held up as heroic is the one we meet at the start of the story – the controlling man who becomes stimulated by inflicting pain on his partner.

These stories have always existed. They have always been able to be accessed but this is different because as a culture we’re elevating and celebrating it in all its twisted, erotic glory.

The book of Galatians is all about our freedom in Christ. I believe you’re free to read this book and to watch this movie. Some will do just that and walk away unscathed but they’ll be rare. I’m not interested in a culture of censorship or boycotts but I love free speech. I choose to exercise mine in voicing serious concerns about celebrating this book and movie.

When the first Christian, Stephen, was martyred, stoned by angry Jews, the murderers tossed their coats at the feet of the young man, Saul. One verse about that haunts me. It simply says, “Saul approved the stoning of Stephen.”

It doesn’t say he picked up a stone. All it seems he did was watch their coats. But, he watched and approved of their actions. Two verses later we learn that Saul went on to torment other believers, arrest them, throw them in prison, and threaten them with death. It began with what he witnessed and approved. There’s a lesson there about the influence of what young men and women witness.

But, Saul’s story didn’t end there, it ended with redemption through Jesus Christ. Anything that happens to an individual because they engage with 50 Shades of Grey does not have to end there either.

Jesus is all about redemption. Jesus, the One through whom we were all created, was rejected by us. He answered that rejection, not through inflicting pain, forcing submission, or seeking ways to control but by taking the punishment that was due us upon Himself even to the point of death on the cross.

He rose from death victorious over sin and death. He is victorious over any novel, feature film, or foolishness we humans can devise to mess with our own hearts and heads. He is present, active, and ready to work redemption in our lives and in the lives of our daughters and our sons.

E.L. James will not have the last word on anyone’s life. She’s just a novelist who wrote a story. And we all have choices about how we respond to art in any form. We aren’t androids mindlessly directed by input.

Still, damage will occur in the wake of this film – to women AND to men. To my writer friends, consider carefully what stories you send out into the world and don’t forsake storytelling if that’s your calling. Do you not see its power?

Do you want to combat 50 Shades of Grey? LIVE AND WRITE A BETTER STORY.

And to the rest, you have a voice. Use it to influence others to see this story for the damaging influence it is but always end your story, not with the thud of condemnation but with the clicking key of redemptive freedom in Jesus Christ.


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4 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Sheri says:

    Thank you Lori for your evaluation of this movie. I agree with your views. I think that it’s another marker in the downfall of our society. Pushing the mark of end time.

  2. Tammy Smith says:

    I am grieved at how far we’ve come as a culture that we actually are glorifying,through this film,the very attitude that’s playing across our nightly news.The only difference between 50 Shades of Grey and ISIS are the clothes and the choice of weapons used for their crimes against women.I wonder which one we should be more concerned about….the sword wielding,bloodied,sinister faces of Islam or the smooth talking,nicely dressed ,handsome guy? I cannot distinguish between the two…same enemy,different tactics.LORD Jesus,please raise up mighty men and virtuous women running after Your heart alone !

  3. Carla says:

    I was just saying to a woman this morning that Paul said ‘moderation in all things’. But our species doesn’t do moderation well. I think it’s part of our DNA. We are never satisfied, and more is never enough. When Hugh Hefner started Playboy magazine, that was considered pornography.. It very quickly wasn’t enough. We got Hustler and a various assortment of ‘more’. Now we have ‘snuff porn’ readily available on the internet–where the death of the woman is portrayed during the sex act. During the time of Jesus, the people were spectators in the ‘Gladiator games’, where the lion vs man were applauded. We have again elevated sports to a god-like level–and there is no such thing as moderation in any aspect of our lives. It is all or nothing.

    How are we supposed to eliminate bullying, rape or violence when we have it blasted in our faces every day? This ’50 Shades of Grey’ is just another indicator of how our population is sliding down the slippery slope into depravity. What was once evil is now good, and what was good is now intolerance and bigotry. Now, more than ever before, we need to be teaching our children the Truth, and become the ‘peculiar’ people He called us to be.

  4. Excellent as usual, Lori. And I never noticed your observation about Saul in the stoning of Stephen story. It’s true – we are influenced by what we take into ourselves through reading, movies, tv, etc. and it’s just not worth it to allow something like this to have a stage in your life. Thank you for speaking in regards to young men.

    When this book first came out, we were eating with 2 other couples and the women started whispering together. I picked up on what they were talking about, and so did one husband who did not like it and said no one should be reading anything like that. Bravo for him.

    Praying for discernment in the church, and a realization that we live as part of the best story ever.