I suppose the last part of that is still true. Everyone does need to make their own decision. But, I couldn't just sit back without weighing in anymore. What changed my mind?
Well, a facebook friend posted her thoughts about this movie. And basically (I'm paraphrasing because I read this post several days ago & I can't remember exactly how she worded it & she's since taken it down), she was dismayed by how many negative posts she was seeing about FSOG, she was really looking forward to seeing it, & she didn't like the idea of other Christians judging her as a 'bad Christian' for wanting to see it.
This post really got my wheels turning. Obviously there are a wide variety of views, among both the Christian & secular audiences, about this movie. I've read my share of those posts warning us against FSOG as well, and I agree with most of them. Many of the arguments presented to warn us that this movie is not just harmless entertainment seem so obvious to me. They resonate with my own spirit. But, what about another Christian who doesn't see it the same way?
I held back from responding to her post. I wanted time to think it through. It challenged me to think about my reasons...MY reasons (not reasons I read & agreed with) for not reading the book or watching the movie. I thought about it a lot! As a matter of fact, the one night I woke up in the middle of the night & lay awake for two hours thinking about it....basically writing this blog post in my mind.
Yet, I STILL didn't write everything down. When I came back that morning & checked facebook, that facebook friend posted that she decided to take her original post down because the discussion in the comments had started to become really nasty. So, I thought maybe that was just a sign that I needed to keep this to myself....not to give it any more valuable time or attention.
Except, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Because, I feel strongly, that our response to this movie matters....not just as Christians, but as people in general. So, I decided to sit down this afternoon & write down everything I thought about on that sleepless night. Because I waited so long, I may not remember everything I was originally thinking perfectly. And, I probably won't be nearly as eloquent as I thought I was in my sleeplessness that night.
I want to make one disclaimer. Just because I disagree with another Christian/ person's decision does not mean I am judging them to be a bad Christian/ person. I just disagree with them.
Ok. Here we go. My reasons can be broken down into three categories....From a secular viewpoint, From a Christian viewpoint, and my personal reasons.
1. From a secular viewpoint
Not all the blog posts, articles, etc. warning people about FSOG have been written by Christian people. There are plenty of secular groups that are concerned about this movie and the message that it sends to women. The theme in the book/ movie of a young, naive woman being drawn into a sadistic emotionally/ physically abusive relationship, allowing herself to be controlled & manipulated is enough to concern even groups like National Center on Sexual Exploitation (based in DC), Stop Porn Culture (Massachussets) , Radical Alliance of Women (Australia). Natalie Collins of Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse says the movie shows the 'classic portrayal of an abuser'.
The message of this film is another in a long list of messages that should concern women in our society. Add this to the message that we have to be pretty/ thin/ sexy to be appealing to men, that women should exploit their sexuality to show 'power', 'freedom', or 'self enlightenment', and that woman can 'change' bad boys if they are just sexually accommodating enough. In a society that on the surface proudly says it embraces feminist ideology, there seem to be an awful lot of messages that instead enslave women in lies. Lies that benefit men.
When a young woman goes to see this movie....let's suppose she's a young woman who desperately wants to be loved, struggles a bit with her self worth, and who doesn't have a very large support network of family or friends (perhaps a woman like the character in FSOG), what will she walk away from this movie with?
Will she walk away with the idea that the emotionally abusive man she knows is actually a romantic at heart and if she just 'sticks it out' he'll come around? Will she walk away feeling empowered to assert her own will? Or will she walk away with the idea that to succumb to the will and needs of a man in hopes that he will love her is valid? Or perhaps she'll walk away feeling as though if a man is handsome enough, powerful enough, rich enough he is worthy of her everything and she should take her sense of worth from pleasing that man because he is handsome/powerful/rich.
2. From a Christian viewpoint
As Christians we DO have an immense freedom in Christ. God has given us our wills and our minds in order that we can make sound judgements. Yet, He knows that not all of our decisions will be Christ-honoring. We still have the power to make those decisions anyway.
God has given us the Holy Spirit to help guide us in making those decisions. When we are unsure of what is right, of what we should do in a certain situation, we often feel something 'in our gut'. That's the Holy Spirit trying to get our attention. Other times the Spirit will impress something even more strongly on our hearts.
And, we have scripture. While the Holy Spirit can give us a sense of what is right, scripture is there for us to read, to study, to meditate on.
As I've been thinking about this topic, I keep coming to Ephesians. There are any number of places in scripture we could go where I think God's view of this movie would be clear. But, let's take a look at just some passages in Ephesians where Paul is telling us what it means to live as children of light.
Ephesians 4: 17-19 reminds us that there should be a difference between us & the world (the Gentiles in this passage). "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in the due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (emphasis mine).
I truly believe that we as Christians are just as guilty as the rest of the world of hardening our hearts and becoming de-sensitized to the darkness. We purposefully ignore the whisperings of the Holy Spirit so as to enjoy what we want to enjoy.
Several months ago, John & I came across a show on Netflix called "Orange is the New Black". In a nutshell it's the story of a relatively affluent woman being put in jail stemming from charges brought against her for a crime committed many years prior. Honestly, the show is one of the most thought-provoking, interesting, and stimulating shows I've seen in ages. It had an amazing story-line with incredible character development. From a screen writing standpoint, this thing was golden & a show of true writing talent. But, it was also chock full of profanity and explicit sex scenes.
I felt this gnawing inside of me each time we watched an episode that we really SHOULDN'T. But, it was so good. I was completely drawn into the storyline and I actually cared about & wanted to know what happened to each of the characters. I justified overlooking the other stuff, because the rest of it was good.
But, then there was a scene (and I'll keep my description PG, but trust me it was anything but) where one of the prison guards was verbally threatening one of the prisoners and he made a vulgar, disgusting statement that totally mocked & dishonored Jesus.
And, that was it. I could no longer reason away the promptings I'd been feeling from the Holy Spirit all along. I told John I could no longer watch that show. And, even though he didn't feel as convicted as I did about not watching it, he said he didn't want to watch it anymore if I wasn't.
Ephesians 4:30 says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
I wasn't always sure what that verse meant. How could we grieve the Holy Spirit? What grieves Him? Lately, I've come to realize that when we purposefully ignore his promptings, His voice, His leadings in our hearts, we grieve Him. We have the freedom to do exactly that because we are creatures with free wills. But, when we love someone....as we say we love God...and we still do something that we know will bring them pain, do they feel loved? Or does it bring them grief? In the same way, I believe this is how we grieve the Holy Spirit.
So, what as Christians should we do?
Ephesians 5: 1-3 says, " Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be event a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." (emphasis mine)
Ephesians 5: 8-11 says," For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5: 15 & 17 - 18 sum it up. " Be very careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise.....Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.....Instead, be filled with the Spirit."
When we are filled with the Spirit, when we lived as Christ lived, everyone is quick to point out that we shouldn't judge. And, friend, I absolutely agree, it's not my job to judge another person. My job...my only job is to love another person. But, that does not mean that we as Christians should not use sound judgement and discernment as we make decisions in our lives.
3. My personal reasons
I've thought about giving my testimony numerous times. But, I've always chickened out because I guess I actually fear a bit of that judgement from other Christians. People who I've only met in the last 10-14 years don't know much about my past. They only know what I share. And, I don't share much.
This is how I usually phrase it (and that's if I'm really going to open up). "My twenties were a dark time for me. I made really bad decisions and lived self-destructively. I looked to men for approval & acceptance." That's about as general and broad as you can make a testimony. And, I did that on purpose, because I didn't want to change the way that people look at me.
But for several years now, I've been feeling that nudge to tell more of my story. (Ah. The Holy Spirit again). Perhaps this is the right time.
I grew up in a Christian home & accepted Jesus at a very young age (I was about 6) in a children's worship service at church. I grew up loving God, being active in my church &, as I got older, in the youth group.
I was always a somewhat shy, awkward child. I dealt with self-esteem issues from a fairly young age. Junior high was torture for me. I was chubby & teased and I thought I just needed to be skinny for people to like me.
By 13 I was anorexic (weighing 100 pounds at my lowest weight...same height I am today 5'6). My parents were terrified for my health. And, if I dropped below 100 they were going to put me in the hospital. I eventually gained weight back to avoid that. But, I've dealt with food issues & body image issues ever since then, riding a wild rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain.
In high school I pretty much worked hard, kept my head down, & enjoyed the friendship of a few close friends....none of us would have fit into the popular crowd. I did very well academically and I was looking forward to studying elementary & early childhood education at college.
I really wanted to go to Messiah College in Grantham Pa. But, my parents didn't have much in the way of money. And, even to get financial aid parents are expected to contribute a portion of the tuition. They just didn't have that ability. So, I went to Millersville University which was minutes away from where I'd gone to high school & only 10 minutes from our home. I commuted to school. And, I paid my tuition by working part time through high school & all through college.
All this time, I never had the opportunity or desire to try out the college party scene. Again, I worked hard, did well academically, and got my degree. I was a 'good girl' and thought I knew my path in life. My greatest desire, even beyond teaching, was to get married and have children.
I never really dated in high school or college. I think I went out on only a handful of really awkward dates that didn't lead to a dating relationship. I experienced my first kiss at the age of 20. And, that was awkward too.
I was that girl that I described earlier in this post. I desperately wanted to be loved. I struggled with my self worth. And, although I DID have a strong network of family & friends, I was about to step out on my own. And, I really wasn't prepared for the real world.
After graduating from college, I moved into my first apartment with my best friend from high school. We were almost giddy with the idea of being out on our own, starting our own lives. I don't even know how to describe how my downhill slide began. It started out slowly enough. But, it swiftly escalated as I began experimenting with more & more things that had been frowned upon as we were growing up - dancing, drinking, smoking....all were big 'no-no's.
And, hear me. I love to dance. I still enjoy a drink here and there. I don't smoke anymore. But, my point is, there wasn't anything exactly wrong with these things. But, as I said, I had very little experience prior to living on my own. And, I just wasn't prepared to handle myself in an adult manner. I went overboard.
When I lost my virginity I had crossed into territory I NEVER imagined I'd find myself in. I had ALWAYS known I was saving myself for my husband (not that there were a ton of guys clamoring for a physical relationship with me up until then). The guy I had been dating at that point swore how much he loved me, how he needed me.....until we had sex. Then, he began backing off & eventually broke up with me.
I was devastated. I thought I had committed the unpardonable sin. In my mind, I could never be right with God again. I had disappointed him too much. So, I somehow decided that since I was already 'a sinner' I may as well just not care what I did anymore.
I built up a false confidence in myself - I did everything I could to make myself more attractive to men. I dressed provocatively. I acted provocatively. I guess in some twisted way, I thought I was taking back my power. If I could titilate & attract men, then I MUST be desirable.
Over the next several years I followed a very self-destructive pattern which involved clubbing (sometimes going out 3-4 times a week, staying up til 2 or 3 in the morning & going to work the next day at 7), binge drinking, chain smoking (only when I was drinking though...so I didn't consider myself a 'true smoker'), and promiscuity.
Yes. Promiscuity. There it is. Out in the light. I didn't just mess up a couple times. I habitually sought men's attention in the form of sex. And, I became increasingly more 'daring' & 'adventurous' in what I did. Or at least I thought I was being daring and adventurous the time. I had bought into the lie that I could express my feminine power & independence through sex.
In fact, I was walking a very dangerous line. I kept 'upping the anty' in what I would do to get or keep a man's attention. I thought it would make them like me. I thought they would think I was fascinating and would want to be with me. Instead, they generally used me and left me.
None of them saw me as a 'keeper'. Some of the men I 'dated' (and I use that term loosely) were actually very nice. But, because of who I had become I certainly wasn't serious dating or wife potential to them. But, a lot of the men were users. And, I held no interest to them other than what I could offer physically that night. I allowed a lot of things to be done to me that were degrading and humiliating.
There's a light at the end of my story. You see, I felt God pulling me back to him even in the midst of my darkest moments. I even remember sitting in my car late one night in the parking lot, blitzed out of my mind. I was crying....sobbing really. My soul was just coming apart. And, suddenly I felt this presence in the car with me. Everything became very still & silent, but I felt totally surrounded by love & peace. I remember writing a poem after that called 'Jesus in my car'.
I wish I could say that got my attention and I changed then & there. But I didn't. This lifestyle had become so ingrained. And, I felt trapped. It was addictive! The rush I got from a man's attention was unlike anything. And, even if I could have pulled myself out, I felt so much shame. I felt so unworthy. But, God continued to call to me.
Eventually, I met the man who would become my husband. A good guy. And, someday (because this post is already too long) I'll have to share more of our love story. At first I resisted being with him. He was 'too good'. How could he ever accept my past? He wasn't 'artsy & emotional' enough. But, friends, this man saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself anymore. He never held my past against me...and to this day he never has. He accepted me. He loved me. And the grace he showed me finally opened my eyes to the Grace that God was offering me.
Whew. That was a lot. I'm still somewhat nervous about hitting 'publish' on this one.
But I shared that because when I look at what is being said about this movie, I see a whole generation of young women....women who are much like the girl I was before I became lost....wanting to be loved, unsure of themselves & seduced by something very dark & dangerous.
And, THAT, is my personal reason for not watching this move and for thinking it's a dangerous movie for all of us. This perception that we can obtain some sort of intimacy from giving others power over us (and somehow fooling ourselves into thinking it's actually making us more powerful) is such a lie.
True intimacy, true love is what my husband gave to me. Grace. Acceptance. Unconditional love.
My last reason: My boys
I didn't mention this one at the beginning. But, it may be one of my biggest reasons in not supporting a movie like FSOG. I have a huge responsibility to raise four boys into men. I want them to be men of integrity. I want them to respect and honor women. I want them to learn compassion & self-sacrifice instead of pleasing themselves with no regard to the emotions of others. I want them to please the Lord in the decisions they make and the way they live their lives. I can't in good conscience support a movie that goes against all the values that I'm seeking to instill in them.
I may not have changed other minds. I've learned in life that we can rarely change the minds of other people. But, I hope I at least have given some food for thought and have explained why I hold the position I do.