This article originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)
The National Football League is getting serious about the scourge of violence against women. The Grammy Awards show featured the importance of battling domestic violence. But the violence-ridden book, Fifty Shades of Grey, has been extremely popular among adult women, and it now has become a movie.
Here is Time magazine’s description of Fifty Shades:
“Nobody gets raped … and all the physical acts are consensual, but a romance about the possession of a virginal college student by a more powerful, older guy that involves her having to bend to his every whim, call him ‘sir’ and get beaten in the process could be accused of glamorizing a deeply unhealthy relationship.”
Actor Jamie Dornan, who plays the lead male role in the movie, became a dad during filming. “I don’t want [my daughter] to see the movie,” he told Time. “But I can’t stop her seeing it one day. I’d do everything in my power that she doesn’t, but what can I do?”
The answer to Dornan’s question would have been very simple a couple of years ago – don’t make the movie, let someone else. But so much for asking rhetorical questions; they don’t really intend to elicit an answer.
While we leave the question of the wisdom of making a movie, which encourages the degradation of women to Dornan, Texas Baptists can consider sexual ethics from a biblical perspective. The Bible gets pretty steamy at times when it comes to sex, but it is about a man adoring and desiring a woman, not hurting her.
Beyond the steamy parts, the Bible sets forth some basic principles about sex. First, it’s a good thing; God created men and women to enjoy and help one another. Sex is God’s good gift, and God intends it for the enrichment and fulfillment of human life.
But this is a sinful world, and all are sinners. This good gift from God can be misused, and this fictional Fifty Shades story publicly parades such misuse.
The Bible teaches the proper place for sexual relationships is within the covenant of marriage. The Bible is very frank. “But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2-3, NRSV).
Sex is not essential for a person to be fulfilled as a human being. Jesus, in Matthew 19:9-12, said God has appointed some to renounce marriage “for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven” (NEB). And the Apostle Paul said, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:7-9).
Ultimately, Fifty Shades of Grey is about self-gratification. Anyone old enough to see this movie will realize it’s not about love. It’s just about sex, but it’s a shallow, empty and hurtful version of the sex God created.
While there may be fifty shades of this Grey character, biblical sex is not so complicated or damaging. It is to be between a married man and woman. It involves freedom, not bondage. It includes tenderness, not hurt. It is centered on one’s spouse, not on self.
Ferrell Foster is director of ethics and justice for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.