50 Shades of Grace: Some reflections on Christian grace

I just noticed the other day that Super Bowl losing quarterback (although I still blame the offensive coordinator) went to see the movies 50 Shades of Grey. Why he did that, and then, why tweeted that he saw the movie, I’ll never know. Not exactly a dude’s movie. He claims he was supporting it because it was filmed in the area. Okay….

But because he tweeted, he immediately received numerous negative responses, many of them incredibly judgmental. I don’t want this to be that. And since I can use more characters than twitter or even facebook, here are my thoughts to Russell Wilson, ladies, and perhaps a few dudes.

1.) If you have seen the movie, or will see the movie, this is not a post to make you feel like you’ve fallen into a grave sin. This is not a post to try to incur guilt or even defensiveness. I’m not going to see it or read the book, but I know that many Christian women have (and at least one well known Christian QB). Again, you may see nothing wrong with the movie/book, or the sexuality presented. However, it would be worth your time-regardless of whether you are a Christian-to consider some of the articles which express concern. If an extremely large percentage of pastors, from a wide variety of backgrounds (we’re not talking just fundamentalist anti-Harry Potter stuff) agree that something could be harmful, it is probably at least worth investigating. As a rule of thumb. And if something is incredibly popular, whether it be a movie, song, sexual practice, I think it would be well worth asking the question: Why is _____ so popular? There is a reason. There is always a reason. Find out what it is. Perhaps that reason is good or reflects the longing (even misguided) of people made in God’s image. Or perhaps it expresses a sinful longing of people like you and I, whom are, well, to put it bluntly, sinners. Discern the reason and you’ll do yourself and others a great service.

Here are some reviews that call us to caution the practices in 50 Shades. Here’s one from Relevant Magazine and one from a Psychiatrist.

2.) Hypocritical Response? Some responses I’ve seen to Christians posting articles in response to the movie are, “You a@@,  you watch “R” movies all the time and you’re going to judge me for this?” And that’s potentially a very good critique.  All Christians should be careful whatever they watch. There are “R” rated movies that I’ve watched and there are those which I’ve turned off. At the beginning. At the middle. And there are “R” rated movies which I’ve fast forwarded through scenes, and there are “R” rated movies I wished I hadn’t watched, and there are “R” rated movies that made me run to the cross of Jesus, and there are “R” rated movies that I seemed to think about long after the credits in a bad way, and some in a good way. So let us all be thoughtful in whatever we watch. Thank you angry anti-judgmental person. Seriously, thank you. Well played.

3.) How to discern what is helpful/harmful to watch? Here is a grid that helps me. Does what I watch glamorize sin or harmful activity, that I would want to partake or think highly of the sin or practice? Does it make me want to sin against God or neighbor in thoughts, words, or deeds? Does it make me love Jesus more, or His church, His mission, His world, my neighbors? I’m not advocating Christian movies. I can’t even stomach them! I’m advocating deeper thinking about what we watch or listen to. Sometimes Pink Floyd really makes me love Jesus more (maybe for another blog post). And one show that was entertaining as well as devotional for me was my all time favorite Breaking Bad.

In case you live in cave and haven’t heard of the show-but that’s probably not the case because I don’t know too many caves with internet connection-Breaking Bad is about a Chemistry teacher turned Meth dealer/mogul. But as I watched it (and you are free to see it differently), it revealed how destructive drugs/dealing are, how pride destroys you from the inside out, how overlooking “small” sins leads to much more outwardly egregious offenses, and how much personal sin ALWAYS has communal consequences. The last one is incredibly relevant in our culture that defines something as immoral or bad ONLY if it hurts others. Breaking Bad proves the point that any selfish behavior always hurts not just the self but the community.

4.) Relax. Remember the Da Vinci code? It came and went. I don’t really think it did that much damage. At least not as many thought. I really do think this movie will come and go, and then another one will come. And go. And so forth. And the church will still go forth.

5.) Good mentoring relationships which expose blind-spots are the way to go for men and women. Articles are helpful but discipleship and doesn’t happen by sharing articles. I really do think bible studies in and of themselves need to be supplemented with safe, committed, challenging, relationships.

6.) If you think that Christians should have no business being concerned about what movies you watch, and what you do in your bedroom as “consenting” (can’t we both consent to unhealthy things) adults, then remember that God’s grace does teach us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2). On the other hand, if you think what is portrayed in the movie is harmful, then remember Jesus hates the sin of self-righteousness just as much. So let us both challenge and encourage each other by speaking the gospel to each other. In the end, all Christians need to believe in 50 Shades of Grace.  We need to experience it. We need to express it. We need to model to each other, that in the end, we are beggars telling each other that Jesus is the bread of life. Find life in Him.

 

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