So here’s what happened. 50 Shades of Grey went on the NYT bestseller list. For those just joining us, 50 Shades presents a demented view of sexuality, of the women-are-idiots school of thought. Jared Wilson of The Gospel Coalition posted an excerpt from my book Fidelity that he thought helped explain why people go in for this kind of stuff (like him, I think the explanation fits). The comments on that post went nuts, and Jared finally closed them down. Jared has a follow-up post on the ruckus as well. In the meantime, Rachel Held Evans has posted on it here, and I hear (but have not confirmed) that the religion editor of the Washington Post tweeted about it. Scot McKnight has called on The Gospel Coalition to take the post down here. And my daughter Bekah has offered her opinions of this particular movie by throwing her popcorn over here.
And why? Well . . . follow me closely here . . . it was because I am opposed to the degradation of women as represented in the 50 Shades phenomenon, and have been consistently opposed to that kind of thing throughout the course of my entire ministry. Examples would be tedious to multiply, but I am supplying some samples at the bottom of this post for anyone interested in facts. If literature encouraging the abuse of women were the drug, Twilight was like pot, and 50 Shades is the crack cocaine. I wrote an extensive review of Twilight, warning that it was a training manual on how to become an abused woman. And here we are, right on schedule, at the next stop. You see, a train has to run on the tracks the train is actually on. But in this situation, about the only thing the soft evangelical middle can do is attack those who attack the abusers. Sorry, but I am not about to cede the high ground on this one.
Just a few interactions though. Rachel Held Evans says this:
“Note: I get that some folks enjoy getting ‘conquered’ to some degree in bed. That’s fine. Do what you both enjoy. But this should be a mutual decision, pleasurable to both parties, and it is certainly not required by God-ordained gender roles.”
So the problem is not the language I used about penetration or conquest, but rather who is in charge of the whole thing. The objectors have wanted to slander me by pretending that I put the man in charge of it, but I most emphatically do not. What I actually do (as she accidentally acknowledges here) is to say that God is in charge of it.
This means that there are limits, even within marriage, established by God (1 Thess. 4:4). This is a theme that I explored at some length in my interaction with Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. You can follow that thread, starting here.
It also means that I believe that mutually-agreed-upon rape games in marriage are out. Mutual consent is necessary in godly marital sex (1 Cor. 7:4), but mutual consent is not the final authority. Mutual consent is required by God, but mutual consent is not God. God is the final authority, and He says that the marriage bed should be honored by all, the bed undefiled (Heb. 13:4).
If mutual consent were the final authority, then there is no reason why a married couple could not decide to read 50 Shades together. But I believe that if a man and a woman both vote for degrading the woman, the decision to do so is still evil.
So I turn the charge around. Unless a God-ordained pattern of husband/wife interactions is normative, including their sexual lives together, then we have opened the door to all sorts of spousal abuse. And incidentally, the charge that Evans and McKnight make that I ignore 1 Cor. 7:4 is a risible one — it is a point I have made repeatedly, as in over and over.
Some folks out there are acting like my band made a cover of that Kinky Friedman tune . . .
Women’s liberation is going to yer head,
Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed
Here is my point, everybody. I didn’t do that. That was somebody else who recorded that song. Random House published 50 Shades, not Canon Press. Treat women right is a biblical message. Treating them wrong is bad. Oh . . . but here is the problematic part. Right and wrong are defined by God, and not by mutual consent, or by feminine insecurities, or feminist compromises, or by masculine insecurities, or by zeitgeist-riddled cultural observers, or by evangelicals desperate to be accepted with the cool kids, or by chin-stroking, Bible-surrendering academics.
And so I say to the world (and those within the evangelical world who want to accommodate them) that slapping some dame around is your gig, not ours. This particular stink is coming from somewhere else — the dog poo was tracked in here by accommodationist shoes, not holiness shoes. This generation is offering up all their bent yearnings to Cloacina, the goddess of sewers. Some of us, who think that things could be healthier around here, and have said so, have naturally drawn the ire of those who don’t want to recognize where the real problem is.
Here is a short collection of quotes from books I have written over the years that reveals two things about this situation — the first is the fact of the slander, and the second is the lameness of the slander. So try another one, girls.
“The pattern is required of all Christian leaders so that they can exhibit the definition of Christian marriage to all the followers of Christ. The disciples, in turn, are to imitate what they see. The Bible requires the elders of the church to be devoted to one woman . . .” (Fidelity, p. 10, 1999).
“If a Christian man is asked about it, he may say he does honor and respect his wife in his heart. But the Bible doesn’t require us to honor and respect people in our hearts. It requires us to honor and respect them. The heart is obviously where it must all begin, but if it never shows up in external behavior, it is not a biblical honor and respect” (Reforming Marriage, p. 58, 1995).
“A man must insist that his children honor those whom he honors, and the first one on this list should be his wife and their mother . . . a man rarely stands taller than when he stands for a lady. Such respect for women is not a capitulation to feminism but rather the only antidote to it” (Federal Husband, pp. 35-36, 1999).
“Boys must grow up to be the kind of men who will be honorable in bed with their wives. They cannot do this in particular if they are unfamiliar with honor generally . . . the cultural discipline of honoring women is very important” (Future Men, p. 136, 2001).
“The first thing to note is that love means gift — sacrificial gift. Love is not love if it refuses to give: neither is it love when a man gives things as a substitute for having to give himself. True husbandly love is rendered when a man gives himself to the uttermost, and then as a result of that self-gift, he naturally gives other things . . . as well” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 114, 2006).
“The theme of ‘my life for yours,’ which is to permeate the rest of the house, should be pervasive here as well. There are few areas (I actually cannot think of any) where neglect of this principle has more devastating effects. Selfish grasping is a bad deal throughout the house, but in lovemaking, selfishness — where communion is designed to be the closest — creates a monstrous hypocrisy of the whole business and drives the couple farther apart than they could have imagined possible. If ‘my life for yours’ does not govern in this realm, then sexual relations are made deadly and the font of all bitterness” (My Life for Yours, pp. 6-8-69, 2004).