The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is quite insane. Well, maybe not so much in in today’s culture. Still a lot of Christians have read the books or are thinking about it. Heck, many are going to see the film. So we asked ourselves a simple question, “Is Fifty Shades of Grey okay?” What we mean by that is, it is okay for us to read or watch as followers of Christ?
I’ll admit that I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, all three of the books in fact. A friend sent them to me. She thought I would be offended by the truly awful writing, and I definitely was. The grammar was painful in many places and the author’s inability to decide whether to use British or American terminology kept me frustrated. The premise was laughable to the point that it really didn’t make sense a lot of the time. I won’t even go into the various plot holes, because that’s not what this article is about.
So, why did I keep reading them? Considering how bad the books were on a purely literary level, what kept me turning the pages until I had read every word?
The books were exciting. I had never read anything like it before and I have to say that I got caught up in the weird romance of it. By the time the steamy parts came around, I knew I should put it down, but I still kept on reading. It was exciting to read scenarios that portrayed things I had never even thought about before. I never would have considered myself someone who struggled with lust, but reading the Fifty Shades of Grey books and my reaction to them showed me just how susceptible I am.
Honestly, I regret having read the books and I won’t be going to see the movie. It’s been three years since I picked up the first book, and I don’t plan to walk down that road again.
In the end, I think the question of whether or not Fifty Shades of Grey is okay comes down to two things:
Why do you want to read the books or see the movie? By now, everyone is pretty aware of what they’re about and no one is talking about the great storyline.
Is it something you’re going to feel good about afterwards? From personal experience, I suggest you really think about it. There is a reason I haven’t talked about reading the books before now: I’m uncomfortable admitting it.
“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.” (I Cor. 10:23)
Is it okay to read Fifty Shades of Grey? It depends what you mean by “okay.” There’s no Bible verse telling you not to read it. I mean, sure the book wasn’t written yet but there was plenty of racy entertainment in Biblical times. The Bible could easily have said, “Don’t watch this kind of play” or “Don’t read this kind of scroll.” And it doesn’t. Entertainment is not condemned in the Scripture. I want to stay away from legalism when talking about what is and isn’t “okay.”
So the simple answer is yes, it’s okay to read Fifty Shades of Grey. As an avid fan of Game of Thrones, I’m certainly not going to be throwing stones at anyone for what they read and watch. Incidentally, I don’t believe watching Game of Thrones is sinful, either.
I must confess, I’ve not actually read Fifty Shades of Grey, so I’m no expert at what exactly is in the book. I know enough to know I’m not interested. Flipping through it at my local store, I can see plenty of reasons not to read it even before we get to the stuff you need Content Warnings for.
Is the book something you really need in your life? Probably not. The writing is bad, the characters (from what little I saw of them in my flipping through the book) are shallow, and there doesn’t seem to be anything spiritually uplifting in its pages. But then, the same is true of most of what’s on TV.
There are things that are not sinful to do that are still not okay for you. It’s like eating junk food and refusing to exercise. Sooner or later that stuff catches up to your body. Something similar goes on in your soul. The stuff you expose yourself to has an effect on you. Reading Fifty Shades of Grey is like eating really horrible food. It may not be straight up poison (a good example of truly poisonous entertainment is pornography), but it’s kind of getting into that territory.
What kind of effect is it going to have on you? Well, it’s probably not going to turn you into a kinky sex-crazed pervert, any more than playing a violent video game will turn you into a remorseless killer. What it will probably do is dampen your sensitivity to the kinds of things going on in its pages. It may be imperceptible. You may not even notice.
Lots of gamers don’t notice how desensitized they are to violence. We fans of Game of Thrones don’t even flinch at the beheadings anymore. And even if we think we aren’t affected, these things take a toll on our empathy. This kind of entertainment is part of the world. They can turn into what Jesus described in his Parable of the Sower as the thorns that choke out the Word of God in our lives. Also, some people are going to be affected in ways that others are not. If you struggle with lust and dehumanizing others in your imagination, you might not be able to read stuff that others can without being hurt by it. We are all different. If it’s a stumbling block to you, you should stay away from it.
I’m a great lover of entertainment. I watch movies and television, read books that have no educational value, play video games, and listen to music. I don’t limit myself to so-called “Christian” entertainment. I do so without guilt, so long as I don’t allow it to draw me away from my relationship with God. I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, so it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to list all the reasons why you shouldn’t read this book, all the while reading and watching things that are no better because they happen to have magic or zombies in them instead of kinky sex.
I may not recommend reading it, but I won’t judge you if you do. For those that may want to go beyond reading this stuff to actually living it: just remember that it’s not meant to be realistic in any way. It is a fantasy. People don’t usually act like that. Your wife/husband is probably not going to want to do the things the book describes, and letting this work of fiction affect your expectations may lead to some incredibly awkward situations… and bitter disappointment.
Also, remember that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fanfiction. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that basing real-life romance on vampire fiction is a bad idea.