50 Shades of Garbage

Those of you familiar with St. John Paul II via Christopher West’s Theology of the Body will get a chuckle at the title of this piece.  Last week, on Valentine’s Day the movie based on the best-selling book 50 Shades of Grey was released.  And Facebook and blogs have been lighting up with people denouncing and defending their interest in the book and movie.  My opinion on the whole issue can be summed up in four letters that I learned in grade school- WWJD?  What Would Jesus Do?

I will admit that several years ago, amid the hype, one of my husband’s coworkers told him I should read the book.  That was enough to pique my curiosity and I checked it out from the library.  After all, I did enjoy the Twilight series and wouldn’t have picked that one out myself either!  I believe it was on the inside cover I read this quote from the main character Christian Grey, “I don’t make love, I only f*ck hard.”  Now, this idea is CLEARLY (no grey area here) not in line with what God has in mind for sexual intimacy – the bond that seals the marriage act- in an eternal powerful way.  I think I probably should have just judged that book by its cover and sent it back!

I proceeded to read the first 20 pages or so, and did have to stop and return it.  Why?  To put it bluntly: it was garbage.  And I knew God did not want me reading this!  It starts off with a young naïve college student (note she is a virgin) and an ambitious, dashing, wealthy, and experienced business man twisting the beauty of love into a very ugly face of lust.  Their relationship turns sexual fast and it is completely self-seeking, shallow and objectifying.  But she consented the supporters argue.  She may have consented, but like so many things we consent to, was it really informed consent?  Did she really understand how warping her sexuality would impact her life?  Well, like most stories, the consequences that she would have seen in real life don’t appear.  The best foundation for a relationship is love that flows into sexual intimacy.  It seems pure fantasy to imagine a relationship that starts based purely on lust, using another person for entertainment, leading to true love.

When you look into what stimulates men vs women you find that men are stimulated by what they see, and women are stimulated by what they hear (or read).  That makes men more vulnerable to internet or magazine porn, and women more vulnerable to  . . . well, 50 Shades of Grey.  From just the bit I read I can tell you the book is sexually explicit, conjuring pornographic images in the reader’s mind.  As research on men and porn demonstrates its harmful effects on relationships, it stands to reason that this type of lust driven excitement will also be harmful to readers.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about porn, “Someone who misuses love by detaching human sexuality from the intimacy of a committed, loving relationship between two spouses and turns it into commercial goods sins seriously.  Anyone who produces, buys, or consumes pornographic materials violates human dignity and seduces others to sin.”[2523]  Consumption of porn is considered a sin against charity because by buying it we are buying sex, therefore as the YouCat* clarifies “Pornography is a degenerate form of prostitution. {412}”

I think our culture is becoming numb or taking a gray stance on sexual sins.  This reminds me of the anecdote about the frog in the boiling water.  They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out right away immediately sensing the danger. But, if you put a frog into water that is cool and gradually heat the pot, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.  Now scientifically, I think even gradually heating the water the frog would try to escape before its demise, but once in the pot, the questions becomes can he escape the trap when he wants to?  Sin is a trap, it lures one in.  What sorts of scars will stay with the frog if/after he escapes?

I heard Theresa Tomeo speak last year and she shared some interesting statistics.  Young people are in front of media projecting devices ie tv, tablets, smart phones an average of 53 hours per week!  The more sexual images that have been seen on tv correlates with a higher teen pregnancy rate.  Theresa also said that 70% of tv programs have sexual content.  She mentions viewers are exposed to 14,000 sexual images per year.  Are we surprised then that there are 40 million internet porn users in this country?  The temperature of the pot has been slowly rising, and it is evident in things like the partial nudity deemed appropriate for prime-time Superbowl commercials.

Lila Rose and her pro-life organization Live Action have gone undercover to the counselors and Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood works with some public schools to “educate” the youth about sex.  What they have been found promoting is frightening to those of us who believe the arcane notion that sex belongs in marriage.  Planned Parenthood promotes casual sex, that sex is healthy for teenagers, and that there are many acceptable forms of sex among other things.  Their counselors are on tape recommending 50 Shades of Grey to teenagers to get ideas!

Though lust is one of the seven deadly sins, it is one of the least deadly.  This is because it is generally a sin of the flesh.  Do you know what the deadliest is?  Pride.  Pride is considered much worse because it is more diabolical (from the devil) in nature.  We presume we don’t need God, and know better than him what is best for our lives.  EGO, Easing God Out.  Easing the temperature up. But really the path to holiness is also the path to true happiness.  And that is what God wants.  Is Jesus a fun-hater?  No, he is a life-lover!  But it is a fullness of life that is hard to fathom.  He doesn’t want you have a joyless life/marriage.  He wants you, if it seems lacking, to make your life/marriage joyful!  To do this we can’t turn down avenues of lust that result in instant but shallow physical gratification.  We have to unite ourselves to Christ and let him take us to new heights we cannot imagine for ourselves.  I call this a spiritual orgasm.  But that is a topic for another blog!

I remember in high school there was an exercise that challenged us to go through our day pretending that Jesus was with us.  Would we act differently, how so?  I always found that idea kind of creepy, being constantly followed and watched.  But it also made me uneasy, thinking that Jesus may judge my behavior harshly, “Come on, you and I both know you can do better than that!”  Even still I find the idea intimidating.  However, recently my husband and I were introduced to the devotion to the Divine Child (El Divino Niňo in Spanish) or Infant Jesus.  Our priest told us the story of El Divino Niňo of Colombia (see picture below).  The Divine Child not only has his arms up ready to embrace us in love as the open arms of Jesus often portray, but additionally our Lord has his arms up as if to say, “Pick me up, take me with you, and I will help you.” Now seeing Jesus this way, I don’t feel him condemning my failings, but encouraging my triumphs over whatever obstacles may lie ahead.  So, if you can’t connect with WWJD, or are intimidated by having the all knowing and powerful Jesus as a backseat driver, I invite you to pick up the Child Jesus.  Carry him with you and see where he leads.  I can only speak for myself when I say he didn’t lead me to a movie theater to watch 50 Shades of Grey.

Statue of The Divine Child aka El Divino Niňo located in St. Paul’s Church Nampa, ID.
Statue of The Divine Child, El Divino Niňo located in St. Paul’s Church Nampa, ID.

Here is a little poem I wrote to express one aspect of this devotion to Jesus.

Take me with you today

Wherever you go

Wherever you stay

Take me with you today

Whatever you do

Whatever you say

Take me with you . . .

and I will show you My Way.

*YouCat is the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, I’d recommend a copy for anyone!

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