What does the Bible have in common with Fifty Shades of Grey or one of John Green’s best-selling young adult novels? For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bible made the list of the American Library Association’s 10 most frequently challenged books last year.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Following complaints, the Vatican’s cultural office has removed an image of a naked female torso bound in ropes that was used to advertise a women’s conference.
The Pontifical Council for Culture had chosen a photograph of the 1936 “Venus Restored” sculpture, by the late American artist Man Ray, as befitting for its Feb. 4-7 conference titled “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.”
But the choice of a sculpture bound in ropes to discuss women’s emancipation was deemed inappropriate in some quarters. The Pontifical Council’s president, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, initially defended the choice. Ravasi was seen as a contender going into the conclave that elected Pope Francis two years ago.
“Cardinal Ravasi has chosen not to remove the image as it speaks clearly for one of the central points of the document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless),” according to a statement that appeared alongside the controversial image.
This Valentine’s Day, two films will battle for the hearts and minds of the American public. One of them is Fifty Shades of Grey, the popular culture juggernaut that has earned millions of dollars worldwide. The other is a Christian-produced independent film, Old Fashioned, which bills itself as the scrubbed-up, evangelical alternative.
Having faith-based responses to secular media (and saying Fifty Shades of Grey is secular is a little like saying the Grand Canyon is big) is more than appropriate. It’s necessary. Otherwise we risk ignoring the vital words of Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Christians and non-believers alike should be regularly exposed to art that causes them to question the world around them.
Sadly, Old Fashioned is not the movie to fit that bill. Both it and Fifty Shades of Grey present dangerously unrealistic portraits of relationships — one just does it without the sex.
The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, which opens in theaters on Feb. 13, has movie morality guardians armed and heading for battle.
The Catholic bishop of Buffalo, N.Y., has warned fellow prelates to step up preaching on the true beauty of sex-within-male-female-marriage — and do it pronto.
“Remind the faithful of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on the gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, the great dignity of women, and the moral reprehensibility of all domestic violence and sexual exploitation,” wrote Bishop Richard Malone, in a letter Feb. 4 to fellow clergy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
His letter came with multiple links to resources, some 15 to 20 years old, showing the church’s consistent stand against domestic violence and pornography.
The Catholic clergymen could be facing a juggernaut: Fandango reports box-office pre-sale numbers are soaring, particularly in the Bible Belt and the Midwest.
The Fifty Shades books by British writer E.L. James have sold more than 100 million copies.
But the movie trailer — and a Super Bowl ad scrubbed of anything very sexual — sent opposition to the film into high gear.
Ask Kelley Taylor, a Southern Baptist college student, if she's opened the steamy pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and she has a ready response.
"Some of my friends have read it but I decided not to because I just heard about the content and didn't think it was something I should be reading," said the North Carolina State University senior, who is majoring in wildlife biology. "I think that it's kind of contrary to what the Bible says about fleeing from sexual lust and temptation."
Taylor is not alone. Many evangelical women say they wouldn't touch the best-selling book, often described as "mommy porn" because of its escapist appeal to working mothers and suburban housewives. But evangelical leaders also realize that some members of their churches and Bible studies can't resist.
A hotel in the United Kingdom has replaced in-room Gideon Bibles with the soft-porn best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey.
The change was made earlier this month in all 40 guest rooms at the Damson Dene Hotel in the Lake District of England.
The hotel's owner Jonathan Denby explained his decision in a blog post:
"Tonight millions of women will be curling up in bed with a good book and you can bet your life it won't be the Bible. More likely than not it will be Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't read the book yet – I'm not in the target audience – but I'm told it's a ripping good yarn and everyone who's in the target audience loves it. This made me wonder about the sense of providing a book, the Gideon Bible which no one reads, and many dislike, in the bedside cabinet of our hotel bedrooms, instead of a book which everyone wants to read, such as Fifty Shades of Grey."