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Holiness is Not Shades of Grey

Update, July 25, 2014: The following post originally ran two years ago today. This summer, hype about the February 2015 release of the movie has begun. Ladies, please, please read this point and pray. Take a stand for holiness by refusing to have anything to do with the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Recently two Christian women (one middle-aged like me and one a young mom) passionately shared with me their confusion over why so many of their Christian friends are devouring the New York Times best-selling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Honestly, I have the same question.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” should be black and white to Christians.

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me quickly fill you in. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first in a trilogy, is the debut novel by British author E.L. James released this April. Here’s a quick summary of the book I copied from Mary Kassian’s blog (I provide a link to her post below):

The books in question are erotica that explicitly describe sexual bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The story follows an unfolding affair between a recent college graduate, the virgin Anastasia Steele, and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey, whose childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual, and who enlists her to share his secret sexual proclivities. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her. Because of her fascination and budding love for him, she consents to a kinky sexual relationship that includes being slapped, spanked, handcuffed, and whipped with a leather riding crop in his “Red Room of Pain.”

fifty shades of greyI just checked Amazon’s stats. “Shades of Grey” was number one in books. Oddly enough, the book received some harsh reader reviews regarding the quality of the writing. So, how did the trilogy grab spots one, two, and three on the New York Times bestsellers list? Sex does indeed “sell.” Unfortunately, sex sells to Christians too.

“Shades” is classified as “erotica,” which by definition means “sexually explicit literature or art.” Let’s stop right here. Honestly, based on the book description and the dictionary definition of “erotica,” Christian women have no business reading this book. But they are.

Holiness and obedience is a choice we all make

I will honestly tell you that I have read books and watched movies that I later regretted because the content was inconsistent with my faith. Either the language or behavior mocked God or directly contradicted His holiness. Sometimes I turned off the television, left the theater, or threw away the book. But not always.

However, I believe I can honestly say that in recent years I have not picked up a book or bought a ticket or tuned into a program knowing in advance that the “entertainment” would defy God’s standards of morality and truth. And I do not have to read “Fifty Shades of Grey” to know it glorifies what God clearly says is wrong.

I’ve heard the arguments. It’s just fantasy. I’m not participating, I’m just reading fiction. I need to know how to speak to the culture. If you are considering reading this book, please, please read these articles I’ve listed below first. These posts were written by Christian women in ministry who know what they’re talking about. They explain how this written word affects our thinking and harms our relationships with our husbands and future husbands. How it fosters a change in behavior. How it desensitizes us to sexual immorality. Check these out:

  • On the True Woman blog Dannah Gresh gives biblical and sound scientific evidence why reading this kind of material is harmful to women and our marriages.
  • Crystal Renaud on her site for Dirty Girls Ministries. Crystal offers help, hope, and healing for women and girls with pornography and sexual addiction.
  • Author and Bible teacher, Mary Kassian on her blog Girls Gone Wise. Mary gives 7 solid reasons why a Christian woman – or any woman for that matter – should not read this book.
  • Lest you think this is just the opinion of “ministers,” check out this blog by Dana Suggs. She is a mom, photographer, and Christian blogger writing from the perspective of an average Christian woman who loves to read.
  • Here’s one more honest and entertaining view by Christian mommy blogger Melissa Jenna.
  • July 2014 update, don’t miss Matt Walsh’s post “4 Reasons to Hate 50 Shades of Grey”

As long as I’m on my soapbox, I might as well work up a good lather and mention one other popular, but very worldly item Christian women are gobbling up – the movie. “Magic Mike.” “Plugged In” describes this film as “pornographically minded.” But should we expect anything different from a movie about male strippers? Yet believers are paying money to see it.

What does holiness look like?

Here’s what I want all of us – you and me, too – to think about: What does holiness look like?

  • God calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).
  • Jesus said we are to be in the world as His sanctified ambassadors, but we are not to be products of the world (John 17:15-18).
  • Paul tells us to “Flee from sexual immorality” because we are not our own, we’ve bought and paid for with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:18-20).
  • Jesus clearly told us that lustful thoughts are the same as adultery (Matt 5:28).
  • Believers who are committed to holiness will carefully guard what we put into our minds. Our spiritual transformation is wrought through the renewing of our minds to bring our thinking and thus our behavior in line with Christ’s (Romans 12:2). For more info see “What are You Feeding Your Mind?”

God’s Word is black and white. So why do we keep trying to blend God’s truth. Holiness is not grey – not any shade of grey.

I know today’s post may sound harsh to you, but this topic is heavy on my heart. I really want to hear your thoughts. And I would love for you to share this post.

July 2014 addition: If you’re interested in learning more about our call to holiness, the benefits of a holy life, and how to live it out practically, take a look at my new Bible study “Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence.”

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51 Responses to Holiness is Not Shades of Grey

  1. Rhonda Hill July 25, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Thank you for this article. I just had someone on Facebook highly recommend the book sites. I asked if it was a romance and was told yes, but I had no idea what it was really about. I don’t read much fiction but I definitely don’t want to full my mind up with that garbage. People don’t understand how powerful our minds are, and how careful we need to be about what we take in through our senses.

    • Rhonda Hill July 25, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      I meant book ”series”

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      Rhonda, you’re exactly right. What we put into our minds affects our thought patterns and then our actions. I read that since this book became so popular that sales of sex toys has risen by 40%!

  2. Michelle Carpenter July 25, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Amen sister! “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man (or woman) will see the Lord.”

    I fully agree with you.

    God bless you.

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 8:55 am #

      Michelle, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for sharing that verse from Hebrews. The way we live and what we purposefully put into our minds affects our relationship with God.

  3. Mandy July 25, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    VERY well written and on point!

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Mandy, thanks for stopping by! This is such an important topic for believers!

  4. Debbie Zastrow July 25, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I had no idea what this book was about. I can’t believe that chtristian women would read this. There would be some definite question I would ask. We as Christian woman need to renew our minds daily in the Lord. We must not get caught up in this world. Praying for those women who don’t t see anything worng with this. GOD HELP US!

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      Debbie, this was just brought to my attention about a month ago. The two women who talked to me about it were truly grieved that their Christian friends were raving about it. Yes, we must speak up!

  5. Donna July 25, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Oh, please!
    -Me thinks, the lady doth protest too much! -Shakespeare

    James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you– who are you to judge your neighbor?

    It is not up to us to judge those who choose to read a fictional book or see a fictional movie. Yes, these things really exist but we aren’t to judge one another. If you don’t agree, don’t read it, don’t watch it! And most of ALL reach out in love instead of judgement.

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Donna, thanks for coming by and joining in the conversation. I do understand what you are saying about not judging. Yes, there are many instances where believers do take God’s place in that regard. However, believers are told over and over in Scripture that we are to be accountable to one another regarding sin and obedience (2 Timothy 4:2, Luke 17:3, Gal 6:1-2). And we have a specific example in 1 Corinthians. We are not responsible for the behavior of those outside the church, but Christians are to be accountable to other Christians. God has already made a judgment that sexual immorality is wrong and harmful. It is not judgment for believers to encourage each other to live a life that honors Him.

      • Donna July 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

        Thank you for your reply. I do not claim to know scripture like I am positive that you do. I do, however find, that with all we, as Christians, face in our society and our world such as the shooting in CO, the state of our economy, etc. that discussing a fictional book about sexual immorality or a movie about a male stripper to be inane.

        I do not wish to get into an argument but I do feel we could pray for one another and all the situations at hand. It is only my opinion but feeling frustrated with so much adversity about seemingly everything, I felt the need to express it.

        BTW, I do plan to take a closer look at the scriptures you quoted. Thank you.

        • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

          Donna, you are so right about many troubling things and tragedies happening around us. Monday’s post highlighted the shooting in Colorado and what God’s Word says about trials and sufferings. You’re right, we need to talk about these things. I agree that discussing a novel can seem trivial, but it is a symptom of something deeper going on in the church. Thank you so much for boldly and courageously participating in the discussion. I really am glad!

  6. Ponder Woman July 25, 2012 at 11:44 am #


    It quite boggles my mind how a born-again believer can excuse their indulgence of material that is clearly pornographic. I really like that you provided links to others that have spoken of this issue as well.

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks for mentioning the links to other blogs. These women are much wiser than me about the issue!

      • Ponder Woman July 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

        I really hope you didn’t think I was saying that you were not qualified to speak on the issue! 🙂

        • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

          Don’t worry! I didn’t take it that way at all! But my limited knowledge is exactly why I linked to so many other posts!

  7. Cathy Messecar July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Thank you for your post. It showed up on my FB homepage, so I rehared to my friends on my page and home page. May God bless your passion to encourage believers to purer lives. Thank you. Hope you enjoyed ICRS. Hope to get together with you before we both get busier in the fall.

    • Janet Thompson July 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      Same here Kathy…and you are right on!~ I’ve been shocked at the number of women on FB justifying read Shades of Grey! There is no grey in God’s Word or world. Preach it sister.
      Love your heart, Janet

      • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

        Janet, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to stop by! I have been surprised by the reaction today about the post. Many women have commented about how many of their Christian friends have read the book. I think we the Church need to talk more about holiness.

        • Janet Thompson July 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

          I’ve been talking about not maligning the World of God (Titus 2:5) allot in my newsletter and FB too Kathy. Today’s culture is invading Christian’s lives. Where is the discernment? Stop by my FB page and see what people wrote when I shared your post.
          Also thank you for the intro to Stephanie Shott. We talked for 2 hrs today and could have talked all day. You are such a great networker!!! I try to be too.
          I can’t seem to get ahead since returning from Orlando….the to do list just keeps to doing on it’s own:). So glad we are kindred spirits and hearts. Love you girlfriend, Janet

          • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

            Janet, so glad you and Stephanie connected!! Love you too!!

        • Eva Quiroz July 26, 2012 at 11:24 am #

          I really think it is sad that many of our christian sisters’ & brothers’ are reading these types of books as well as watching movies with this type of material in them. I shared and posted your link on my FB and I was surprised that I only received 2 likes of the link. It really made me think about how evident the ideas of the world are becoming more and more acceptable in The Lord’s church. Anyway, you keep spreading The Word. God Bless You in Fighting the Good Fight!

          • Kathy July 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

            Eva, thank you for your encouraging words. I’m feeling the need to do a blog series on holiness! Keep standing up for God’s truth!

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      Cathy, thanks for sharing the post. It seems to have really hit a nerve today. Yes, let’s meet for lunch!

  8. Dionna July 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    I completely agree Kathy and thank you for not only speaking truth but passionately speaking truth in love. Isn’t it amazing of how we rationalize what we want to. I struggle with the TV programming not so much movies or books. So keep me in prayer as I grow in Christ


    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      Hi Dionna! Thanks for commenting. And thanks for your honesty in sharing. Even as I studied for and wrote the blog God challenged me to really think about what I watch, read, and spend my time on. Like you, I want to keep growing in Christ and pleasing God more each day!

  9. Kelly July 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you for your post! It breaks my heart to see Christian woman reading this and convincing themselves it’s OK.

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

      Hi Kelly, thanks for reading! Most Christians – including me – have allowed the world to influence us in some way. In fact, we might all be surprised if God opened our eyes to every way we had compromised. I’ve been praying off and on all day that God would show me His truth!

    • Melissa Cooper July 29, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      I have not read 50 Shades of Grey nor seen the movie Magic Mike. But it sounds suspiciously like all the clamor that was made over Bridges of Madison County. I really didn’t know much about the book before I read it, and I remember just being shocked and appalled that it got so many good reviews.

  10. Hannah July 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Incredible article Kathy! I was shocked when I heard the synopsis of this novel, that has become so popular, and even more shocked when hearing Christian friends have read and enjoyed it. The sad thing is, this isn’t fiction. This truly happens in our world and not so far removed from us. I am a counselor and I’ve worked with many women and children who have experienced this form of sexual perversion and abuse in many types of relationships. It traps these individuals leaving them feeling powerless and worthless. How sad it is that this author’s idea of sexually explicit “fiction” has grabbed the attention of so many in our world. Those of you who have read this book would probably not feel the same way hearing this come out of the mouth of a terrified young woman sitting in front of you. It would break your heart! As Christian women, we have a responsibility to teach younger generations of girls how to be holy and righteous in God’s eyes. This form of “entertainment” is the very opposite of that!

    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Hannah, thank you for sharing your unique perspective with us. What this book portrays is sad and warped. I hate that Christians are supporting it with their money.

  11. Nicole July 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    From what I’ve read the author, a mother, started out with fan fiction and graduated to expressing her “sexual fantasies” in this series. Hmm. What part of domination sounds fantastical to her? What part of being possessed by another person and sexually afflicted with pain seems right to her? Apparently in her fantasy world anything goes.

    The real question is why something like this is attractive to Christian women? Why would any of us think reading something which is so contrary to the design of sexual intimacy given to us by God be okay? Harmless? Exciting? Perhaps in our desire for holiness we’ve eliminated the innate passion of sexual intimacy. Have some couples made it so mundane and joyless that it will take perversion to stimulate excitement in the marriage bed? Have some of us become so beguiled with the worldview that we crave a twisted version of intimacy?


    • Kathy July 25, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      Nicole, thank your for stopping by and sharing your comments with us. You may have hit upon something with your insight about how we have allowed sex within marriage to become mundane and boring. God created the marriage relationship to be intimate, fulfilling, and satisfying. It is sad that Christian women are looking for that in other places.

  12. Dawn Wilson July 26, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Thank you, Kathy, for being bold in sharing this, and also for giving so many great resources for women to consider. When I shared a link on Facebook (exposing the book), I was severely criticized (and judged) for simply asking women to consider the consequences of reading the book. One woman told me she read the book to better understand how women are thinking these days. I understand what she’s saying, but I wonder about the exposure to an ungodly worldview. (Whenever I have “examined” evil to better understand it, I’m left with imprints on my mind that are hard to deal with, later.)

    Whenever we women (especially Bible teachers), who are so used to encouraging women with truth from the scripture, share a tough topic (a controversial topic), we know that we will invite some sometimes heated discussion. But truth is truth, in its many forms ~ encouraging, edifying, admonishing, etc.

    In my mind (as I look at scriptures about purity), there is no room for erotica … lust in the mind is condemned by Jesus as adulterous thinking. Thanks again for expressing this in a caring post.

    • Kathy July 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Dawn, yes the Word is so clear about this issue. Believers must encourage and exhort one another to be different from the world. We’ve blurred the lines. I really want to tackle this idea of “not judging” others and what that really means. I don’t believe that applies in this kind of situation but I want to be able to articulate why and what “do not judge” really means to us as believers. I want to get a post up on that next week.

  13. Michele Williams July 26, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Thank you so much for this much needed discussion regarding this book as well as other things that Christians read and watch. I had one woman tell me, “if it does not hurt anyone else, what harm can it do?” What an opening she made for me to show her what God’s Word says about what and how we are to fill our minds. Churches need to stop being “seeker friendly” and start preaching what is sin and how to obstain from such things. The fore-fathers of our Christian heritage certainly did not muddy down the gospel and doctrine and many came to Christ! I’m sorry, I’m starting to get carried away here……

    • Kathy July 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      Michele, you’ve touched on an important point. Sometimes the church is so worried about “offending” people we end up offending God. We don’t help each other as Christians when we don’t exhort like Scripture tells us to. In fact, it’s like watching them walk off a cliff without making an attempt to stop them.

  14. Judy Scharfenberg July 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Kathy, thank you for your bold stand for righteousness.

    I don’t care what “reason” women give for reading “50 Shades of Grey” or going to see “Magic Mind,” it will not stand up to the Word of God. We must “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness,” 2 Timothy 2:22 and we must “examine everything carefully; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil,” 1 Thess. 5:21-22. There’s just no argument.

    There’s a little song I used to sing with my kids;

    “Be careful little eyes what you see; be careful little eyes what you see.
    For the Father up above, is looking down with love, so be careful little eyes what you see.”

    • Kathy July 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi Judy! It is so sad that we’ve been so desensitized to the world. I sometimes wonder where I’ve compromised that I’m not even aware of. Praying God shows us all what is good and pleasing to Him! And, I remember that song too!

  15. Amanda Cross August 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Thank you for writing these posts. I shared not long ago when you started the Galatians study how I became trapped in my early college years (around 1997) by these lustful indulgences. I was a believer too. It wasn’t until the end of 2009 that I was able to finally repent and leave it behind. This stuff wears away at our souls and our pursuit for godliness. It brings guilt and condemnation on our hearts. This is something God our Heavenly Father never meant for us to experience.

    • Kathy August 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing with us. It is so vital we remember that God’s boundaries for us are not meant to be mean or stingy. He wants to protect us and give us an abundant life. Protection, freedom, and joy are found within His boundaries. It sounds like that is what you’ve experienced!

  16. Joan August 25, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    GREAT post! Thank you for writing it. We, as Christian women, need to strive for holiness and you are right — God’s holiness is not grey. Over the past few years my husband and I have been increasingly unhappy with the movies that have been coming out of Hollywood. I love movies and books and getting lost in the story. But, when the things we see or read glamorize morals or actions that are contrary to God’s word, we become desensitized. I used to think, “Well, I’m a mature enough Christian to see that movie…I’ll just ignore the things that God wouldn’t like.” But, after leaving movie theaters feeling uncomfortable, depressed or downright disturbed, we have become extremely picky about our movie choices. We watch a lot of movies on Netflix and have just discovered Independent films. It is amazing the great films we have found that the major producers have said “no” to. I a praying that Hollywood gets the picture that to make a good movie they don’t have to have it filled with sex.

    Thanks again, Kathy! More women…and men need to stop paying for entertainment that is tearing down the moral fiber of our society and start supporting wholesome choices.

    Blessings, Joan

    • Kathy Howard August 25, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Joan, thanks for sharing that about the movies you’re finding. The “easy” thing is to watch the popular thing everyone else is watching but that doesn’t necessarily glorify God. It may take a bit of looking but there are entertainment choices out there that do not bring dishonor to God’s name.

  17. Lovely Mbara September 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    I heard my colleagues talking highly about the book and I picked up from there that it will clutch with my conviction if I can read it.

  18. June July 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    I don’t know a lot about Fifty Shades of Grey, but have heard enough & from what I read here to KNOW that I will not read it. I even have difficulty reading much less controversial fiction books that so frequently use the overused 4 letter F word. Often I will bring a book home from the public library, not realizing how often the 4 letter F word is in the contents, & how often Christ’s name is used in vain. This is upsetting to me, and have even thrown books in the garbage which I have bought that frequently use this. Seems to be a great lack of vocabulary and little insensitivity for target audiences today.

    It is difficult to understand how anyone who claims to be a Christian can read such trash as Fifty Shades of Grey. Satan must be very happy when such literature hits the bookstands, we are playing right into the enemy’s hand. May God forgive us.

    • Kathy July 26, 2014 at 6:19 am #

      June, thanks for coming by! You hit the nail on the head, “Satan must be very happy…” He is using just this kind of thing to lead us astray. So thankful you are sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in what you put into your mind!

  19. Rita July 26, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    I never read the books because when they first came out people were referring them as “Mommy Porn”.

    • Kathy July 27, 2014 at 7:24 am #

      Wise choice Rita!


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