Fifty Shades and BDSM: A Biblical Perspective

171976248_2e47577f6e_oWith the release of Fifty Shades of Grey this coming Friday, we can expect one of the largest audiences for a film of such risqué material in a very long time. Far from the sexually charged films of the past, this is a movie that will primarily draw women who will bring their (all too willing) boyfriends and husbands.

As a card-carrying member of conservative Christianity, I am fascinated as I see the church responding to Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems that most of the church is quietly ignoring the film, hoping it will go away. Another segment is quietly planning to see the film as a guilty pleasure. A final group is vocally calling the film out.

Let me be clear, Fifty Shades of Grey is high budget pornography. The film quality will be good, the artistic merit will be higher the most porn, and the harm will be that much greater because of it. A full twenty minutes of a one hundred minute film is sex scenes. To pretend this is anything but pornography is to practice an amazing level of self-deception.

Take it from an expert rationalizer.

In my own thinking about the film, I have seen some reaction from Christians that has not attacked the graphic nudity and blatant sexuality on a screen, but rather the bondage itself as evil. It made me wonder, is there a biblical case against BDSM (Bondage, Domination, SadoMasochism)?

While the topic of BDSM is  broad one and I couldn’t address every specific case (nor would I want to), from here on out, let me refer specifically to the bondage part of BDSM as it seems to be the most common sexual practice that falls under the term BDSM.

As I’ve considered the actual teachings from the Bible, I have noticed that the focus of the sexual morals in scripture are focused on who I have sex with (only my wife), when I have sex (only after marriage), but not how to have sex.

It seems that God has left the specific practices of sex to the consciences and preferences of the husband and wife. I find no case against use of ropes and candle wax and gags. While these practices are by and large distasteful to me, I would be unable to make a case that another husband and wife should not do them.

Then a caution arises. While the scriptures do not specifically say how to have sex, they have a lot to say about what our motivations and desires should be.

As a husband, I am going to speak to husbands now. Not to say these commands don’t apply to the ladies too, it’s just that I feel that the bulk of the sin here lies with us men. It is also my practice to police my own team first and guys, you are my team!

Your Body is Hers

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Cor 7:3-4

Far from saying her body is yours, the focus is on how you can serve her. This is not a weapon to force an unwilling spouse to uncomfortable sexual situations, this is a call to serve in the bedroom.

So be careful that when you might desire to use a little rope or blindfold, that your first priority is to serve her. What can you do to make her experience better? If these tools help her enjoy your sexual relationship more, then good. But be careful of your deceptive heart.

Submission in the Bible

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Eph 5:21-23

Yes, submission is in the Bible. Submit to one another. Far from forcing unwanted sexual experiences, we need to submit to each other. Gentlemen, we tend to get what we want in the bedroom (the ladies, not so much), let’s be careful to submit to our wive’s requests. Submission is the action taken by a serving heart.

Make sure your wife is safe

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Eph 5:25-28

The main point of this verse is that husbands should love their wives sacrificially because Jesus loves his church sacrificially. With that is the instruction to love you wife like you love your own body. Part of loving her is making sure that what you are doing sexually is safe. Many of the BDSM practices can injure and sometimes kill.

For example, there is a part of the BDSM community that uses asphyxiation (placing plastic bags over their head to heighten an orgasm). This can and has killed before. It is not loving to risk your wife’s safety.

Does it serve your wife spiritually

There are many women out there that have an unhealthy view of themselves as somehow deserving to be humiliated or shamed. These ladies might take part in bondage because they see it as fitting and not because they would naturally enjoy it. A thoughtful husband would not encourage a harmful view in his wife of herself.

When Jesus loves the church, he makes her feel special and deeply loved. Jesus washes away our insecurities by demonstrating that he will love us as we are. We aren’t loved because we are just that great, we are loved because he is that great.

If bondage hurts your wife spiritually or emotionally, then avoid it. It is far better that you demonstrate restraint for yourself to serve her.

Will it enslave you

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Cor 6:12

Just because something is enjoyable and not specifically banned by scripture does not make it good. Even if all of the conditions above are met, would bondage start to dominate you. Would you get to the point of being unable to enjoy sex without ropes? Would your wife become and object to be used and not a person to be loved? Would you enjoy sex and forget about the God who made sex to be enjoyed?

Of course, there are a million ways our heart enslave us. For some, these practices would be a delightful way to enjoy their spouse and that enjoyment is a great good. For others, it is another trap they need to avoid.

BDSM practices are never specifically mentioned in scripture and, in my opinion, should be used with caution. Those who say they are banned by the Bible have no case that I know of from scripture. Whatever you believe, be careful to love your God and love your wife. It is hard to go wrong by fighting hard to please your wife and your God and it is impossible to go right if you only want to please yourself.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Zaphodsotherhead and is used with permission. Also, Zaphodsotherhead is such a wonderful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference!

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Gifts from My Father

dad

My Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are considering what to give our fathers. Amazon is convinced I should buy him a new Fire TV setup (I haven’t had the heart to tell them he wouldn’t want it). Personalization Mall really feels like he needs a personalized tie and Best Buy believes I don’t love him unless I get him a laptop.

As a father myself, I have come to the conviction that Father’s Day should be all the more about what we as fathers can do to serve our wives, our children, and our community. It is good to celebrate fatherhood and fathers. There are few more daunting tasks than to be a good father.

I did not buy my dad a Father’s Day present, as is my custom. It is not a sign of ingratitude, I’ve never been much on giving gifts (sorry Amazon). In many ways, this is not as much a celebration of what I can do for my father and more of a memorial for what he has done for me. This Father’s Day, let’s take a walk back and remember what I have been given by my father.

His Work Ethic

My dad did something truly amazing. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but my dad did something even better. He got up early every morning and trudged to a job he didn’t like because he loved us. Dad worked for years with difficult people and frustrating demands. He rarely complained to us, but I know the toll that took on him.

That sort of work ethic is commendable, even excellent. I strive to live up to that. Thank you dad for that gift.

His Love of Learning

One of dad’s better kept secrets is his deep intelligence. He reads more than anyone I know. One of the jokes from our childhood is how rich we would be if dad had just been willing to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (answer: we would have been millionaires). He introduced me to some of the greatest authors out there including C. S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clark, H. G. Wells, and many more. I am a little bitter that I had to find The Lord of the Rings on my own, but I have since forgiven him.

In addition, he was able to speak intelligently on most topics in science and in particular space. Dad always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. He even applied to be the teacher on the Challenger Mission in 1986. Being that it blew up on lift-off, I am glad he didn’t win.

To this day, I still call dad and we chat about science and history and whatever is on our minds. Thanks dad.

His Love of Family

The classic Easop’s Fable of The Tortoise and the Hare ends with the mantra, “Slow and steady wins the race.” In that case, dad won. You will never find my dad creating a viral video where he break-dances or sings some Sinatra to my mom. He is not a flashy guy. A little uncomfortable in crowds, I doubt many of you know him the way we do.

Dad’s unwavering, determined, firm, and emphatic dedication to my mom is legendary. He is truly in love with her. He extends that dedication to us kids. Daily I am challenged to love my family to be faithful to them like that.

Thank you dad.

His Love of God

Many mornings I would wake up and find my dad sitting and reading his Bible. He was always conversant about any biblical topic I could bring up. Far from being an intellectual snob, he never once treated a question of mine as stupid (though some of them were, in fact, stupid). Certainly I was overwhelming to him at times, but he was always respectful with me.

The patience and dedication of God showed through in his life. The challenge has been laid to me to give to my family in the same way.

Thank you dad.

For Being My Dad

This Father’s Day I don’t want to celebrate what I can give my dad but rather to celebrate what I have been given from my dad. The debt I owe is beyond repayment, but being my dad, he has always told me to pay it by caring for my own children well. For the rest of my life, the work he did for me will, by the goodness of God, echo for a thousand generations to come.

One day, my dad will stand in Heaven. There will be a crowd there but dad will be off to the side. He never really liked crowds. He will see 10,000 men and women walking by who will each and every one will owe him deeply for the sacrifices he made. Generation after generation of those who will now know that pains, trials, and joys he experienced to bring them to Heaven as well. They will know because dad’s Father in Heaven will have told them. You see, He promised to exalt the humble.

These are the gifts from my father.

-Chip

The “Requiem for a Dream” Problem

Requiem_for_a_dreamAs anyone in the pornography recovery community can attest, there is a real challenge in determining what is safe to watch at the movies. There are bits of culture that are more difficult to avoid like commercials and billboards, but what we pay for at the theater is very much in our control.

The classic case of this is what I call the Requiem for a Dream Problem. The movie, Requiem for a Dream, is the story of how heroin addiction destroys the lives of four friends. Everything about the movie appeals to me. I have struggled with pornography addiction myself (not heroin, by God’s grace) and I love the raw nature of the movie. By all accounts, it is a classic film and worth seeing.

Unfortunately, it also has graphic sexuality and nudity which is only aggravated by the fact that I find Jennifer Connelly to be one of the loveliest actresses out there. So this movie is my equivalent of  an alcoholic walking into a bar. I should not watch it.

Hence, the Requiem for a Dream Problem. At what point does the artistic merit of the film fail to outweigh the sexual temptation it will cause me. I suppose it could be called the Black Swan Problem or the American Beauty Problem, both of which are thought-provoking movies with serious sexual content. I wish I could watch them, but I can’t.

As with most problems, one should first look at the Bible. I looked for the movie watching guide in there and wasn’t able to find one. But there are important principles that apply. I should be cognizant of my own weaknesses for lust and considerate of the harm the film may do to others. Requiem for a Dream might make put a friend with a history of heroin addiction in a terrible position for entirely different reasons.

We should remember that movies are just stories and storytelling is an important art in all cultures. There is real artistic value that serves my soul in many films. We should be looking for the good in them. The Passion of the Christ may have an attractive woman in it, but the merit for honoring God is so profound that I should resist temptation and enjoy the wealth of God-honoring praise this movie brings to my heart.

There are also many foolish ways to approach this problem. For anyone who struggles with lust (read men), the idea of flipping through channels or going to a movie with no research is foolish. No plan is a plan and in this case, it is a very bad one. Our art culture is far to saturated with sexual imagery for us to march on with no plan. If you’re going to a movie, check it out online to see if it meets your conscience’s standard.

This begs the question, What is my conscience’s standard? How do I determine when a film (or any piece of art) crosses the line from being flawed but acceptable and when it becomes too harmful to warrant watching at all? This is a very personal line, but I want to discuss some ways to think about the issue.

Redeeming Value vs. Tempting Content

To be sure, images and movements are not evil in and of themselves. Sins only happen in my heart. A nude image of a women is not inherently evil (in fact, she was created “very good”). What if that image were of my wife? It would be good and even holy for me to drink deeply in delighting in her. The Bible in unblushing in its recommendations to enjoy one’s spouse (Pro 5:18-19).

Additionally, there is merit to the idea of redeeming value in a film. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films ever made and yet it opens with a sex scene. It holds out such virtues as perseverance, hope, kindness, and justice. I love the line that Andy Dufresne gives, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

I don’t know if Andy is right, but it is a great quote in a wonderful movie. Is the film worth the temptation I face in the opening scene? I think so. I often skip the opening entirely as it is not that pertinent to the rest of the film.

But I must be careful. More often than not, I am tempted to find a movie I want to see, then I go scrounging around for artistic merit so I have an excuse to watch it. I am not an unbiased observer. Many men are looking for excuses to see these films and it is not in a search for holiness, but in a search for cute girls not wearing much.

We are like a kid at the grand canyon. We don’t ask what is a safe distance to view the canyon from, we ask how close we can get to the edge without falling.

What is tempting to me?

Another important consideration is what specifically tempts me. Obviously, nudity is very tempting and I almost never watch films with nude women. I had to give up the shows House of Cards and Game of Thrones for this reason. I really like both, but it was simply not worth the temptation and sin it was causing.

I can’t watch any movie where girls kiss other girls. For whatever reason, this is a weak spot for me. A film need not have nudity or even sex scenes to be problematic. So when you are determining what is acceptable for you, know your own heart and steer clear of your own weaknesses.

What is loving for the actor or actress?

If 1 Corinthians  6:18 is right and whenever an actor or actress sins sexually, they sin against their own body. It would be unloving in that case to support their efforts to hurt themselves. The fact that it is consensual is irrelevant. I recently had a compelling discussion with a friend who said that he will not watch a movie where an actress had to undress in front of the camera crew even if no nudity is shown on screen. He argues that it is unloving to her to support her exploitation by men.

A more compelling argument is to ask, What if she were my daughter? I love my daughter very much and it would break my heart if she were to be ogled by a whole camera crew (who, by the way, would immediately go an jack off in the bathroom). It would break my heart.

To be honest, I don’t know how far to carry this standard, but I found it very compelling. If you want a more clear discussion about it, check out Cap Stewart’s excellent article Sex, Lies, and Star Trek.

Is it Lawful? Is it Helpful? Is it Enslaving?

In the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll makes the case that many of the wisdom decisions we make need to not simply ask, “Is this a clear sin?” There needs to be a higher standard. He suggests 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a guide. In Paul’s argument, he asks whether something is not only sinful, but helpful. Pastor Mark then applies this more broadly to ask the following three questions.

Is it lawful? This excludes everything the Bible forbids and that the state forbids.

Is it helpful? This asks if the film benefits me. Is there a good reason to consume the film beyond the fact I have an evening free.

Is it enslaving? Will the image of that girl follow me around the rest of my life? Will I have to use extra self-control later because I won’t use it now? Will I sin because I watched this film?

Will your freedom cause others to stumble?

Let’s say you set a clear standard and have satisfied your own conscience. You are fully convinced in your own mind what is safe for you and are comfortable with a film. Wait, there is a final consideration.

Romans 14 is a whole chapter about how Christians should give deference to the weaker brother. We should always ask if this will cause another to stumble. This is strange for me to say because I may be the weak brother. I am asking you not to put me in a tempting situation. Almost every time I see someone cite Romans 14, they assume they are the stronger believer. Not so this time. I am the weaker brother.

We need to be very cautious and respectful when recommending and watching films that we are not setting up a brother to sin. Practically, this means no one should ever watch any of the Transformer films (they are so sexualized and they are just awful movies anyway).

So What do I do?

If you have asked all the above and your conscience is still uneasy about a film, you probably shouldn’t watch it. The solution to the Requiem for a Dream Problem is that I will never watch the movie. I want to. I really do. But it is not safe for me.

-Chip

The Movie Poster above is under copyright and is used under a Fair Use.

Neutering the Clergy: Foreword by Count Vicegrim

OldBookGenerally, when a fellow Demon of Rank asks me to write in their book, I am reluctant. A demon of my caliber only has time for so many requests while attending my other duties. Many times they are simply looking to add my prestigious reputation to their mediocre work.

So when Lord Blackmist asked me to read his work, I suspected such a request was coming. Much to my surprise, Neutering the Clergy is the most helpful work on taming the pastor problem that I have ever read. Lord Blackmist’s insightful mind and entertaining writing style is really only surpassed by my own.

What I think is most helpful in Neutering the Clergy is his emphasis on the five Anything Buts. Many a demon has been nearsighted in their focus on the sins that they prefer causing in their patients. Lord Blackmist’s focus on the Anything Buts will encourage every demon to simply avoid the Enemy.

It is so easy to forget that the goal is not necessarily to get your patient to sin, but to get them to the brink of Hell and shove them in. The Anything Buts assist us greatly in this endeavor. This is not just a book for the demon of a pastor, it is a book for all tempters everywhere.

If I may steal a little of Lord Blackmist’s thunder, I shall briefly review them.

Anything but the Enemy’s Book

This may seem elementary, but how many demons forget it. With phrases throughout the world that reference back to the Enemy’s book, we need to be vigilant. Phrases like, “Carry your cross” and “God is good” seem harmless enough, but may spark the curiosity of a listener. Even phrases we have entirely co opted like “judge not lest ye be judged” are used for our purposes but carry the real risk of being used by the Enemy’s Spirit.

Even television isn’t wholly safe for us. I was watching an American Football game recently for an academic paper on idolatry when suddenly I see a banner that says, “John 3:16.” Even these insignificant pushes could encourage your patient toward the Enemy. Your vigilance is of utmost importance. Get your patient to go to Anything But the Enemy’s book.

Anything but Faith

Of course I mean faith in the Enemy’s Son. Surely it should be easy to keep your patient away from information about the Enemy which would keep them from ever finding faith. It is not so easy. The vermin have this drive built into them to seek the Enemy. The constant needs their bodies experience that once satisfied, must again be filled. These endless needs point to an endless source. It is one of our most difficult challenges to fill those drives with Anything But faith. The work we have to do to keep them distracted from that gnawing hole in their souls.

Lord Blackmist does a great job of encouraging flexibility. Many a demon is looking to create some crippling addiction that will consume their patient. It is well and good when this works, but most of the time we need to allow them to drift from one distraction to another. This is the difference between success and failure. You will need to learn and practice not only stamping out faith, but stamping our anything that looks like it might resemble faith.

Anything but Grace

If the endless access to faith creating needs were not burdensome enough, the endless supply of his grace filling joys is stunning. The ridiculous supply of needed things like food, clothing, and shelter for those vile creature is enough to drive demon mad. That same supply of fulfillments for their needs is always working against us.

The Grand Canyon, stars, galaxies, trees, rocks, flowers, oceans, life, children, athletes, heroes, hurricanes, peaceful breezes, and a host of other created things all constantly point to a loving creator. The Enemy has really stacked the deck against us. Not only is there that gap in their souls but there is also an endless sea of arrows pointing to the Enemy.

The solution, as Lord Blackmist points out, is self-sufficiency. We need to convince the vermin that there is an endless sea of needs and they are the source to fill them. Of course we know this is patently absurd, but they believe it many times and we need to use that belief. If they want to believe that they are as strong as the Enemy, let them.

Anything but the Enemy’s Son

I remember the day very clearly. I was a younger tempter then, working far from Israel. It was a good time to be a demon. A young page named Wormwood came to me breathlessly with news from the Great Lord. He said that the Enemy had become a human.

I actually nearly stabbed Wormwood through for blasphemy against the spirit world. What vile nonsense? Not even the Enemy would drop to a ploy that base, that foolish. It was only on reading the letter signed by the Great Lord himself that I believed. To this day, I am stunned.

What spirit would ever wish to become that crude meat? The Enemy’s purposes in this are still ambiguous. Surely he has some very subtle ploy he is working out. I have suspected that maybe he pretended to be a person somehow that even fooled us. But I saw him myself. The magnificent and frightening power of the Enemy, wrapped in filthy skin.

While we stand in disbelief, the vermin themselves yawn. It has been effective for centuries to make the Enemy’s son a thing of boredom. While it is delightful to have them speak of him to no effect, it is far better that no one speaks of him. For those of you in the Western World, this is easier. We have made it rude to mention him in most settings. But we need to stamp out any reference to him at all. I don’t simply mean that no one should even use his name in vain. I mean no one uses his name AT ALL!

Victory can be achieved if they want Anything But the Enemy’s son.

Anything but the Enemy’s Glory

Even when we have completely lost, when the vermin turn to the Enemy’s son and believe in him, we still have some hope of neutering them. The Enemy’s Spirit in them will drive them toward slavery to him (albeit, a joyful slavery). We need to sabotage this at every turn. The key place to do this is to represent the Enemy as different than he presents himself.

You see, we don’t really know why he has done so much for the vermin in the world. Obviously, he can’t love them. Every spirit with any sense knows that they are grotesque. But we have been unable to discern his true intent. It is a mystery that the Lowerarchy has struggled with for millenia.

But he does present himself as loving and kind to them which must be part of his deeper plot. In that case, we must present him as Anything But loving, kind, just, and patient. We can make him out to be distant and uncaring. We can present him as harsh and overbearing. Honestly, I don’t care. As long as he is presented and Anything But glorious.

There is an irony in this. We know he really doesn’t love them and thus we are truly exposing the Enemy’s lie to them. I am not often accused of presenting the truth to the vermin, but as long as it works against the Enemy, I can be for it. Even honesty.

Really, we are still lying to them because we don’t know what his motives are. I take comfort in that anyway.

In Summary

While I have focused on the parts that apply to the average vermin, there is a wealth of useful information on how to corrupt even the most resilient of the Enemy’s servants. I even learned a thing or two from reading Neutering the Clergy and that is a high compliment indeed.

-Count Vicegrim

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 2 How did we get here?

Queen Victoria in 1887

Queen Victoria in 1887

During the 19th century, England went through a major change called The Reformation of Morals that was spearheaded by William Wilberforce. He was also famous for his role in ending the British slave trade. The changes were supported by Queen Victoria and the resulting changes in British society became known as Victorian Morality. England was a superpower in that time and had a trading empire that spanned the globe, so Victorian Morality spread all over the world and particularly the western world.

One of the hallmarks of this Victorian attitude is a reluctance to talk about sex and an intense social stigma toward anything labelled as sexual deviance. This attitude continued through the early 20th century. It led to a number of strange paradoxes in the United States and elsewhere. Victorian ethics were generally accepted socially but often ignored privately. This hypocrisy was most visible during Prohibition with the clear mandate from the American people that they wanted alcohol to be illegal for everyone else, but obviously they should be allowed to drink it. This also spilled over into many strip clubs and prostitution rings run by organized crime. After Prohibition, Victorian morals still ruled the day publicly. Then the 1960s came and brought a key force of change, birth control. Suddenly sex became a lot less risky as far as pregnancy was concerned. The sexual revolution sparked as a counter-culture to the long lived Victorian morals.

The 1960s also generated another important force of social change: Playboy. Now there was a magazine with cool cultural impact and thoughtful opinion columns and, oh yeah, beautiful naked women. The erosion of Victorian morals had begun as the rate of cultural change accelerated. The only missing element to truly harness this change was coming: the internet. Suddenly all manner of topics were accessible quickly and, most importantly, privately. Men and women could learn about sexual behavior of all kinds without having to actually ask a person who might judge them. The previous power of the Victorian morals was in the social stigma that was created by talking openly about sexual matters. Now, any image, discussion, or topic could be accessed privately.

It is worth noting that we changed as a people because we could look at this material in private. We did not resist pornography because we had deep moral convictions about it. We resisted because it was embarrassing to ask for pornography at the gas station counter. It showed us our hearts as a people. In a way, we should be grateful for having our hearts exposed, then the Holy Spirit begins his work.

The other observation to make is that the sexual counter-culture was not counter to the Bible but to the Victorian Morals. An example of this is how openly the Bible discusses sex, something that is not Victorian at all. The Song of Solomon is graphically erotic yet it made the Bible.

Another example would be a set of leather lingerie. Now the Victorian Morals would respond to this negatively, clearly something unseemly. The Bible would say that if this was for a wife to wear for her husband, there is nothing wrong. There is no verse about leather underwear and no biblical principle is violated by a wife wearing them to please her husband.

Now, obviously many of the Victorian Morals in regard to monogamy, premarital sex, homosexuality, and many other issues were wholly in line with scripture. I say this to make it clear that we as Christians need to be biblical and not Victorian. The power of the Victorian Morals was a social pressure. It didn’t change hearts. It never could. We need to be people of God’s word because the only way I will ever leave the sin of lust will not be because you or my church don’t like it. It will be because there is the Holy Spirit of God in my heart.

Now that is a force of personal and cultural change!

-Chip

Up Next: Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 3, Seven Lies I Believed