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!

Twenty-Seven Years Ago Today

birthdayI know that most of you think of July 21st as the day that Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Or maybe you think of it as the day Belgium won independence from the Netherlands. The Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21st. For the TV enthusiast, July 21st is the first day in 1931 where TV was broadcast seven days a week in New York City. NATO was founded in 1949 on this day. In Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first woman to be an elected head of state on July 21st. In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released.

I know that’s what all of you think of when I mention July, 21st, but that’s not what matters to me. On July 21, 1987 I was no doubt enjoying the summer. I had just turned four and had recently moved to East Tennessee. Maybe I picked blackberries that day. I was probably looking out at the “cow field” in our back yard.

Far across the country, a little girl was born. She was adorable, the second daughter of the family.

Of course, I had no idea that this birth mattered. I hadn’t heard of the city and probably didn’t even know of the state she was born in. It would be almost 13 years before that little girl made any difference to me at all.

We met shortly before both of our birthdays in late June of 2001. We met in a circus tent on a sweltering Florida day. She was a very thin little girl and I was an oaf. Maybe a friendly oaf, but I am under no illusions that my stunning looks and boyish charm had anything to do with our friendship.

A little over four years later, I married that little girl who was no longer a little girl.

This is her eighth birthday as my wife. Certainly this birthday is better for me than it is for her. If you consider how we have aged, I am getting my first gray hairs (a sparse few) and my earliest wrinkles. She, on the other hand, still has smooth skin, sweet eyes, and a…ahem…foxy body!

All of you can can remember Harry Potter today, but I have something much better. I have my delightful, beautiful, wise, and thoughtful friend. I love you Sam. I’m so happy to have you!

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

-Chip

The cake above is courtesy of Will Clayton and is used with permission

Make Her Glad You’re Home

3473338897_889e375ae0_oI sit in the car after a hard day’s work. The engine turns off and the interior light blinks on. Looking into the passenger seat, I pull up the mental energy to head into the house.

I’ve read the books. I know what to expect. My wife is just now pulling a delicious home-cooked meal from the oven. The children are playing thoughtfully and respectfully in the living room. My wife comes over to me and, with glowing affection, gives me a kiss and asks about my day. She looks radiant having just taken some time to freshen up.

Then cold, hard reality sets in. My real wife in my real house caring for my real children. She has made the hard decision to stay at home and home-school our kids. She doesn’t work outside the home even though she excels in the working world. She uses her tremendous gifts to care for and raise our children well. I am very grateful.

But with that gratitude, I better mix in some understanding. She has been working since the kids got up at 7 AM. No real breaks and always on call. With my four kids, she is essentially running a day-care (except she doesn’t get off at 5 PM). In addition, she has managerial functions of acquiring and delivering food for this hoard of little mouths. She is handling deliveries of mail and supplies and paying the bills. She then also coordinates the frequent home maintenance and repairmen who come and go.

And she often packs my lunch in the morning.

Far from the books that have so many recommendations for her about how she should take care of me when I go through the door, maybe I should consider how I should care for her.

Many men, including this man, feel like once we’ve worked hard all day, we are entitled to a little rest and relaxation at the end of the day. For that matter, I’m entitled to some good sex as well. I’ve worked hard. I deserve it.

But this attitude is not biblical at all. The oft-quote sections of scripture speaking to men never explain what I can expect from her. Far from it, every time the Bible talks to me, it reminds me of what I should be doing for her.

It’s called servanthood.

Loving my wife as I love myself means that as I sit in the quiet of my still car, I need to be aware that she is tired too. She has been working harder than I have in a poorly defined job without the accolades of employment. The hard-working employee gets a pat on the back from his boss. The hard-working homemaker gets the occasional dirty look at the grocery store and the periodic blog post reminding her that she is a second-class woman.

Her job is harder than mine.

Despite the books reminding me that my wife should greet me at the door with a smile, a warm hug, an understanding ear, and a hot meal, I am the chief servant. The question I should ask is what can I do for her. Far from demanding that she act glad to see me, maybe I should care so well for her that she will be glad to see me. I don’t need to see how much I can take from my family, but how much I can give.

As the daddy of four little people, it is completely unrealistic that my wife will be refreshed and thrilled to see me at dinner time. She will be at her most harried. But, rather than think of how terrible it is that God made things this way, what if this is an opportunity? You see, I can be the hero. What if I told her she could take a break and I cooked dinner? What if this is a chance to haul the kids all into a bath? What if I could help her and not drain her?

So, when I step out of that car, I will walk through that door not asking what she can do for me. No, I will walk into that house and help where I can. If I do this right, maybe she will actually be really glad to see me.

And sex, hopefully nice sex afterwards.

-Chip

Photo by Tiffany Terry and used with permission

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 23, The Great Smog

the great smogFrom February 5-9, 1952, London had a problem. A prolonged period of windless conditions caused the cities to be covered in a thick suffocating smog. The source was not mysterious, the many coal-burning factories in the area along with personal coal use to heat houses was the source. But for those several days, the wind didn’t take it away.

The problems it caused were numerous. Public transport ground to a halt as driving became quite dangerous except in the subway system. Ambulances stopped running. Film screenings and shows were canceled because even the indoor air quality was so poor that people couldn’t see the stage. In some places, visibility dropped to as low as three feet.

That would mean that I couldn’t see my toes.

The people of London were frustrated by this, but not alarmed. Smogs had happened before and they dealt with it. Smog masks were used by those who could afford them and small charges were placed on railway lines to warn everyone that a train was coming when it hit the charge and they would explode. This was the price of progress and London was willing to pay it.

What London had no prepared for was the days following the smog. The death rate in London skyrocketed. Modern estimates are that about 12,000 people were killed by the smog (4,000 is the low estimate, 25,000 is the high one). That got people’s attention. Much of today’s environmental movement get its spark from those few days in London.

We live in a similar situation today. Pornography is so endemic that it is considered normal. Possibly a little shameful, but it is a private matter. Many people have spoken against it, but the vast majority don’t feel it is a big enough problem to address.

That is until we see the growing consequences of the smog. Today more American children will be born outside of marriage than within it. Japan is facing a demographic crisis because porn is easier to acquire than sex, so there are many young people giving up sex and certainly giving up on the idea of children. American men are increasingly averse to taking responsibility for their family.

We are in the midst of a great smog today and the negative effects of this smog are about to take center stage. It will be our responsibility as Christian men to stand up and call it what it is. The world will not know that children are delightful unless we show them. Young men will not know it is good to serve our wives unless we show them. Young women will settle for marrying losers unless we show them that they should expect more from men. God will not be shown as deeply satisfying unless we stand as a breath of fresh air in a dying, congested world.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 19, Bibles, Husbands, and Abuse

gun-on-bible-spritual-abuseAbuse is gross! And the absolutely slimiest and most putrid kind of abuse is abuse using the Bible. To take the good word of God and to use it as a weapon against your wife, disgusting!

So imagine my surprise when I found myself unknowingly contributing to such abuse. To be sure, I don’t know of any specific case, but someone may have read my blog and walked away with a false and dangerous belief.

I would like to correct that today.

As God does sometimes, he smacked me around. I was innocently reading the Desiring God Blog, minding my own business. I saw an article by Jonathon Parnell call When Sex Should Stop. The title piqued my interest. Then God began the beating. Jonathon lays out the case that we as a people (and I as an individual) has been misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Let’s look at those verses.

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The verses are fairly straightforward. married couples should make sure to have regular sex unless there is a need to separate to “devote yourselves to prayer.” As a guy who is a big fan of sex, what a boon. Now I have a verse for my wife!

Jonathon (and the Holy Spirit) don’t let me get away with that. He clarifies that this is not Paul saying, “My body is mine AND your body is mine!” This is saying that we each have authority over each other’s body. Far from verses I can use to manipulate my wife into more sex, these are verses that press me to serve my wife with sex. She has authority over my body. My body is there to serve her.

That hit me hard. I have pressured my wife before. It was very hurtful to her. I wasn’t treating her as a fellow heir in Christ but as a body that I had a right to. Rather than asking why she doesn’t want sex, I became irritable and entitled. Remember, the Bible does say her body is mine, right? The fact is, I didn’t marry a body. I married a person. She wants to be loved as a whole person, not as the only body the Bible says I can have.

Gentlemen, we have felt entitled to our wives for too long. I feel that because I believed wrongly about sex, that I may have lead you to use the Bible as a bludgeon for your cravings. God expects us to be like Him and to love her sacrificially like Christ loves the church. For my part in leading you away from that, I’m sorry.

Please read the article. Jonathon Parnell has challenged us to love our wives by being their servants. He’s right. We can do so much better.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part and Commandment 10, Thou Shalt Not Covet

My Neighbor’s Ox (Which I am not Coveting)

When I start to read the Ten Commandments, I usually get bogged down with guilt before I get to number ten. No murders or anything, Just the first two are big ones. So when I read, Thou Shalt No Covet, my first thought is, “Great, I’m good there. Ummmm…what is covet?”

Because it made the big ten, I suppose I should know what it means. Dictionary.com is says that covet means:

1.to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others

2. to wish for, especially eagerly

3. to have an inordinate or wrongful desire.

Well, it is possible, maybe just once or twice, that I could have had an inordinate desire for something some time. Fortunately, I don’t need a website to clarify this. The commandment has specific things I am not supposed to covet.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;

Well, I’m good there. No problems coveting houses.

 you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,

That one could be a problem. More on that later.

or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey,

I have committed a lot of sins in my life, but coveting my neighbor’s ox is not one of them.

or anything that is your neighbor’s. Exodus 20:17

Crap. That make this command much more difficult. I can’t ‘inordinately desire’ anything that belongs to my neighbor. In that case, I have coveted a lot.

The key focus for this blog would, of course, be the part of coveting your neighbor’s wife. At a minimum, this would cover a large number of women who are stripping themselves online. Many of them are married and God specifically said you should not desire to have them. For that matter, it would cover those ladies that you think would have been a better pick than your wife. Do not covet them.

The thrust of the commandment is the flip side of Paul’s instruction:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-7

We are not called to simply not covet, we are called to be content with what we have.

So back to wives. This means that if your wife is short, you are into short women. Is she skinny? Then you like skinny. Maybe she’s more plump. Then plump is really what works for you. Is she 20? Then you are into 20. Is she 90? Nothing better than 90! Whatever your wife is, that is your preference. You are responsible to love her as she is and to not pursue anyone else. YOU ARE TO BE CONTENT WITH HER!

I can hear the objections now. “But Chip, you don’t know my wife. She’s a witch on wheels and looks like a toad.” If a toad is how she looks then you need to pray the grace of God that you start to like toads. It wasn’t my idea to tell you to be content. You could argue it out with Paul, but he’s dead. So maybe you should explain to God why you are exempt from being content with the wife you have. There is not an exception for you, but there is grace for you to live out this command.

I know this isn’t easy. All of us struggle with contentment. But consider the joy of being content. Imagine how it would feel to be happy with your wife’s looks and the things you have.

I mean it, imagine for a moment.

Doesn’t that sound great? You can be free of the gnawing desire for more and better! That’s why Paul calls contentment and godliness GREAT GAIN! You would be the wealthiest man alive if you were both godly and content.

So the battle for contentment is a key part of the battle for joy. This command is not a burden. It is God commanding that we be happy! What an ogre up in Heaven? Telling us to be happy. The nerve of him. Why if he really loved me he would give me what I want, not make me happy with what I have.

Such bickering is common in us men and it needs to end. Take a moment and be happy for the grace of God to you that is you wife. She is God’s gift to you. Be content with her and with what you have.

-Chip