Skip 'Fifty Shades,' critics urge

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" offers no benefit to the Christian life and should be avoided by followers of Christ, said Southern Baptist pastor Jay Dennis, founder of the One Million Men anti-pornography ministry.

The New York Times best-selling book trilogy, including "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," was originally marketed primarily to women. But with reportedly 114.4 million people tuned in for the Super Bowl, a trailer for the film aired during the big game Feb. 1.

"The marketing of this movie by mainstream media is leading to the normalization of pornography. Make no mistake, Fifty Shades of Grey is pornography," Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., said. "There is absolutely nothing good that could come from exposing your mind to that which will lead to sinful sexual thoughts and temptations. This is not something where you go see the movie for fun or to see what all the rage is about."

The interfaith Religious Alliance Against Pornograhpy (RAAP) is encouraging Christians to instead see "Old Fashioned," a movie highlighting the values of love in I Corinthians 13, in stark contrast to Fifty Shades of Grey.

RAAP, composed of Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jewish representatives, has asked faith leaders to speak against the movie and warn the public of its harm.

"The books and the movie undermine everything that we believe as members of the faith community," RAAP said in a written statement signed by 29 leaders, though none of them appear to be Southern Baptist. "As members of the faith community we need to inform our constituencies about the destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God's design for loving relationships between a husband and wife in the covenant of marriage."

RAAP encourages leaders to work at the grassroots level to discourage viewing of Fifty Shades of Grey.

"It is critically important not simply to condemn the message of Fifty Shades of Grey," RAAP said. "It is equally important to celebrate our message about love and the blessing of sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage. We have the better story; let's proclaim it."

Dennis, who preached a sermon in 2012 on "50 Reasons Christian Women Shouldn't Read 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'" told Baptist Press the movie is subversive and just as harmful to men as to women.

"A Christian man or woman attending this movie is placing their witness, testimony and reputation on the altar of political correctness," he said. "I read recently where this movie will virtually make this kind of sinful sexual involvement no longer a taboo. Who would have ever thought that bondage and sadomasochism in our society would be normalized even by those who profess to know Jesus"?

Seeing the movie gives it a stamp of approval it doesn't deserve, Dennis said.

"One cannot maintain a testimony of godliness, Christ likeness … and view this movie too. A choice must be made and a powerful statement must be given through a Christian man or woman's avoidance of the movie and speaking out against the movie," Dennis said. "Satan often uses curiosity to entrap Christians into making provision for the flesh. Can you see the movie and claim to be godly? I believe the answer is a huge 'No.' It is time for pastors and Christian leaders to stand up and speak out and declare 'this is wrong!'"

RAAP's recommended alternative movie Old Fashioned, a Christian-styled love story also opening Valentine's Day, is explicitly marketed as an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. The movie trailer to Old Fashioned is at

"Clearly, we're picking a fight with Fifty Shades," Rik Swartzwelder, who produces, directs and plays the lead actor role in the film, said in a press release on the movie's website.

"We're not only picking a fight, we're picking a fight with the school ground bully, likely to get our nose busted in two. So why would a modestly budgeted indie romantic drama like Old Fashioned want to jump in the arena and go toe-to-toe in a David v. Goliath standoff with a cultural juggernaut like that?

"Well, honestly, because we believe it matters. Love and romance are created by God and designed to lead to marriage and physical intimacy, created by God. And these are good things," Swartzwelder said.

Valentine's Day openings of Old Fashioned include 220 theaters in 34 states, distributed by Pure Flix, the same distributor of the successful "God's Not Dead."

Signatories of the RAAP letter include RAAP co-chairmen George H. Niederauer, archbishop of San Francisco, and Jerry R. Kirk, founder of the pureHOPE Christian purity ministry; Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding; John Comstock, Sunday School and discipleship leader, Church of the Nazarene; Peggy A. Johnson, a United Methodist bishop; David Jeffrey, national commander, The Salvation Army; Jesse Miranda, director of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership; John E. Maracle, chief and president of the Native American Fellowship of the Assemblies of God; and Omar Shaheed, an imam with the Muslim American Society.

Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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