50 shades of twee blandness – (why the church needs whipped into shape.)


Podcasts have made a great impact on me recently. On Monday I was listening to the feedback programme from BBC radio4. The key discussion was on Richard Holloway’s 20 part series Honest Doubt. The feedback was strong to the series. There was a vocal response from a section of the Christian community which was very negative. “Why is Christianity was being attacked?”, “Why it there no corresponding series form someone sure in their belief like the Archbishop of Canterbury?” and “You wouldn’t make a series like this about Islam would you?”
Several times, within the brief conversation reference was made to Christianity being big enough to take care of itself, and stand up to examination of any kind.

Today as I was reflecting on the news that a Dutch book publisher is backing a book which is being billed as a ‘Christian response’ to 50 shades of grey, this podcast conversation came to mind again.

This week, Dutch publishing house VBK Media have identified the biblical fiction novel Forbidden … as an alternative that has all of the excitement, thrills and edge of 50 Shades whilst allowing for a moral story to underpin its sexy exterior

Why do Christians feel the need to insert a moral story under everything. What does that say about the people who read the story in 50 shades of grey and also those who venture into this new book? why cant it just be sexy rather than have a sexy exterior?

When Christians start out improving art forms by adding a moral story to underpin it, it can have a tendency to be twee and bland, or at best substandard. The whole world of Contemporary Christian Music is littered with bands with all the excitement thrills and edge of rock music but with a moral story underpinning each song/album. The upshot is a notable industry of moral underpinned stories or songs or films which cannot stand up to scrutiny and fail to impact the main marketplace. (I’ll give you a few notable exceptions, but in general)

Does Christianity need to provide an christian alternative. No it doesn’t need to.
Should Christians to write sexual fiction. Yes of course, if they wish.

The new book is trying to do this. Taking a story from the bible with has lots of sex in it, and almost creating fan fiction around the storyline. The advertising would lead you to believe this story is 50 shades of grey the christian version, when actually it seems closer to a Mills and Boon style story which may be very disappointing for those looking for something to read after 50 Shades.

Advertising this as the christian response to 50 shades is wrong.
This advertising illustrates the problem of how Christianity responds to something like 50 shades of Grey or Dan Brown and Harry Potter previously. Perhaps we start by reading the book and condemning it on literary grounds, it is sex in the absence of a storyline. (The story started as fan fiction of the twilight series of books, imagining what a sex scene between the lead characters would be like. It was then was made legally different so as to be able to be published.) Not as story lacking morals, but as a story containing bad writing.

50 shades of grey is pretty bad, popular but bad, like Dan Brown and Harry Potter before it. All three of these series of books have been very popular, and caused thousands of Christian responses to be written and hundreds to be published. Yet this response leaves me cold, it doesn’t get at the bigger question. Or perhaps we should give away church branded whips to church members. That would whip the church into shape.

The bigger question is how does Christianity stop being obsessed with an insular view itself. Leaving behind a mindset an an uneven playing field, a viewpoint of we are under attack. A viewpoint which is nervous about allowing people to read sexually explicit fiction without a christian moral viewpoint.

The response of Christianity has to become something confident and willing to discuss what we believe and understand and live through. To be confident in engaging around sexually explicit fiction or art or politics or culture . Seeking to be positive and engaging. Setting agendas actively. I wonder what this response would or could look like because if it is there, it isn’t being heard.