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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

We Were Created For So Much More Than This!!! A Catholic Review of 50 Shades and Old Fashioned


We were created for so much more than this!!! 

At the deepest core of our being is the desire to be loved. 
To be loved not for what we do, but for who we are!
To know love and be loved completely, totally, infinitely - to be cherished and honored
This is what we desire
For someone to truly see us and love us  
We have been created for this!
We are created for so much more than what the world tells us will bring us happiness. 

Each one of us is made for love.  
These are the deepest desires written on our hearts, and our hearts can never be satisfied by anything less than this. 

We were made for so much more!!! This was my heartfelt cry after reading about the explicit, abusive sex and the intimate partner violence that is portrayed in the bestseller 50 Shades of Grey. I felt this so deeply that when I was given the opportunity to preview a love story entitled Old Fashioned opening on Valentine’s Day (that was promoted as an alternative to 50 Shades) I jumped at the chance. 

However... I have literally spent months praying and wrestling with this review, because I know God wants this article to be about so much more than a movie choice.  

I know that He wants us to have so much more than what we settle for and He wants to reach out to all of us - both those who enjoyed these books and those repulsed by them -- to know this deeply in the core of our being.  He has written into our hearts an amazing plan for love that is so much more than the lonely, unhealthy relationships many put up with. He definitely has more for us than the relationships with BDSM (Bondage -being tied up, hand cuffed, gagged, etc./ Discipline – submitting to being struck, hit, whipped while unable to speak or move to defend oneself; Dominance and Submission; Sadism – enjoyment is found in inflicting pain on another; Masochism – pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure, is found in experiencing one’s own pain and humiliation) that 50 Shades contains. (My heart cries in even having to write what BDSM means). 

How have relationships that contain THIS become a fantasy

Is it because we don't realize there is something more?  
Is it because our hearts are broken?


Before writing the review, I think it's important just to step back and look honestly at the effect 
50 Shades has had an effect on us and on our society and ask ourselves: Is this what I want? 

A study done regarding the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy cites evidence that these books "normalize intimate partner violence," and "provide a context that promotes such violence."  Its analyses concludes that the books contain "pervasive sexual violence" and that “nearly every interaction between Ana and Christian is emotionally abusive in nature, including stalking, intimidation, and isolation.” Additionally, Ana shows “classic signs of an abused woman." 

A second study determined that these books are associated with increased health risks for the women of read them.  Its readers are more likely to have eating disorders, have emotionally abusive and/or stalking “romantic” partnersto have had 5 or more sexual partners before they were 24, and had engaged in binge drinking within one month of the study.

The extent of it's impact regarding the normalization of intimate partner violence is evident in: 
  • A marked increase of interest and popularity of this type of violence since these books reached best seller status.  
  • A film of this nature was even made 
  • its motion picture rating was downgraded from the NC- 17 Rating, (which means that no one under the age of 17 is permitted based on "violence, sex, aberrational behavior") to an R rating instead.  
  • Even stores like Target, have begun to carry 50 Shades of Grey merchandise, including plush toys complete with handcuffs, etc. 
With this in mind, can we say that going to this film will further fuel the promotion and normalization of intimate partner violence?  
And if so, can we choose to make our voices heard by not going to see it?
"Our lives begin to end when we begin to be silent about the things that matter." Martin Luther King Jr.


In alternative to this at the movies this weekend is OLD FASHIONED - a story of two people who have been hurt by what the culture assures us will only bring us happiness.  Each has a different coping mechanism to try to free themselves from the pain of their past.  Clay, once a frat boy engrossed in a sexually permissive and lucrative lifestyle has retreated from the world, determined to never hurt another woman again, as he repairs the beloved and broken antiques that arrive in his shop.  Amber is a light-hearted, fun-loving searcher who moves on when things in her life get messy, driving as far as the gas in her car takes her, so she can start over and feel safe once again.  She rents the upstairs apartment above Clay’s shop and finds out right away that Clay is different from most men when he won’t go into the apartment with Amber to show her around.  When she asks why, he tells her, “A made a promise to never be alone with anyone that’s not my wife.“ 

Amber becomes increasingly intrigued by Clay’s "old-fashioned" ideas, inwardly craving a man who respects and cherishes her.   Mischievously, she begins to breaks things in her apartment so she can get to know Clay better.  As he fixes things, they communicate through the screen door.  Clay tells her, “I know that making you wait outside seems ridiculous, but a lot of the boundaries that used to be common have been thrown away.  They are there to protect us.  We don’t have to go around using each other, hurting each other.  It doesn’t have to be that way.”

The movie is filled with wisdom and honesty.
I love that it addresses many of the struggles and attitudes regarding love and sexuality in our culture, simply through the story and the conversations that unfold between Amber and Clay. 

One such honesty is how it relates a woman’s desire to be loved  -- to be found beautiful, to be wanted --even if only in a sham way, as revealed in the words of Amber: 

“Flatter me. Tell me I’m the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen, even if you don’t mean it.” 

In the great void of love that the sexual revolution has left in its wake, men and women often cling to any semblance of love, even if it’s not real and brings them harm.  One night stands, engaging in a series of relationships, pornography, relationships where we give ourselves away for a temporary high, to not feel alone, to feel loved and desired even if we are left bruised and broken or calloused and hardened are symptoms of the brokenness and meaninglessness of sex outside of God’s plan for us --this is the life so many endure in the false hope that it will satisfy them. 

Yet, God has a joyful plan for us! 

It isn't God who has made sexuality repressive or restrictive, it is actually the exact opposite. Ripping the incredibly beautiful, holy act of union from its very foundations is what makes sex in our culture such a catalyst for pain and loneliness. Because, sex is only truly beautiful and fulfilling to the extent that it is entered into in within the context of a lasting, faithful, fruitful, unconditional love for which each of us longs (what a true Christian marriage is meant to be).  Even scientific evidence attests to this.  

We are much more than a body seeking release.  We are the crown of God’s creation. We are immortal souls meant for eternal happiness that is beyond our capacity to comprehend.  We have intelligence, reason, a will and a soul that joined with our body.  We are meant for so much more than the media and the culture around us is offering. We are meant for God, who alone can love us unconditionally, but far too often we have believed and chased after the lies instead of the truth.

We are made in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed, cleansed and even raised up to be God’s children at our Baptisms!  To know God as our Father -- to truly know Him and experience His love for us is life changing!  To truly know that we are loved as his daughters and sons, that we are seen in our totality and still loved infinitely is the pearl of great price!  Having this relationship with Him is infinitely more fulfilling that the passing sham of material wealth that Christian Grey gives to Ana. God longs to shower upon us true riches that remain in our hearts and souls no matter what our situation in life.  Faith, hope, love, mercy, peace, strength, wisdom.... every good thing comes to us from God alone.  No matter what you may have heard, when God sent His Son, Jesus to us, it wasn't to come to judge us, but to save us and lead us to freedom!  Jesus hasn't come to take away our joy, but fulfill it:
I have come that you may have life and have it to the full!  Jn 10:10
And to be Emmanuel, God with us -- the lover of our souls --the One Who never leaves or forsakes us! 
Do you not know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit living within you?! Our bodies are not made for immorality but for the Lord! See 1 Cor. 6: 15-20. 
From firsthand knowledge, St. Augustine writes about finding the love he had always been searching for in God:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.... Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace." 
Yet, we live in a world that so often acts as if God doesn’t exist.  Evidenced in this exchange between Clay and Amber.

Clay: Senior year everything changed – my goals, what I wanted out of life...
To be decent.  A good person.
I needed to believe my life could be different.
Amber: Don’t even tell me you found Jesus.
Clay: More like He found me.

Or that His Scripture is laughable:

Clay: Once I read it, [the Bible], I couldn’t make fun of it anymore.  I felt accountable for the first time. It was genuine and real.  Like a voice… I can’t explain it…

It is through experiencing a loving relationship with each other that the reality of God and His plan is manifested in the film.  It is not by preaching, but through Clay's desire for goodness and his respect for Amber that draws her toward faith in God and a desire for His presence in her life. While Amber's joy and vivaciousness draws Clay to again enjoy Christian community and worship. We are meant to build each other up and bring each other into glory!

And it almost imperceptibly shares the pain and wreckage that pornography so often inflicts in marriage, as Amber relates:
I don’t want normal.  I want you.  I cried myself to sleep on my honeymoon – trying to figure out why my brand new husband was more interested in seeing what was on TV than in touching me.  

The movie makes it clear how essential it is to ask the important questions while getting to know one another and it honestly conveys that our culture's ideas about sex and love wound us. Again, not overtly, but by witnessing how the characters' past choices and failures shape their lives. And so importantly, it addresses that God forgives us.  If we turn to God and allow Him to forgive us, and are able to forgive ourselves, these very crooked lines that we have walked will be made straight and we can become new creations. This progress toward forgiveness can be a long and confusing road, but it doesn't need to be. As a Catholic, I must admit that I kept wishing Clay’s (sometimes excruciatingly painful) journey toward self-forgiveness could be shortened by an experience of the most amazing Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Click here to hear testimonies and stories of its healing power). 

This is my one caveat from giving Old Fashioned a glowing review.  For me, it falls short in portraying the freedom and joy that comes with being forgiven and being made new and alive in Christ.  And consequently, the joy and freedom within Clay and Amber's relationship is also left wanting. For me, although it is a very honest portrayal and may be healing for some to watch, I fear that others will walk away from the film not desiring a relationship like Clay and Amber’s -- simply because the joy and the freedom (for all that is good and holy!) that God desires for us is tainted by the paradox of guilt that Clay carries, even while sharing:  
Old things have passed away. Behold I make all things new! 2 Cor 5: 17 

In the end, many wonderful things are portrayed in film, Old Fashioned. And, I applaud the filmmakers for sharing a story that touches us and proclaims that love can be pure and grow slowly in the midst of life’s messiness, and that if we are intent on truly loving, it is worth the effort it takes! In comparison to 50 Shades of Gray, I recommend it easily a thousand times over the alternative, but also believe that God has something even more joyful and free for us than what it conveyed. If people understand this beforehand, I recommend going to seeing the movie wholeheartedly.  

If you are interested in finding out more about the freedom and wholeness that is part of God's plan for us, I have provided links that I can highly recommend:


This is a heartfelt testimony of healing and freedom, from someone who has experienced the pain of trying to find happiness in what the world offers.  Any of her videos are amazing, in another she says:
"If you’re not being treated well, if you have to lower your standards and your dignity just to be with this person – it’s not worth it. So don’t be afraid to step back, have the courage to do what’s best for you.  And if you pray for that courage, pray for that help, God will get you out of any situation. Know my prayers are with you. God bless!" Crystalina Evert
Here is a a real life, Christ centered loving romance from Katie Davis (the young American girl who exudes joy as a missionary and adoptive mother of several orphaned girls in Africa).

Read: Christian woman and Christian Grey

Actors in 50 Shades don't like their movie... say even acting it was an abusive experience.

An amazing talk for young people on chastity that someone entitled: The best 42 minutes you'll ever spend: 



O Jesus, I pray that each one of us experiences your love in their lives!  
Jesus, I trust in You.  O Jesus, I believe in You! O Jesus, I love you!

© Janet Moore 2015.  All Rights Reserved.