In fact, the BDSM aspects of the book are the most troubling parts for many evangelicals and are providing an opportunity for Christians to speak out about such practices.
“To find sexual arousal through the domination of women, regardless of who you are, is incredibly unhealthy,” said Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization that supports equal gender roles.
She suggests a biblical alternative: the eroticism in the Song of Solomon, which tells of a woman “continually taking initiative” in a sexual relationship with a shepherd.
Susie Hawkins, author of “From One Ministry Wife to Another,” points to another part of Scripture, in 1 Corinthians, which opposes sexual immorality and speaks of a woman’s body belonging to her husband and vice versa.
“A lot of Christian women say that this book (”Fifty Shades of Grey”) has spiced up their marriage but you have to realize you’re bringing another person in there, another party,” said Hawkins, who was a panelist at the Southwestern women’s forum. “That’s just not a road that is going to lead to contentment.”
She hopes more churches and ministries will have discussions like the Southwestern forum and not fear talking about something people have already read or are considering reading.
“Lead the way. If you don’t, they will be swayed,” she recommends. “It’s messy and it’s gross and you don’t want to put it in your own mind but we have to do that.”
But Marissa Elliott, a Boston-area adjunct literature professor and an evangelical Christian, said she has trouble understanding what all the fuss is about.
“The only thing that upset me was the quality of writing,” said Elliott, who read the book about a month ago and considered it no better than your average beach novel.
Elliott, who admits she is probably an atypical evangelical, says the book hardly deserves a glowing recommendation. But it shouldn’t be branded a marriage destroyer either.
“If people are going to take that and then look at their own marriage and say, ‘Why don’t I have this?’ they’re forgetting that this is fiction,” she said. “It’s supposed to be enticing and engaging and interesting and paint this very intense picture.”
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