Conservatives, Liberals, and the 50 Shades of Grey Between Them

Conservatives, Liberals, and the 50 Shades of Grey Between Them July 18, 2012

A substantial part of the Christian blogosphere has been distracted from further discussion of Ross Douthat’s piece on Liberal Christianity, by a conservative Christian blog post about the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not read the novel, but from reading the blog post in question, the reactions to it, and the follow-up from the Gospel Coalition’s Jared Wilson, we see clearly that the well-being of conservative to fundamentalist forms of Christianity is not at all a given.

Let me begin by addressing the seeming cluelessness of the fundamentalists who wrote the original post and follow-up by sharing a wonderful parable about the nature of privilege which was drawn to my attention recently.

Next, let me mention Rachel Held Evans’ articulate response which not only pinpoints the key issues but also encourages positive things to do to address the underlying issues. She writes, “According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman.” Rachel also usefully recommends that the folks at The Gospel Coalition read the Song of Songs.

Now on to Rod the Rogue Demon Hunter, who relates the TGC’s view of women to the issues of slavery and racism. And it is not just a comparison – as Fred Clark points out, Doug Wilson (the quote from whom sparked the most discussion) is not just a mysogynist but also a racist and a defender of slavery – literally! And so right here we get at the heart of the issue. The reason large numbers of conservatives are on the wrong side of history in our time is the same one that put so many on the wrong side over slavery and any number of other past issues. They keep adopting the same approach, seemingly unaware that if their approach keeps producing results that later generations will need to apologize for, there is something fundamentally flawed with it.

Matthew Paul Turner addresses the Gospel Coalition piece head on. Here is a sample:

I find Douglas Wilson’s thoughts about “biblical marriage” to be vile, manipulative, and downright dangerous. There’s so garbage in those four paragraphs that I have hard time believing that Jared believes them to be helpful on any level to any conversation, let alone one about crappy-written fantasy fiction. Sorry Jared. Any time words like power and control and authority and conquers and made-up terms like “true submission” are used in describing the relationship between a husband and wife, you’re not describing God’s ideal. You’re pretty much describing a gateway scenario to emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual, and/or mental abuse inside the confines of a marriage.

Eric Reitan is made nauseous by the Gospel Coalition piece. He writes, among other things, “The message treats gender egalitarianism as the problem and gender hierarchy as the solution, but it seems clear that the reverse is far more likely to be true.”

Daniel Kirk writes, “I am embarrassed for Christianity that such an advocacy of rape (marital or otherwise) could find itself onto a websites that boasts of being one of a “Gospel” coalition.”

Mike Bird emphasizes that the stance in the Gospel Coalition post is not one of complementarianism but extreme patriarchy.

Brian LePort writes, “I don’t lose sleep that groups like The Gospel Coalition exist. I am sad that they are trying so hard to monopolize the word “Gospel.” Don’t they know misogyny is available? It is far more fitting.”

Henry Neufeld finds the quote on the Gospel Coalition blog so outlandish that, if one didn’t know it was genuine, one might suspect it was parody or a straw man.

BLT offers a review of 50 Shades of Grey.

Joel Watts comes right out and accuses them of identifying sex with rape.

Morgan Guyton only has one question for Jared Wilson.

Chris Tilling manages to connect this discussion with mythicism!

Shifting gears, let’s see what those who’ve found time to focus directly on the Ross Douthat piece and the discussion it generated have to say:

Fred Clark writes about Douthat’s “concern trolling,” interacting with many other blog posts and articles in the process.

The Lead shares several defenders of the (liberal) faith.

Jill Gill suggests that booming conversations and counter-culture can emerge from the current focus on liberal Christianity.

Christian Piatt asks whether Christianity as we know it should survive.

Jonathan Fitzgerald says that his liberal church is not dying.

Kimberly Knight asks what the tenets of progressive Christianity are. She took inspiration from a post on another blog…which mentioned 50 Shades of Grey!

The Episcopal Church on the one hand, and Chick-Fil-A and the Boy Scouts on the other, view gays, lesbians, and same-sex relationships in very different ways.

Mark Sandlin wrote about reclaiming the term Christian.

Let me give the final space to an amusing bit of internet humor to which Hemant Mehta linked.  Crispian Jago offers two images, both depicting software that translates from liberalese into conservativese or vice versa.

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  • rmwilliamsjr

    i believe that the Bible assumes the correctness of a very hierarchical society from the beginning to the end. that is why i think slavery and the great chain of being metaphor are so important to understanding the history of Biblical interpretation. afaics patriarchy is the final stand for a hierarchical mindset, slavery has been abolished, beating children is frowned upon, the only place left for brute force in relationships is marriage.

    Like the defenders of slavery in the 1860’s the modern defenders of patriarchy have the Scripture’s literal words and mindset on their side. It is true that the Bible assumes a world privileged for large powerful adult males. the problem is this is to be a model for all Christians or if it is a particular cultural form that was the vehicle for the writing of Scripture but not being taught as binding….

    Just as slavery was overturned in the generations after the American Civil War so that my PCA church has sung the Battle Hymn of the Republic without lightning striking us, so that very few people even know how vigorously their forefathers fought to continue slavery as a requirement of their faith and reasoned from Scripture exactly the same way as patriarchical and YEC do so today.

    but it is a complete change of worldview, a change in the very matrix with which you read and interact with Scripture, it is not simply a matter of changing the way a few verses are interpreted.

  • rmwilliamsjr

    the retraction is being talked about on the conservative theology blogs, here’s an example

  • kash

    firstly-Rachel Held needs to take an English lesson
    then she needs to read the bible!

    She is no different , her desire too is power
    She is able to live because of her desire for power and this is confirmed by her blog


    But it is not entirely her fault

    It is mostly her Husband’s

  • Chris

    Great topic!! Getting to God’s perspective is vital on this topic as sex affects the deepest part of our lives.

    This new devotional book is a Bible-based response to 50 Shades of Grey. You can read the book here:

    Or watch the video trailer here: