According to his own blogpost, English innkeeper Jonathan Denby recently decided to replace the Gideon Bibles in the rooms of the small, posh hotel he owns in the Lake District. It is certainly no surprise to hear that the British are uninterested in God’s word, since church attendance has been flat-lining for years in the UK. A recent study by the British Parliament found that the number of “non-believers” increased by 49% in the period between 2004 and 2008, now standing at 22% of the population. No, the rapid secularization of the UK is not a shock, but what is surprising is to hear what supplanted the Good News in Mr. Denby’s establishment.
Seeking to give the people what they want, Denby replaced the Bibles with this year’s runaway hit, 50 Shades of Grey. For those unaware, this novel has been absolutely flying off bookshelves this year. It broke The Da Vinci Code’s record by selling 1 million print copies in 11 weeks, a feat which Dan Brown’s novel took 36 weeks to accomplish. It sold nearly 400,000 paperback copies in a single week.
The book describes the relationship which develops between a 22-year old female college student (Anastasia) and a mysterious, rich older man (Christian Grey) who seduces her, takes her virginity, and introduces her to various sexual perversions, including BDSM and other activities which can be found on Charlie Sheen’s weekly To-Do list: the plot details are trite and pornographic and not worth further page-space, but there is one profound detail.
Throughout the story, Grey tries to get Anastasia to sign a contract he has had drawn up. This contract contains a non-disclosure agreement in which she is forbidden to talk about the acts which they will engage in together and also legally restricts their relationship to be solely sexual with no pretensions of love or relationship, while offering Anastasia the role as Grey’s “submissive”, literally his sex slave. He refuses to show her the full “wonder” of his perverted predilections until she signs it. He makes an exception for their first time, on account of her being a virgin and all. Seriously. Who says chivalry is dead…?
You cannot script a more tragically ironic situation. Contrast this to the relationship we find in the book which 50 Shades replaced. Grey requires acceptance and adherence to a covenant of secrecy in order to indoctrinate a young, virginal woman in the ways of perversion and sexual slavery. The God of the Bible requires acceptance and adherence to a covenant in which He publically declares His love for His people and His desire to protect, provide for, and cherish them in spite of their many faults. And when His people cannot keep their end of the covenant, He offers the life of His own Son to restore and heal the covenant breach once and for all. The eternal story of boundless grace, mercy, and love is supplanted by a sordid tale of self-centered, loveless, corruption and slavery.
The hotelier is not to blame. Make no mistake, he’s an idiot who obviously cares more for his economic well-being than he does for the spiritual well-being of the guests who reside under his roof, but he’s not the problem. He’s merely the symptom. The problem is that most of mankind has a greater appetite for pornographic fan-fiction than the word of God. We are becoming more and more like the animals from which we’re told we evolved. Our appetites are more important than our intellects. The maintenance of our stomachs and sexual organs trump the wellbeing of our souls.
How can it be that the Book which brought the Roman Empire to its knees, ended slavery in the Western world, and inspired the creation of modern institutions such as the hospital and the orphanage is playing second-fiddle to a trashy novel which started out as a Twilight fan-fiction short story? The answer is obvious yet stunning. As a society, we value smut more than the words contained within the Bible.
I tend to agree with Charles Finney when he stated that when problems arise in society such as these, that “the pulpit is responsible”. What can we expect when the majority of churches in the Western world are becoming indistinguishable from the secular world? As Martin Lloyd-Jones has said so aptly, “The glory of the gospel is that when the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.”
And as the anesthetized and impotent Western church can testify, the opposite is also true. If our Western Church was more interested in preaching the life-changing message of God’s grace, offered to any and all sinners, from Hitler on down, we might not have close to 70% of our children leave the faith when they come of age, as recent surveys have estimated. If our cruise-ship Christianity could find time on the activity calendar to preach Christ and Him crucified, instead of how to make your life more comfortable by asking God for insulation from life’s challenges, our congregations might once again become the salt and light of their communities, as was intended.
This development at Mr. Denby’s establishment isn’t a sign of the growing wickedness of the world. The world is as wicked as it always has been. It’s a sign of the stagnant decay of the bulwark our Lord left to combat the wickedness of the world: His church.