Sunday, May 05, 2013

Looking For God in 50 Shades


"Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”

-GK Chesterton


Every man who visits a prostitute is engaged in a single-minded search for God.

The same could be said of the rise of 50 Shades, and all such like-minded literature that followed in its wake. This book was published in response to an incessant search for God which has been afoot for the last 60 years.

An audience was already there for 50 Shades; time and opportunity was all that was needed. The world wrote 50 Shades long before E.L. James did; they wrote it in the sense of cultivating a longing, in their hearts, for such a book. It's success is no mistake, but rather, a forgone conclusion. The audience was ready to read before the writer ever wrote. This audience was made ready by 60 years of "successful" feminism and humanism. Such success has rendered us a people desperate for authority: a people desperate for some "higher" power to control us, and tell us what to do. The consequence of this success is that women, especially, are turning to various kinds of bondage to sate their desire for leadership.

Welcome to a new kind of success in which freedom means slavery and liberation leads to bondage.

How did we get here?

One blossom on the tree of humanism (man = maker = god) is feminism. Feminism, in full blossom, taught women that men were disposable; it urged them to forsake the vestiges of femininity, and disavow patriarchy (male leadership in the home/culture).

Women were left, still longing for masculine leadership, but now bewildered (and guilty) that such a desire even existed. They had a desire which they didn't know how to fulfill. In comes 50 Shades; so, the women who hate male leadership in theory ended up hiding away in corner booths and reading pornography about a "man in charge." 

Make no mistake: "50 Shades," and the like, is particularly feminist pornography: pornography especially for feminists. What is pornography but the picture-izing of fantasy? The words to unspoken and unfulfilled longings? A quick and easy answer to confused desire?

Feminist pornography fulfills, in a twisted way, the longing for male headship and leadership and strength. If we will not drink water, we will end up drinking a poor substitute. Our thirst will drive us to drink; feminists avowed hatred for water (patriarchy); eventually they were going to get thirsty and drink something not quite so nourishing (50 Shades). If we will not seek right fulfillment of inherent desires, sooner or later, we seek some other fulfillment. This fulfillment will, by virtue of its being a replacement, be perverse and not quite so healthy.

We may marvel, but it's no surprise, one of the leading young feminist voices of our day, Tracie Egan (of Jezebel fame), is famous for seeking out a forced intimacy fantasy (I'll let you translate that). Her desire for male leadership was so strong, her desire to be "controlled" so controlling, she sought it in the most perverse and destructive symbol of women's degradation possible: rape. Likewise, prostitution fantasy has hit mainstream, and even former Olympic athletes -- and many women who are wealthy proud feminists -- "resort" to it.

The irony of this staggers the mind, and breaks the heart. 

How does this relate to God? If we will not be who God calls us to be, we will be some twisted version of who God calls us to be. We cannot escape ourselves, or God, ultimately. The desire to break free from all bonds, human and divine, has led to a voluntary slavery far worse than any perceived slavery in patriarchy or Christianity: a slavery of soul. 

Women especially need -- whether they admit it, or not -- male leadership. If they will not have it willingly, they will have it unwillingly willingly.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,for my  people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me,the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey?
(Jeremiah 2.12-14).

The rise of slavery fantasies effects both men and women at present, though. In all cases, when humans resort to this, they are seeking God. They are at the same time seeking him and pushing him away. 

They are seeking him in that they are seeking some ultimate power to tell them what is right and wrong, to "control" them, and to grant them identity through service. God is the right fulfillment of such desires; He is Good and Wise and Loving, and rightfully the King of the universe. So, when humans seek voluntary intimate slavery, they are indeed seeking a "god" experience: they are seeking what God alone could and does supply; they are looking for God, albeit in all the wrong places. 

Yet, they are also pushing God away by seeking this sort of thing; they are putting a substitute (poor and perverse) in His place. They are saying, at the same time, "My soul thirsts for God," and, "Get away from me, God!" 

Again, the irony staggers the mind, and breaks the heart.

Slavery intimacy is reminds us, in staggering vivid colors, that we are looking for God. Looking, still, for God. Every woman who took up 50 Shades was longing desperately for God; every man that enslaves his heart in bizarre intimacy is grasping, like wild, for the Almighty. We would be left, lost, at the door of a thousand brothels, if we did not embrace a further truth: "God knocks on the brothel door looking for man."*

Zaccheus was known as an especially wicked man. Still, he went looking for Jesus. He soon discovered: all the while, Jesus had been looking for him: Jesus knows him by name, and invites himself over to Zaccheus house (Luke 19.1-10). Jesus searches for the lost: for those who have lost their way while looking for Him. Jesus came, not to seek those who know their way, but those who've lost their way, "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19.10)" We knock on the brothel door, and hear a knock in reply. In amazement, we are bound to confess: a friendly Jesus is on the other side of the door! We must remember: Jesus was a great friend to prostitutes in his day: they came to him weeping, and he did not turn them away (see Luke 7). We may be surprised to find Jesus at a brothel; we may be surprised, but our surprise betrays ignorance of Jesus' character: he always dealt gently with "great sinners," or at least, those who felt themselves to be "great sinners." The last place we'd expect to find Jesus, a brothel, is the first place He shows up.

50 Shades demonstrates that we are looking for God, and we don't even know it. That's reason for sorrow. However, the ministry of Jesus demonstrates that God is looking for us, and even in the places we are trying to lose him. That's reason for joy.

*I am indebted to the writers at Door Of Faith for the phrase, "God knocks on the brothel door looking for man."

Chesterton on "50 Shades." Just substitute 50 Shades" for "Cannibalism" ...

But with the appeal to lower spirits comes the horrible notion that the gesture must not only be very small but very low; that it must be a monkey trick of an utterly ugly and unworthy sort. Sooner or later a man deliberately sets himself to do the most disgusting thing he can think of. It is felt that the extreme of evil will extort a sort of attention or answer from the evil powers under the surface of the world. This is the meaning of most of the cannibalism in the world.

For most cannibalism is not a primitive or even a bestial habit. It is artificial and even artistic; a sort of art for art's sake. Men do not do it because they do not think it horrible; but, on the contrary, because they do think it horrible. They wish, in the most literal sense, to sup on horrors. That is why it is often found that rude races like the Australian natives are not cannibals, while much more refined and intelligent races, like the New Zealand Maories, occasionally are. They are refined and intelligent enough to indulge sometimes in a self-conscious diabolism. But if we could understand their minds, or even really understand their language, we should probably find that they were not acting as ignorant, that is as innocent cannibals. They are not doing it because they do not think it wrong, but precisely because they do think it wrong. They are acting like a Parisian decadent at a Black Mass. But the Black Mass has to hide underground from the presence of the real Mass. In other words, the demons have really been in hiding since the coming of Christ on earth. The cannibalism of the higher barbarians is in hiding from the civilization of the white man. But before Christendom, and especially outside Europe, this was not always so.

-GK Chesterton, "Demons and Philosophers," The Everlasting Man.

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