What Love Is And What We Should Do About It

No thanks, Hollywood. I’ll get my definition of love somewhere else.

In a culture already rife with human trafficking and pornography addiction (much of it violent), we don’t need an ought-to-be-X-rated film to try to convince us that rape and domestic violence are sexy.

We don’t need an obsessive stalker to show us how to rob someone for his sick sense of satisfaction.

We don’t need psychology to negate the guilt this power-monger ought to carry for degrading, manipulating, threatening, and coercing a young woman to have sex with him.

We don’t need a bizarrely naive 21-year-old who can’t think past how amazingly attractive her partner is to suggest that with enough submission and obedience, with quiet compassion and misguided understanding, a woman can fix her abuser.

What we need is to SHOUT




All kinds of wrong.

And we’ve sat passively on issues like these for far too long.

MILLIONS are thronging to read this, see this lie-in-action.

But in the Church, I hear a whole lot of

I haven’t read it

Won’t read it

Won’t go see it

Don’t even want to talk about it


I’ll go there.

I haven’t read it either

Won’t read it

Won’t go see it

But talk about it?

We MUST. We are not gagged and bound.

The issue won’t go away.

Unless we–and our young people–are anchored to the Truth, we drift.

And drift is always away.

And the riptides are STRONG, people.

Even as we stand still, thinking we’re holding our own

The currents undercut us and pull at us

We are standing still as the ground beneath us erodes

Let’s move

These books, this movie. They lie to the masses. They say they’re empowering, liberating.

Maybe they are.

Maybe they’re empowering sadists and torturers to start younger.

Maybe they’re liberating the sex traffickers to offer more toys and tools and exciting scenarios.

Are you uncomfortable?


I am too

We ought to be

If we don’t–as a Church–decide we’re willing to talk about sex with our children, our young people, our new adults

If we don’t share about

What is TRUE

What sex ought to be

What sex was designed to be

Selfless, not selfish

Edifying, not degrading

Tender, not torturous

Passionate, not vicious

Offering, not robbing

Listening, not ignoring

Giving, not raping

Pleasuring, not perverting

Covenantal, not contractual

Unless we teach this, explain this

The young people among us will listen to the crowds beating their drum the loudest, spending the most money, parading their message most obnoxiously through the streets

And into our homes, into our high school libraries, into our wives’ and sisters’ bedrooms, into our kids’ friends’ bedrooms, into our daughters’ boyfriends’ bedrooms, into our sons’ rooms

Do you want me to go on?

Yet, if we shout loud enough,

Maybe we can draw notice to the lie. Unmask it.

Maybe the Truth will offer instruction to the men who want respect who want to lead someone devoted to them

Hope to the women who want to be loved

The young women who hope someone amazing will notice them, love them–just as they are

The women who would be willing to do just about anything to feel like they belong to someone

Maybe speaking the Truth about Love will give those of us who know

the opportunity to introduce those men and women to

the One they were made for.

Let the books and the movies make us uncomfortable, by all means.

But we can’t ignore them.

Let’s speak the Truth

In the name of REAL Love








Bethany Kaczmarek

Bethany loves to share her own journey of healing and redemption with anyone who needs it. Back from the Polish mission field, her family often opens their Maryland home is to twenty-somethings who come over for a listening ear (though she’s willing to admit it could also be for the board games and food). Bethany is passionate about making room for the New Adult niche in the inspirational market, so she writes about young people who wrestle with newfound independence, who struggle to make counter-cultural choices, and who live with integrity in both the workplace and the world. Her unpublished manuscript Afraid to Dance won the 2013 Novel Rocket Launchpad Contest in Contemporary Romance, a Frasier Bronze medal, and honorable mention at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. A member of ACFW, the My Book Therapy Voices, and the Light Brigade Writers Group, Bethany writes about the places where grit meets Grace.

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  1. Oh my gosh. I have heard so much negativity surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey, and by so many people who haven’t even read a single page. I’m absolutely puzzled at this point. I too had decided not to read this series. Why? Because everyone on the planet called it drivel, ridiculous, a sadistic ploy meant to persuade women that stalking and rape are okay. People “gasped” out loud from the overuse of the word “gasp.” It was such bad writing that eyes have bled in the name of Christian Grey. I chewed my own lip over it until I decided to see what all the fuss and bleeding was about. Because to me, I saw a fellow writer who had taken an idea, put it on paper, and became an overnight success. She literally wrote her own success story and helped indie authors everywhere get a little credence. How awesome is that? But do we see that in this society of tearing people down? No. We don’t. I saw the same vitriol pointed at Stephanie Meyer for Twilight, and I think it’s just sad. What crusaders on their high horses fail to see is that both of these highly successful ladies knew something that the rest of us don’t….Their intended audiences. Their readers. Wow! That’s amazing. They both knew that to make a story truly work, it had to be relatable. And guess what people…sometimes love ain’t so pretty. Readers must know that too because they are buying this so called drivel. And we criticize these writers for knowing it as well. How un-christian is that???

    Now back to Fifty Shades. Spoiler alert. No one is raped. No one does anything they didn’t sign up to do. The main character is meek at first, but soon realizes that Christian Gray is actually a broken man who has turned to bondage for safety. His control is for his own protection, because after being brutally violated as a boy at the hands of his mother’s pimp, his body burned and scarred by cigarettes, and more, he simply cannot be touched. He doesn’t trust. He has demons he must face. I don’t know how Hollywood is going to spin it. I’m sure they will, but Anastasia fights back. She’s strong, defiant, independent, and also loving, attentive, and forgiving. She discovers his brokenness, and then splits him wide open, scoops out all the bad stuff, and finds herself one amazingly loyal husband and father for her children (yes they have babies). But that doesn’t happen until Fifty Shades Freed. You see, Anastasia was never the one who needed rescuing. She was never held captive. It was him. His own past. His own pain. His own demons. It wasn’t what I thought it was at all. I was wrong, and frankly so are so many who judge this story before they even read it. There is a story here that goes way beyond bondage and submission. Is there bad writing? Oh yes. Is there too much gasping going on? Oh yes. Too much lip biting? Um-hm. But it’s not a bad story. It’s a relatable one to some degree. Maybe not rich tycoon, planes, and all that. That’s the fantasy part in full swing. But love is flawed. It’s hard, and when you find someone willing and strong enough to scoop out your bad parts. Well…that’s a person worth keeping by your side. Isn’t that what Jesus does for all of us? He forgives our flaws. He washes us clean of our sins. He holds us close in our hour of pain. But he does not criticize. He just loves. So maybe, if we look hard enough, put aside our judgments (which was never our sword to bare) and look beyond all that, maybe we’ll find some silver lining within the grey. I know I did and I am not ashamed to say it.

  2. Hey, T.C. I’m so glad you commented. I knew that the one thing I’d hear about right off the bat was not reading the book. That’s why this isn’t a “Review” per se. It’s a call to give press to selfless love. We’ve got no argument from silence, so we’ve got to speak up. Give voice to Love that heals.

    If more Christians felt comfortable engaging in discussions about love in all its flawed messiness, and in what it was designed to be (a picture of Christ’s self-sacrificing love for His bride), then I’d think we were getting somewhere. I don’t need to read Fifty Shades to know it’s about BDSM. And I know enough from being a victim of abuse myself to know why I feel that way. And yet–rather than telling the world all of the graphic and painful things that happened to me–I just want to talk about what love that is first of all merciful and kind and compassionate looks like. Love that honors and builds up. Love like you suggest Anastasia has for Mr. Steele. My only problem with your claim is that no human can fix another human. I learned that from being abused, too. No wonderful guy, no matter how selfless and caring, no matter how willing to go to my dark places with me, could heal my heart. It’s a dangerous thing to put that kind of expectation on another person. Only Christ can heal that kind of damage.

    But He can. And, Oh, He does.

    Can others point us to Him? Yes. Can others demonstrate love that honors Him? Yes. But no man is the hero of my story. The greatest Love there is is Christ. And my husband would back me on that.

    As for there being no rape in the book, is this not in there? (From David Bunce http://ow.ly/IL5Yk ).

    “No,” I protest, trying to kick him off.

    He stops.

    “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now”. (192)

    Bunce says, “This is not romance. Nor is it erotica. It is clear, unambiguous rape. Yet in the strange world of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it isn’t seen as such. Instead, we get the bizarre climax to the scene:

    I readjust my bra as he pulls down the duvet and quilt over me. I stare up at him completely dazed, and he smirks down at me.

    “That was really nice”, I whisper, smiling coyly. (196)”

    This was only one of the articles I read, so I could speak relatively intelligently about the book. There were others as well.

    EndSexualExploitation(dot)org has a several well-documented pieces about this. Here’s a quick excerpt from one that concerned me the most.

    “The popularity of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ among women also sends a message to men that unrestrained domination is what women want. And, educated by porn, they know how to do it. A majority of men have been getting a regular diet of this kind of violent sex and degradation through porn for years. In it, women are tied up and treated like animals and objects. Much of it is rape-themed.

    One of the most popular BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) websites advertises its content as “the sexual persecution of women and young teenage girls.” Ana Bridges, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, conducted a study that found that 89 percent of the most popular porn scenes involved violence, most of which was directed at women by men.”

    The article also points out the flaws in the argument you used.

    “A college student, one of many I’ve heard from in my role as executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, wrote to me that Christian is just suffering the consequences of his own abuse, acting out in the only way he knows, and that Ana’s patient, loving behavior helps him overcome his abusive tendencies. Christian is so easily and quickly forgiven for his violent behavior. But forgiveness and devotion to an aggressor who inflicts violence is not sexy. Violence is violence. Sexual violence is worse.” http://ow.ly/IL5Oe

    Again, I’m not criticizing the book itself. I’m expressing concern about the ramifications of its message and calling believers to be more engaged in modeling what healthy relationships look like. Real Love exists, and He’s called His people to shine His light into the darkness. That’s all I’m trying to do.

    And I’m not ashamed to say THAT.

    1. I totally understand that violence is never okay. Not ever. And from one previously abused person to another, I get where you’re coming from. Been there done that, but this series did not make me feel uncomfortable in any way. Personally. What Mr. Bunce failed to include in his synopsis is that during the scene in question, Ana did not use her safe word if I remember that scene correctly. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the series. I will revisit it again to be sure.

      Now, I agree that no one should have to use a “safe word” when having a sexual relationship with someone. But when two consenting adults enter into a legal contract, choose safe words to be used if they feel threatened or uncomfortable, set guidelines as to what they will and will not do, and those demands are respected, I see no problem with that. It’s not for me. I wouldn’t do it. That’s not the kind of relationship I want, nor do I believe in it. But it was an agreement this character wanted to enter into. It was her choice. God was not a part of it. This was mainstream fiction not religious fiction. I knew that from the start. I have to respect those who do not believe as I do simply because I want the same respect from them.

      When it comes to the second argument…about how we should never show love or devotion, even forgiveness to an aggressor. I think that not only depends on the circumstances but it also depends on our individual healing process. Forgiveness is important in order to heal. I know that might sound outrageous but really it isn’t. As human beings we all have scars. I had them when I met my husband. Like you, God helped me heal, but even after I met my husband there were times when I questioned his loyalty to me, watched him like a hawk, questioned every action. He was too good to be true. Where’s the catch, right? I’m positive that there were times when my scars caused him emotional pain. And he knew that. He took the time to know me, understand me, sympathize with my past, and then he helped me get past all my doubt, my fears. Your husband and God have probably done the same for you. My scars are no longer visible. I am truly healed inside and out, and yes, my wonderful husband did play a big part in all that. But, if I had continued to make my husband pay for my issues then he would have been right to leave me. Making others pay either emotionally or physically for our past is abusive. Abuse (not that I was abusive, just a crazy lady from time to time) in any form cannot continue. I think people can help you heal along with your spirituality. I guess that’s why I really didn’t have an issue with this series. The abuse ( I call it consenual sex) if that’s what you want to call it did not continue. It ended when the character healed and grew as a man.

      Lastly, there are a lot of books out there about abuse, BDSM, the works. Women have been dominated in historical fiction for like ever, even in the Bible. Heck, even Disney sets us up for disappointment. We do not get to be princesses and marry prince charming. With that being said, I think there’s a reason we are hearing so much about this one series in particular. It’s successful. People just seem to hate that.

      1. Hey, T. C. Thanks for your understanding and for taking the time to offer a thoughtful response.

        First, I’m never surprised when people who don’t believe in God don’t act like believers. That would be ridiculous to expect, I’m sure you agree. I’m not surprised or as concerned that the people in the book behaved in a way that I believe is wrong and abusive. I’m more concerned that, rather than being on the fringes of society, this sexual behavior is becoming mainstream. It’s gaining acclaim. It’s wooing the hearts of young men who are designed to lead, and it has the potential to twist their innate desire to lead into a ruthless need to control. Sure these books have been around for ages, but this is advertised on prime time television. People within the Church–who ought to be modeling selfless, healing love like you describe between you and your husband–are racing to its defense.

        I said this in a conversation earlier today: As kids grow up and navigate the waters of love, I want them to put others first, to be listeners, to be thoughtful and kind and protective without ever acting like they own another. I want them to guard hearts and minds. I’m not criticizing the book in this article so much as the fanfare behind it. As someone who has experienced similar coercion and manipulation, I fear for women who will suffer at the hands of men who think violence like this is hot. And who will excuse it because the perpetrator is misunderstood. As someone who’s been abused, I hurt for any person who believes that their giving in enough, excusing it, can fix the damage done. If my daughter were ever to come home and tell me her boyfriend raped her, we wouldn’t talk about how it’s okay because he’s just had a rough life and he’s broken and he was just trying to relate to her and love her in some misguided way. We’d press charges.

        And as far as that second argument, I believe that’s talking about women staying IN those relationships and forgiving where there is no repentance, where the abuse continues. So many women are trapped in that vicious cycle. Forgiving does NOT mean saying, “What you did is okay.” It’s saying, “I’m not going to continue to carry this and allow you to hurt me with it any more. I’m letting go of it.” For me, as a believer, it meant I was letting go of my anger and resentment and giving it to God. I believe forgiveness is necessary. I’ve forgiven my abuser, and I understand the power and necessity of that. Thank you for pointing out how important it is. You and I have now escaped. We’ve found healing. We’ve been blessed with husbands who are gentle, protective, patient. We have the opportunity to speak up about what Real Love is and Who it comes from.

        I am NO fan of censorship. E.L. James has the freedom to write what she believes (MAN, do I wish she’d hired an editor, though.) AS a freelance editor, I edit both mainstream and inspirational fiction. I know what makes a good book (again though, not what this post is about). Even so, I can only read comments about James’s work (from believers and nonbelievers alike) and come to the conclusion that, were it lacking all the sexual “excitement,” it would offer nothing else worth buying. She doesn’t do credit to indie authors who put in the hard work of learning their craft. I’ll give you this: She certainly does know her audience–those who enjoy erotica–mommy porn, some call it. And that’s exactly WHY I’m concerned. The shift from pages to screen invites in another audience. A younger more impressionable audience. An audience who–until now–has largely been shielded from this deviancy by society. But all of a sudden, it’s liberating and wonderful.

        No. It’s not. It’s scarily similar to what happened to Brooke Axtell. http://ow.ly/IMzZA

        I wonder, if–as you say, Christian Grey is all healed and happy in his wonderful marriage at the end of the book…and with children!–how he would feel if his own daughter grew up and got involved in a relationship like his and Anastasia’s? Would he long to protect his daughter? Would he view it as abuse? Or would he say, “As long as you’re down with it”?

        There’s much you and I agree on, and there will remain many things we’ll disagree on. But grant me this: I have freedom of speech too. I can shout to the rooftops that there is a selfless love, there is healing, there is true freedom in mercy and compassion and empathy. Allow me to challenge other believers to make our noise as vocal and mainstream as Fifty Shades. I’m not asking for it to be banned.

        I am daring to say that my voice–and the voice of other concerned believers–is every bit as valid. I will not stop saying that this kind of violence is not okay. I will never recommend that people simply ignore this and hope it goes away. I will continue to share the Love and the Truth of Christ and His infinite healing. I will continue to shout that my fabulous, trusting, satisfying relationship with my husband is all it is because of Christ.

        True, I need to–as all believers do–be careful to communicate my convictions in that same Love. That will always be my goal. To honor Christ in my words and actions.

        Sure, I’ll fail sometimes. But again, I can revel in God’s mercy and grace. I appreciate this dialogue, because if anything, it’s solidified my convictions like Titanium. But I’ll stand on that solid surface and shout Love and Truth and Mercy rather than using it to handcuff people.

        I believe in true liberation.

  3. Of course you have freedom of speech, and I’m grateful for it. I’ve enjoyed our chat. A good debate is always welcome.

    I agree with you on so many points, especially the editor part. I was fortunate enough to have your sister (Little Red) edit my own work. I think you were out on maternity leave. Loved working with Erynn. I doubt Ms. James will be a future customer, although, I would pay money to see the revisions. Hook me up if that happens. Ha! But I also think the whole Fifty Shades thing has been made out to be something it just isn’t. On another note, it has opened the door for conversation about what a relationship should be like….healthy. No matter what, it should be that. But FS wasn’t about a relationship. Not at first. A relationship in any fashion was never intended. It was a business deal. I think that’s where most people fall short in their comparisons and understanding. It was an honest, monogamous business arrangement between two people. Once the characters started to feel something for one another, the dynamic changed, and evolved into a loving relationship. It was really all about self discovery and healing. At least that’s how I saw it. If you ever hide in a closet with a flashlight and read it for research purposes, I’d be curious to hear what you think about it. I promise your secret closet venture will be safe with me. 🙂

    Thanks for the post and the chat.

    1. Yeah, erotica is a genre I will never edit.

      But I do love reading both general market fiction and inspirational fiction. I love to read things that educate me about where other people are coming from. I love engaging the culture. If I’m not understanding and bridge-building, then I live in a bubble. And I haven’t been called to do that either.

      I’ve enjoyed our chat, too. It’s sharpened me, and I hope it’s given others something to think about as well. Is anyone else out there? Don’t be afraid to join the discussion.

  4. I’m entering into the conversation trembling just a bit b/c I feel a tad bit ill equipped to handle all points and challenges presented by the two of you ladies who are obviously more intelligent and articulate than I am going to prove to be.

    I appreciate the dialogue happening.
    This is a topic that is very difficult for me to confront and talk about, and by topic I do not mean sex in a healthy, monogamous relationship that is honoring God’s design and intentions for sex but sex in all the perverted and unhealthy ways that we have expressed it as humans. It makes me very nervous and upset and while I’m not entirely sure why it makes me so, I know that as a mom with two ten year old boys and an 8 year old girl, I don’t feel I have the luxury of sticking my proverbial fingers in my ears and shutting my eyes nor mouth about the topic anymore. I must enter this reality. Porn is everywhere. Sexual abuse is happening a lot. too much. and everywhere, too…even in our churches and among Christian leaders, in Christian homes–places that we want to view as sacred and safe.
    I want the absolute best for my children in every regard.
    Every good mother and father can understand this and agree with this.

    After reading the back and forth dialogue here of which both of you handled with tact and grace and intelligence (not that my judgment matters), the one thought that I have to respond to something T.C. said, “I also think the whole Fifty Shades thing has been made out to be something it just isn’t.”
    I think both the fanfare surrounding Fifty Shades and moreso the uprising of dissenting voices at the anticipation of the movie’s release is an indication that the reality of the storyline may not actually matter as much as the conversation it has sparked. THIS is a conversation that needs to happen, and FS has become a spring board for that conversation. I really don’t think it’s because people are trying to “pick on” a successful writer.
    I think it’s just become an indicator of the direction our mainstream culture is heading, and as Jesus followers, we are saddened by the ever increasing acceptance and celebration of depraved thinking and behavior.

    1. YES! The conversation needs to happen. (And thanks for joining it, trepidation and all).

      I’m watching the dichotomy of the culture. People–believers and non-believers alike–are drawing lines. There’s much talk of ending sexual abuse and domestic violence. As Serena Chase pointed out ( http://ow.ly/IShYD ), for the first time as far back as I can remember, Christians and feminists are “mingling toward the same cause.” The movie glorifies abuse.

      While there are a ton of believers who haven’t read the book weighing in (and I understand why that’s frustrating), I want to point out a few mainstream anti-pornography groups that are tackling this head on, too. And I want to thank them. They’re on the right track.



      And the two trending topics/groups



      One of the most common arguments I hear is that the end of the trilogy offering a picture of healing and happiness. To that, I want to say two things:

      1) The END of the trilogy isn’t what people will be flocking to see on Valentine’s Day. The hype and fanfair surrounding this movie are all about the kinky sex that is in it. When women get together to gab about the movie and the books, they’re not discussing the ending. They’re going out and buying up the handcuffs and the paraphernalia for their new “liberated” sex lives. What is being celebrated here is the BDSM lifestyle.

      2) The book/movie/trilogy is FICTION. E. L. James wrote an ending that justified a victim of abuse sticking it out, waiting for the dynamic to change, hoping for love (and getting it). In real life, that doesn’t happen. The cycle of abuse continues. This does. http://ow.ly/ISlvV Bob Bashara, called “The Master” in BDSM circles was just sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife. His kids all testified against him. His double life had too strong a grip.

      Stuff worth considering.

      Again, Briana, thanks for joining the conversation. Keep talking about it, wherever you can.

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