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St. Valentine and 50 Shades of Grey

February 11, AD2015 3 Comments

Chelsea - mary - joseph

What do St. Valentine, love and 50 Shades of Grey have in common? The fact that the movie is premiering on Valentine’s Day (or Sts. Cyril and Methodius day) and that many people will see it while on a date shows there is a little confusion about these concepts.

For those in the Church, it is easy to see this movie does not portray love, but instead a gigantic distortion of love. Yet surprisingly enough, this is not so easy to see for the majority of the population.

One of the alleged St. Valentines was “arrested, condemned to death for his faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded on Feb. 14, AD 270”. He didn’t beat others with clubs for his own pleasure. Instead, he suffered martyrdom for the heroic love of Christ and his Church.

The martyrs and the testimony of saints throughout the ages show us what real love looks like. They show us what Christ’s love for the Church is like: self-sacrificial, self-giving, heroic, strong. They show us what the Church and Mary’s receptivity looks like: humble, patient, receptive, fruitful.

God is love and if there is anyone more apt to proclaim what true love is like, it has been the Church over 2000 years — through her saints, through her theologians, through men and women who give their lives entirely to Christ and through men and women who give their lives to each other in marriage.

I cannot tell you how many people I saw reading the book 50 Shades of Grey on the train when it came out. There were young girls, middle-aged women and even some men! The relationship portrayed in the book is abusive: he controls her, makes her do what he wants and inflicts pain on her. Real love makes the other freer, looks to serve the other and protects, like St. Joseph.

The book portrays the sexual relationship as purely for pleasure, no matter what the cost. The sexual relationship, however, although it should be pleasurable, serves to unite spouses more closely, so that they belong mutually more to one another, and also to be fruitful. It is about giving of oneself entirely to the other, not about taking entirely from the other.

The book is written with the intent to excite and arouse, which is great for sales. It is pornography “exalted” as literature.

As many Christian thinkers over the century, such as St. Augustine, have explained, evil doesn’t “exist” as its own reality. Instead it is an absence or a distortion of Good. The devil is not creative, only God is. The devil just takes good things and inverts them or messes them up. Christopher West gives a great example in his talks when he takes a clean, straight piece of paper and crumples it up.

50 Shades of Grey is like a crumpled piece of paper. We are so used to seeing “crumpledness” that we start thinking it’s good. However, we have to train ourselves in real love, in straightening out the piece of paper to how it is was created, to its goodness.

Love is not manipulative, hurtful, damaging, envious, pleasure-seeking. “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury.” (1 Cor 13,4-5)

This confusion surrounding 50 Shades of Grey might be a good opportunity to proclaim what true love is. Or at least do something else instead.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal to study theology. She now lives there, along with the rest of her family, her husband and her children. She believes the greatest things in life are small and hidden and that the extraordinary is in the ordinary. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

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