Shades of Grey or is it Black & White?

By on September 5, 2012
Fifty Shades of Grey book cover

By Kathy Howard –

Recently two Christian women (one middle-aged like me and one a young mom) passionately shared with me their confusion over why so many of their Christian friends are devouring the New York Times best-selling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Honestly, I have the same question.

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me quickly fill you in. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first in a trilogy, is the debut novel by British author E.L. James released this April. Here’s a quick summary of the book I copied from Mary Kassian’s blog (I provide a link to her post below):

Aroma Hand Sanitizer

The books in question are erotica that explicitly describe sexual bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The story follows an unfolding affair between a recent college graduate, the virgin Anastasia Steele, and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey, whose childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual, and who enlists her to share his secret sexual proclivities. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her. Because of her fascination and budding love for him, she consents to a kinky sexual relationship that includes being slapped, spanked, handcuffed, and whipped with a leather riding crop in his “Red Room of Pain.”

I just checked Amazon’s stats. “Shades of Grey” was number one in books. Oddly enough, the book received some harsh reader reviews regarding the quality of the writing. So, how did the trilogy grab spots one, two, and three on the New York Times bestsellers list? Sex does indeed “sell.” Unfortunately, sex sells to Christians too.

“Shades” is classified as “erotica,” which by definition means “sexually explicit literature or art.” Let’s stop right here. Honestly, based on the book description and the dictionary definition of “erotica,” Christian women have no business reading this book. But they are.

I will honestly tell you that I have read books and watched movies that I later regretted because the content was inconsistent with my faith. Either the language or behavior mocked God or directly contradicted His holiness. Sometimes I turned off the television, left the theater, or threw away the book. But not always.

However, I believe I can honestly say that in recent years I have not picked up a book or bought a ticket or tuned into a program knowing in advance that the “entertainment” would defy God’s standards of morality and truth. And I do not have to read “Fifty Shades of Grey” to know it glorifies what God clearly says is wrong.

I’ve heard the arguments. It’s just fantasy. I’m not participating, I’m just reading fiction. I need to know how to speak to the culture. If you are considering reading this book, please, please read these articles I’ve listed below first. These posts were written by Christian women in ministry who know what they’re talking about. They explain how this written word affects our thinking and harms our relationships with our husbands and future husbands. How it fosters a change in behavior. How it desensitizes us to sexual immorality. Check these out:

Dannah Gresh on the True Woman blog first: Dannah gives biblical and sound scientific evidence why reading this kind of material is harmful to women and our marriages.

Crystal Renaud on her site for Dirty Girls Ministries. Crystal offers help, hope, and healing for women and girls with pornography and sexual addiction.

Author and Bible teacher, Mary Kassian on her blog Girls Gone Wise. Mary gives 7 solid reasons why a Christian woman – or any woman for that matter – should not read this book.

Lest you think this is just the opinion of “ministers,” check out this blog by Dana Suggs. She is a mom, photographer, and Christian blogger writing from the perspective of an average Christian woman who loves to read.

Here’s one more honest and entertaining view by Christian mommy blogger Melissa Jenna.

As long as I’m on my soapbox, I might as well work up a good lather and mention one other popular, but very worldly item Christian women are gobbling up – the movie. “Magic Mike.” “Plugged In” describes this film as “pornographically minded.” But should we expect anything different from a movie about male strippers? Yet believers are paying money to see it.

Here’s what I want all of us – you and me, too – to think about: What does holiness look like?

God calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Jesus said we are to be in the world as His sanctified ambassadors, but we are not to be products of the world (John 17:15-18).

Paul tells us to “Flee from sexual immorality” because we are not our own, we’ve bought and paid for with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:18-20).

Jesus clearly told us that lustful thoughts are the same as adultery (Matt 5:28).

God’s Word is black and white. So why do we keep trying to blend God’s truth. Holiness is not grey – not any shade of grey.

I know today’s post may sound harsh to you, but this topic is heavy on my heart. I really want to hear your thoughts. And I would love for you to share this post.


Kathy Howard calls herself a “confused southerner.” Raised in Louisiana, she has moved with her engineer husband around the U.S. and Canada. She says “pop” instead of “Coke” and “you guys” as often as “ya’ll.” But those things are just superficial – she’s still a southern girl at heart! Kathy and her husband have three children, two son-in-laws, and one precious grandbaby. When the family gets together there are also four dogs in the mix. Kathy helps women live an unshakeable faith through Bible teaching, writing, and speaking at women’s retreats and events. She encourages them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances of life. Find out about her books and speaking ministry and get discipleship tools and leader helps at her website:

About Kathy Howard

Kathy Howard calls herself a “confused southerner.” Raised in Louisiana, she moved with her engineer husband around the U.S. and Canada. She says “pop” instead of “Coke” and “you guys” as often as “y’all.” But she’s still a southern girl at heart! Kathy encourages women to live an unshakeable faith by standing firm on our rock-solid God no matter life’s circumstances. Kathy, the author of eight books, including the new daily devotional “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,” has a Master’s in Christian Education. She is passionate about Bible study and discipleship and loves sharing at women’s events and retreats. Kathy is also a regular contributor to, Hello Mornings, Arise Daily, and more. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, four grandsons, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at Kathy also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.


  1. Yvonne Pat Wright

    September 9, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I love this article, Is it any wonder that it is becoming so difficult to reach the world for the Lord. We who call ourselves Christians are not occupying ourselves by building up in the Word, and launching out into the deep to reach lost souls, but rather we spend our time and our resources building up the devil’s kingdom. I also think that are fooling ourselves if we think that we can dabble in these dangerous waters and believe that our places in heaven are assured, Remember the scripture that says Blessed is the servant that when his master comes finds him ready. Would you really be heaven ready if the Lord came when you were in that movie theatre watching or reclined on your bed reading erotica or near pornography?
    I’d also like to mention an excellent book written by Shelley Hitz entitled A Christian Woman’s Guide to Breaking Free from Pornography. It has just been released on Amazon. It contains significant data on the damaging effect of this type of material on the mind and soul.

    • Kathy Howard

      September 10, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Yvonne, thanks for sharing that resource. Addiction to pornography is more of a problem than most of us realize.

      You are so right about the need for Christians to look different from the world. Holiness is a light that draws people to Jesus. We must be holy to be that light on the hill!

  2. Deborah McCarragher

    September 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Great post Kathy! I’m so glad to see such a wonderful rebuttal of a book that so many women think they NEED to read. It saddens me to hear Christian women chat about it as if it were just a silly soap opera or reality show like they watch on TV (which in my opinion is bad enough). But this book opens the door to a dark and sinister closet that will wreck havoc on their marriages and their thought lives. I John 2:15-16 warns us about the lust of the flesh, the eyes and pride. Remember the little saying, “Be careful little eyes what you see” – once you’ve looked upon a visual sin (or read it on the page) your mind retains it and replays that image. God gave us imagination for good and lovely things – but as it goes with the world – that can and does become perverted and destructive to our tender spirits. Thanks for giving us an article with helpful links and godly advice.

    It’s all about HIM

    • Kathy Howard

      September 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Deborah, you are so right! Reading this kind of material gives Satan access to our minds to wreak further havoc!

  3. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm

    September 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

    There’s no such thing as “worldly Christian women”. A woman is either worldly or she’s a Christian. Period. If a woman is a Christian and she’s delving into the Word of God, she’s not reading porn. If a woman is reading porn, she’s in a position to re-think her commitment to Christ as well as consider her testimony. We are either with God or we’re against God; there’s no middle ground. If we think we choose middle ground, Christ said He “will spew us out of his mouth”.
    If we’re reading God’s word, we already know how to “speak to the culture”; everything we need to know is in the Bible. James tells us if we ask God for wisdom, He’ll give us wisdom.
    Erotica. A fancy word meaning pornography.
    I’m pretty careful about what I read and watch so haven’t read this book, nor watched the movie. I’ll never waste my precious, very limited time doing either.
    As women “living better at 50”, in my case, plus 50 -smile-, we’re well on our way to the end of our lives. We’re not middle aged, we’re senior citizens and it behooves us to act the part in word, thought, deed and dress. God calls us to be a role model to younger women and reading porn isn’t the role model He has in mind.

  4. Kathy Howard

    September 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Sandra, thanks for reminding us about our need to be constantly in the Word. The more we are in the Word the more we will recognize truth and also recognize lies and destruction for what they are!

  5. Pam Deyerle

    September 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I could not agree with you more!. What you said has been on my mind for both this book and the movie you mentioned. We need so much to watch what we see and hear. People can say it’s mindless entertainment all they want, but once those pictures of what you’re reading and seeing are in your mind, it’s hard to get them out. Thank you for saying it so wonderfully.

    • Kathy Howard

      September 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Pam, thanks for commenting. And thanks for reminding us that what we put into our minds is not easily forgotten. No wonder God tells us to guard our hearts and minds!

  6. admin

    September 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Amen, amen, amen! I s-o-o-o agree, Kathy! Holiness andpurity should be the aim of every Christian woman and that includes all thatthe eyes see. We are the Bride of Christ, which means to be without spots,wrinkles, or blemishes, and that does not mean physically. “Whateverthings are pure…meditate on these things.” Great post, Kathy!

    Lynn Mosher
    [email protected]

    • Kathy Howard

      September 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      Lynn, thanks for reminding us of Philippians 4:8. “Finally brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” This book is none of those things.

  7. Margaret Okubo

    September 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing this article Lynn. It is unfortunate that many christians lead double standards. Yes, we consider ourselves good christians but make excuses when we listen to or read smutty works. We cannot serve God and mammon. We must remain true to the Word. “Be not conformed to this world world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”Romans 12:2.

  8. John boy

    September 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Way to go… I don’t want my sisters, my mother, my grand mother, my aunts, my girl friends – no one in my life reading this filth. Satan has not changed his tactics through the years.. porn still sells.. but we answer to a higher calling – and let my eyes, ears, mouth, feet, and hands – not be defiled. Let us be holy vessels ready to be poured out for the master’s good use. Come Lord Jesus – Come..

  9. Landy

    September 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    My mother always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all – we’ll see if I follow her advice. I haven’t read any of these books, not because they are demoralising to women or “Christianity” but because they’re poorly written and supported by a weak storyline. However, one should remember that what people read and do in their private time is their business and not yours; it’s between them and the God they choose to worship. Everyone’s relationship with God is different and though I’m not an active reader or supporter of the Bible, I’m fairly certain it says only God has the power to judge – last I checked he didn’t grant you power of attorney. It’s true that since I didn’t agree with your blog that I shouldn’t have read it in the first place, I also find it shocking that ONLY Christian women have responded, but congrats on making headway on the Women in New Media group on Linked In. All the best in your future endeavours or ridding the world of filth. It’s a big dirty job, but I suppose someone’s got to do it.

    Finally, you’ve got two sons-in-law, not two son-in-laws. You’re welcome.

    • Kathy Howard

      September 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Landy. Thank you for showing me the mistake in my bio. I have made that mistake before and need to fix it.

      The reason that mostly Christian women have responded to the blog is probably because that is the target for the article. It’s about the kind of life God asks His people to live. God makes judgements about the behavior He expects. He has the right to. And you’re right, I don’t. However, God also makes it very clear in the Bible that Christians are to hold each other accountable to the standards He has set. Holding up the standards God has already established is not judging, it is merely declaring His Word. In case you’re interested, I wrote a post about this very topic. Here’s the link:

  10. Pamela King CAble

    September 14, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I agree, ladies. I addressed this recently, as well. I’m just going to copy for you what I posted on my blog:

    All of a sudden shades of grey are in the news! It’s old news to me. Women my age, Lord, we’ve experienced the real shades of grey for a couple decades. What’s new is suddenly what the shades of grey represent. In literary terms, the words conjure up images of erotica. You know what I mean if you’ve read the oh, so popular book. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s like someone just created sliced bread or something. Good grief. Shades of grey have been around for thousands of years, folks.

    The real shades of grey are not in whips and chains, force and pain. The best shades of grey are whispered into a lover’s ear on a pillow of down. The soft caress of a weathered and wrinkled hand on the hand of a partner after 50 years of marriage. Laying beside a lover on a hot summer night, skin-on-skin, only to find you can’t be parted. To yearn from the inside out. To be held so warmly and loved so deeply, those are the shades of grey that matter. The real grey. The grey we live for. Die for.

    Shades of Grey? It means pretty crazy stuff to some. But to me … oh, Lord … it’s to be swept off my feet, in love and in words. These are the shades of grey that melt my butter.

    Sex without love is like a poorly written book. You can read it, but secretly wish you hadn’t. Sex with love will carry you to the end of your days like one of the classics. Even if you only read it once in your life, the story remains in your head and your heart forever.

    • Kathy Howard

      September 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Pamela, thank you for your beautiful words about love in marriage!

  11. Anita Estes

    September 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about 50 Shades of Grey and am thankful for it. I have a umber of friends who read it and would like me to, but I refuse. I don’t want to read something of that nature and I now know it’s explicit from your comments. It’s not easy to be clean and holy, especially when you want to reach out to those who don’t’ know God, but many of them don’t know better. We need to be the slat and light and not let the world effect us, but it’s not easy. Christian woman need to understand that we don’t need these kinds of books. They re so many edifying books, articles, blogs etc. to read,Why waste your time on trash?

    • Kathy Howard

      October 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Anita, thank you for standing firm for holiness! Keep shining your light for Jesus!

  12. Nell Jean

    November 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    We used to call it SMUT, back when it wasn’t acceptable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shades of Grey or is it Black & White?