Faith leaders have joined domestic violence activists in urging people to boycott the highly anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey” film. Based on the erotic novel of the same name, the film depicts a sexual relationship between an inexperienced college graduate and a controlling billionaire that includes elements of bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism -- elements that some religious groups find immoral, graphic and against God’s teachings on love.
"The marketing of this movie by mainstream media is leading to the normalization of pornography. Make no mistake, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is pornography," Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida, said in a statement. "There is absolutely nothing good that could come from exposing your mind to that which will lead to sinful sexual thoughts and temptations."
Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, has decided to take a different approach. He will be baptizing a copy of the book at his service on Sunday.
“The sad thing is that so many have fallen prey to what that book represents and have missed out on the truth that God has a better way and purpose for them,” Young said in a statement. “By baptizing the fantasy of that book and raising to life the reality of God’s plan, I want to show people that it comes down to one thing -- fantasy vs. reality!”
Christian authors Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery have offered potential viewers another alternative. Up until Feb. 14, they are asking readers to trade in their copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” to receive a copy of their book “Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart.”
“We are more concerned that women are asking themselves questions about intimacy, sexuality and seeking an authentic relationship with God,” Slattery told Salon.com.
The interfaith Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP), a group composed of Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders, says the movie has a “destructive message.”
“The contrast between the message of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and God’s design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy could not be greater,” RAAP wrote in a statement. "The books and the movie undermine everything that we believe as members of the faith community."
Other religious leaders are encouraging viewers to see the film “Old Fashioned,” which is being marketed as a faith-based alternative to "Fifty Shades of Grey." The film, which also premieres Feb. 14, revolves around a former frat boy and a free-spirited woman who fall in love. “This Valentine’s Day,” the trailer says, “leave the door open to two souls who take the time to discover not manipulation but healing.”
Rik Swartzwelder, who wrote, directed and stars in the film said “Old Fashioned” is not intended to reinforce any boycotts on “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Audiences merely deserve a choice, an alternative view of love and romance -- something more than objectification,” he said in a statement.
While faith leaders in the U.S. have encouraged boycotts of the film, Malaysia has banned it altogether. On Thursday the country’s censorship board denied the film’s certification, citing concerns over its explicit sexual content.
“The board made a decision in view of the film containing scenes that are not of natural sexual content,” Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, head of the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, told Variety, adding that the film “is more pornography than a movie.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” premieres Feb. 13 in the United States. Early tracking predicts the R-rated film will gross as much as $60 million during its Valentine’s Day weekend launch.