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Gayla and I are looking forward to a romantic, meaningful Valentine’s Day date this weekend. It won’t involve going to see the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I’d like to tell you why.

1. Abuse is not romantic. The movie is called a “romantic thriller,” and is being marketed as a date movie. But it is not romantic or sexy for a man to beat a woman. It is cowardly, illegal, sinful, and evil. When our culture sees video footage of a football player striking his wife and dragging her from an elevator, our culture understandably erupts with anger and indignation. But that same culture turns a book that glorifies an abusive relationship into a massive bestseller, and munches on popcorn while watching a man strike a woman on screen. It terrifies me to think of an abused woman reading this book or seeing this movie and thinking, “Well, I guess my husband isn’t that bad after all. I guess what he is doing to me is normal.” In a world that overflows with sex trafficking and domestic abuse, I can’t fathom the thought of being entertained or titillated by images of a man holding a woman captive and harming her.

2. Looking at other people naked is not exactly the best way to strengthen a marriage. That statement would appear to be laughably obvious. But there are couples planning to see this movie with hopes that it will invigorate the passion in their relationships. Let’s be honest: It doesn’t increase my affection for Gayla to see another woman naked on a screen. It doesn’t increase her affection for me to see another man naked on screen. When the two of us get to experience an intimate moment together, I don’t want her thinking about another guy, and I am quite confident she would only want me thinking of her. Pornography wrecks marriages. It cheapens God’s good gift of sexuality. Sex in marriage is the mystery of two becoming one, a wonderful thing that is physical, emotional, and spiritual; porn treats it as a merely physical act, the rubbing of body parts together. Sex in marriage is an exclusive gift, shared only between husband and wife; porn invites a bunch of other people to the party. Sex in marriage is an opportunity to treat your spouse as your beloved; porn turns your spouse into an object who only exists for your pleasure.

3. The entertainment we consume shapes our character. Several folks will rationalize a trip to the theater this weekend by saying, “I know this probably isn’t good or wholesome, but I won’t let it affect me.” That’s like saying, “I’m going to step off the roof, but I will choose not to hit the ground.” Everything that enters our minds shapes our minds in significant ways. We might be so immersed in mental garbage that we are numb to its effects, but we are affected nonetheless. Neuroscientists have demonstrated that repeated exposure to an image leads to the formation of a new dendritic spine – a new electrical/chemical connection between one neuron and another. What we watch and read literally changes the architecture of our brains. Dozens of studies have confirmed the link between exposure to violent media and violent behavior. Just like what you put in your gas tank has consequences for your car, and what you put in your mouth has consequences for your body, what you put in your mind has consequences for your life. That’s why God gives us this wise advice: “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” (Philippians 4:8).

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day, and I hope you find an activity that is much more romantic than watching “Fifty Shades of Grey.”