PETALUMA, CA, Feb. 20, 2015 – Despite the fact that nearly every critic on the planet gave it an emphatic thumbs-down (current Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 26%), “Fifty Shades of Grey” still managed to rake in more money over the Presidents Day weekend than any other movie in history. Go figure.
While analyses and commentaries abound as to what drives the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for the salacious, or the propriety of Hollywood pandering to such base interests, not much has been said about the film’s portrayal of love. As long as experts continue to weigh in on the accuracy of such Oscar-nominees as “American Sniper” and “Selma,” why not subject “Fifty Shades” to the same scrutiny?
To do this, it might be helpful to draw on the expertise of someone whose investigation of love continues to inform our understanding of this most basic of all sentiments.
“Love is patient and kind,” wrote St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, sometime around 55 CE. “Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Not a word about love being selfish or insistent, controlling or perverse, abusive or unkind. In fact, it says just the opposite. And here’s why:
The love that Paul speaks of – described by 19th century essayist Henry Drummond as the “Spectrum of Love” – was born of his insight into the nature of God, divine Love, as entirely spiritual; a love that is blind to such limiting factors as the color of one’s eyes, the size and shape of their body, their capacity to please or willingness to indulge; a love that is pure; a love that is permanent; a love that fills every corner of our universe and that every one of us is privileged to enjoy.
That’s all well and good, some say, but what about all the other things we often associate with love, like rejection and remorse, dishonesty and despair?
There’s no easy explanation for any of these other than to say that they don’t fall within the scope or spectrum of love. To assume or assert otherwise may even be at the root of why so many find themselves in bondage to relationships that disappoint and defeat rather than inspire and uplift.
But it goes even further than this.
According to Mary Baker Eddy, understanding what love is – an expression of the divine that includes only what is honest and good, never immoral or depraved – brings healing to our lives. “It is our ignorance of God (Love), the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord,” she writes in Science and Health, “and the right understanding of Him restores harmony.”
Assuming that Paul was correct when he said that love “endures through every circumstance,” we can expect that whatever false portrayal of love we may encounter – in movies, music and so on – will ultimately fail in its unwitting attempt to deprive us of the benefits of divine Love’s embrace.
Even if this doesn’t make much of an impact at the box office, it is destined to transform the lives of millions.
Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns on his web site and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.