Reader Question of the Week: On What We Read

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to throw up a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question is a stirring one on our culture, what we read and how to speak the truth to others in love…

I have several Christian friends reading a series of erotica novels for females. When I mention I’m not reading the books or tell my friends I think it’s a bad idea, they accuse me of judging them. What is the appropriate or biblical way to be honest and judge the material, not the person? How can I question what they are reading without coming across as judgmental? I really care about my friends and don’t want to see their lives or marriages impacted in a negative way by these books. I’m not sure how to approach this situation. I feel like any time I disagree, I am going to be accused of judging them and that is not my intention. Please help!

What would you recommend?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

As a side note, I also received an email about Kindles and erotica novels, where my reader’s 12-year-old daughter received promo ads for these books and read some samples, only to discover she had stepped into the wrong thing.  This reader found that a good guard for her daughter was to upload approved books to her daughter’s Kindle and then de-register the Kindle, which disconnects it from WiFi and prevents the promotions from showing up.  We must be alert about these things.

I wrote this article on How Kindles Can Wreck Marriages, which addresses ways to guard ourselves by uncovering secrets and staying accountable with one another and our husbands. It is a FOR us kind of thing.

Don’t forget this summer: The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex makes a great gift for any woman about to get married!

Comments

  1. When non-Christians use the word “judgmental”, I can understand it. They don’t have a worldview that allows for moral judgment. Their hearts are unconverted. But when a Christian tells somebody not to “judge” her for doing something that is clearly unscriptural, it’s basically saying “shut up. I like this particular weakness of mine”. They’ve put your reader into the impossible position of having to make them feel better about their own sin in order to avoid being labeled “judgmental”, which in this culture seems to be the only thing anybody is willing to call a sin. Sounds like your reader isn’t judging anybody. They’re feeling convicted and turning it on her instead of facing it themselves.
    Cindy recently posted…Introversion, Large Families, and HomeschoolingMy Profile

    • That’s what I thought when I first read it. If the gal isn’t shouting in their faces “You are wrong! and going to hell for reading those books!” (which is never suggested), it seems that the problem is more in the friends camp. Reading these books is “gray” area, though I think its a pretty dark gray, and yeah, each one needs to decide. But by making your decision isn’t “judging”, what ever the friend feels.

      Course, it might be that the gal will need to put those discussions aside and pray for the friend and her attitude. Many times those kinds of discussions are not all that productive, but you can see that something wonky is going on with the friend. Hopefully, with a little time and a lot of prayer, these two friends can have this discussion in a more constructive way.
      Rachael recently posted…Week in, week outMy Profile

    • Cindy – you nailed it. All we know that the reader (asking the question) actually said is, “I don’t read these books. I think it’s a bad idea.” And the friends are getting defensive???

      For the woman who asked the question…

      We Christians need to get over the fear of being labeled “judgmental”. In my parents’ day, that was called “discernment” and it was a good thing!

      Speak TRUTH in LOVE. (Don’t miss the “in LOVE” part ;D ) But I don’t think that’s actually where most Christian women err, is it? We tend more toward the mushy side. We tend to soften it by saying things like, “Well, I don’t really think that’s God’s best…”

      Don’t be rude, but don’t be cowardly, either. Don’t think you’re doing your friends a favor by tiptoeing around it. Calling sin evil is gospel work. And it’s not very comfortable. Ask your friends if they could imagine carrying those books into the throne room of a thrice-holy God and reading excerpts! We would burn with shame.

  2. You could always point out that the Bible tells us to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). It also tells us that if a Christian friend is in sin, we are to go to them in love. Where people get this idea that you’re not supposed to be able to tell if someone is doing wrong or to be able confront a friend in sin is beyond me.

    However, there’s not a whole lot you can do when people don’t want to listen. From my experience, people who pull out the “judging me” card are those who don’t want to change and don’t want anyone to point out anything they might be doing wrong or ways they are acting unwisely. People who are humble and open to changing (if needed) welcome input from those who care about them.

    The one thing you can do is to be very gentle and humble about it whenever you do bring anything up. Take care to mention that you’re concerned because you want the best for your friend and are afraid that this choice of theirs may be harmful. Tell them your concern (including how it can be harmful) and ask that they pray about the matter. Then, leave it up to their conscience.
    Lindsay Harold recently posted…Reflections on Two Years of MarriageMy Profile

    • Yep! “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24! As Believers we SHOULD care about others spiritual well-being and we should sharpen one another like the Bible says. But sometimes either people aren’t ready to hear it because growth is hard or they don’t want to give up their sins.

      Speak the truth in love the best way possible. If your heart is right before the Lord then it doesn’t matter if these women are saying you are being judgmental. I’m sure when John the Baptist walked this earth he was called judgmental as well. And if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to speak works of admonishment and encouragement then obey Him. Not all will receive what you have to say, but remember, it’s the Lord’s message they are rejecting, not yours.
      Jolene @ The Alabaster Jar recently posted…The #1 Purpose of Marriage…My Profile

  3. I think we are too sensitive to the accusation of being judgmental. These novels are porn. Would you ever avoid telling a man with whom you are friends, or telling your female friend about a man’s behavior, that it’s wrong to look at pictures of naked women, for fear of being called judgmental? If your response is “No, I would not avoid speaking that truth,” then that also should be your response to whether you will/should avoid telling your female friends that it’s wrong to read erotica. Of course, you can say it gently, or talk them around to realizing it for themselves by getting them to admit that it’s porn and then by asking them something along the lines of “So if you’re using porn that’s created for women, is it okay for your husband to use porn that’s created for men?” But the bottom line is that no matter how gently or lovingly you convey the truth, most people who recognize your point and feel guilty or ashamed will push that off on you and call you judgmental. Few people are wise enough and mature enough to have their sin pointed out to them and immediately respond with repentance. Most will resist, and the natural first reaction is to attack the person whose comments led to their own feelings of shame or guilt. (Lest I be accused of hypocrisy, I admit that I don’t respond well, either, though my response usually is to change the subject or leave, then think it through on my own, rather than immediately going on the attack.)

    Of course you shouldn’t come down harshly on your friends–probably not a good idea to open up with “I can’t believe you’re reading those trashy books! What are you, a porn addict?” A gentler approach is more likely to generate results. And the approach that is most likely to work will vary from person to person, so concrete advice about how to open the topic is difficult. But I do wonder, when the topic comes up, and you gently disagree with their choice to read the novels, how they would react if you said “I’m not judging *you.* I’m judging those books, and the effects that they will have in your life. I’m trying to help you avoid making a mistake, because I care about you. And I know I’m not perfect–if you see me making a decision that would pull me away from God like this, I hope that you’d tell me so, too.”

    Maybe if it’s simply that you express your decision not to read those books, and articulate why, maybe when they accuse you of judging them, an appropriate response would be to look surprised and say “I didn’t say anything at all about you. I just explained why *I’m* not reading those books.” And if you’re feeling a bit more bold, you could ask them what it was about your statement that made them feel so defensive!
    Deborah recently posted…Letters to My Daughter: Before You MarryMy Profile

  4. I recently had to go thru a situation like this, it wasn’t dealing with erotica but it was dealing with a woman whos personal beliefs were very scripturally unsound. Many times sin seems harmless and we don’t even factor in what the Bible says. If you are very very concerned I would come to her privately IN LOVE. You get called judgemental because to them you are making a bigger issue out of something that to them is harmless, and to them the worldview creeps in saying “i have every right to do this” or “i have a handle on this and it is really no big deal, i dont force this on anyone.” Defensiveness and denial. Sometimes once you have corrected them out of love you just have to sit back and let God do His thing! We can’t be someones Holy Spirit.
    Michelle recently posted…Lies I believed about MarriageMy Profile

  5. (forgot to subscribe to comments, so a quick throwaway comment just for that purpose)
    Deborah recently posted…Letters to My Daughter: Before You MarryMy Profile

  6. If someone is accusing you of being judgmental when all you said was, “I’m not reading those books” or “They’re not my kind of novel,” the problem lies with them. I assume I know the series you’re talking about, since it’s all the rage these days. Many of my friends read them, and have asked me if I’ve read them. I simply respond, “No, I don’t really like that kind of book.” End of story. If they think I’m being judgmental from that simple statement, then I really can’t help that.

    Now if you really *are* being judgmental, that’s a different story. But from the question as it’s phrased here, it sounds more like they’re being defensive. And that’s their issue.

  7. I like how my sister approaches these situations. She has shaped my “touchy topics” with close friends thinking. Maybe its her P.R. background, but I think there’s some wisdom in it. Instead of telling your friend something they are doing or not doing is questionable, ask questions. Self-reflection and self-realization are the only things that lead to concrete change. Not change based on being made to feel guilty and fear. Those things can often just lead to distrust and walls between friends.

    Some questions I might ask a friend in the situation described above are, “What makes you want to explore this kind of book?” “What do you hope to gain from reading it/them?” “How do the images or stories affect your important relationships, especially your marriage?” and “Why do you think you will or will not be affected by the words and images long after you’ve read it? [what are you basing your assumptions on?] And my personal favorite, “If you’re looking for something to enhance your relationship, would you be open to suggestions [outside what you've tried or trying at the moment]?”

    In the past, I think I was very quick to interject my opinions well before a friend asked. So although I got to vent, little benefit or change ever came of it. I think when you sandwich the questions with the affirmations that you love your friend and want to see him or her thrive and not take a nose-dive, the conversations, although never fun to have, have the potential to add depth to a close relationship, where both people feel free to be vulnerable. Cuz let’s face it, we’re all enticed to try the lastest and greatest, and sometimes we just need that committed friend to walk us, not push us, through the decision making process… and when, not if, because we all fail, but when a friend fails, remember that “mercy triumphs over judgement.” Grace Grace. I preach grace.

    Hope that helps. Learning with all of you along the way. Relationships are sticky. But so worth sticking through. Can’t imagine my life without the friends who are willing to share the truth in love with me. And help me to tell myself the truth. And love me no matter what. Love is the key.

  8. Coming back to this.

    I think we have the wrong idea of what it means to judge. We are all judgmental. And that’s a good thing. Being judgmental is what helps us discern what is right and what is wrong in our lives. I’m happy to be judgmental. It means I think through my choices to really determine what I feel is best. That said, I don’t judge *people.* I may hate what you’re doing, but I still love you.

    Approach these discussions from an “I” point of view. “I don’t like what these books promote.” “I don’t feel that it’s respectful to my marriage for me to read that kind of book.” If you’re pressed for more information, or if your friends feel that you’re judging them, simply reinforce the fact that you don’t judge them negatively, that you love them, but that you just don’t feel that it’s a good choice in your life. Remind them that it’s ok for friends to disagree on things like this, and if they’re still upset, just point out that in the larger realm of your friendship, this isn’t an important issue.

  9. I have a sneaking suspicion those women who are getting defensive do feel convicted, but they enjoy how they feel when they read those books and they’d rather have that feeling than the conviction. When that is happening, I believe the best thing is to stay your own course – avoid the books – and pray for your friends. Pray every day.

    Literary erotica is the enemy’s way of attacking women the way he attacks men through pornography. We gotta go to our knees in battle for each other, ladies. We don’t want the enemy to have our men – we don’t want him to have our sisters, either!
    Melissa recently posted…I think…My Profile

  10. I believe we are called to rebuke, exhort, admonish and encourage each other. We must never be afraid to speak the truth in love even if they don’t want to hear it. At least we will be planting seeds of truth and God’s Word never comes back void.
    Lori recently posted…Clutter Causes StressMy Profile

  11. I have found that direct confrontation in a matter like this rarely leads anywhere positive. Rather, I would suggest simply taking the opportunity, when it arises, to explain why YOU don’t read erotica — use phrases like “These books sound interesting, but I am concerned that if I read them, the imagery might be distracting to my marriage.” Then segue into a discussion of a book you recently read that you think your friend might also enjoy, or ask if they want to go see a movie together for a girls’ night out, so that she doesn’t dwell and feel “judged”. Thus you can plant a seed without risking your relationship.

  12. I know sometimes Christians believe silence is agreement, and in some cases that may be true. However, I have found the best approach with something like this is to prayerfully let them ask why you do not read such novels. This opens the door for them to listen. Even if they disagree and still accuse you of being judgemental, I believe because they were the ones to ask, they’ll think about your reply more thoughtfully. Even if you don’t see the immediate results. We need to pray and let the Holy Spirit do His work.

  13. Since you’re not judging, continue to share why you’re not reading, when given the opportunity. It can be something simple or quite profound (your sharing) – sometimes you cant articulate why you’re not partaking in an activity, but you know it’s not right for you, and that’s OK also. Perhaps them accusing you of being judgmental is their conscience nudging them.
    nylse recently posted…On My MindMy Profile

  14. Wow – hot topic! I admire all of you who have the strength to speak out in love. I’m not there yet. For me, I would be comfortable saying, “I haven’t read that, and I don’t plan to” and let the words speak for themselves, and I’d pray for them. But pointing out, unsolicited, that God wouldn’t approve (yes, I know that’s biblical if done in love, and I hope to get there), I’m not able to do that without getting reeeally uncomfortable. I believe that, as I grow ever closer to God, He will show me how to go about it. Now, if another Christian asked me my opinion, then I’m OK giving it whether they agree with me or not. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t ask.
    Julia recently posted…Garden enlightenmentMy Profile

  15. kristin says:

    I mentioned about “these” books on my facebook with a link to a blog that said it perfectly, I got lots of replies, most saying, Oh, it’s no big deal….some were defensive. I commented back, “I’m only saying WHY I’m not reading it, I’m not telling you what to do!”
    here’s the link:
    http://www.purefreedom.org/blog/?p=320

    enjoy!

  16. I love all the comments and heartily agree. We live in a world (and era) where people are unusually sensitive to anything which smacks of criticism or questioning one’s moral judgement or legalism. Except when it comes to Christians we are called to (gently) correct our fellow believers. The responsibility on how it is received rests on the person who’s actions or activities are called into question. Great discussion!
    Kristine McGuire recently posted…Do You Ever Miss It?My Profile

  17. Lindsey says:

    I have really struggled with my own reading choices. I go to the public library and pull 10 interesting covers off the shelf, and the end up with some really awful stuff…but by chapter 2 I’m hooked! I end up reading all of it and feeling horrible about it. So, after much prayer, here’s my filters:

    (obviously this isn’t fool-proof, but it works for me)

    1) Is it shelved in the children’s section?

    Yes – Go ahead and read it.
    No – Go to Step 2

    2) Is it published by a Christian publisher? Go ahead and read it.
    Yes – Go ahead and read it.
    No- Go to Step 3

    3) Find a Christian that I trust and ask about sex scenes, language, and paganism

    4) As I’m reading, think “How would I feel if my daughter started reading this book? and “Would I read this outloud in my Sunday School class?

    So, that’s how I would challenge my friend. …would you feel comfortable reading this outloud to your family? Why? Why is it inappropriate for children? How do you think your husband would respond to hearing this?

  18. I have found, rather than telling people what I think about something, it is better to ask them thoughtful questions to get them to think about the issue themselves. I know when people have done that to me, even if I didn’t give them the answer they wanted, it always got me thinking about the issue long after I was done with the conversation.

  19. Emily A says:

    My short and sweet response when friends have asked me my thoughts on this: I wouldn’t be ok with my husband reading erotic novels or literature, so why would I think it would be ok for me? We hold each other to the same standards.

  20. This has come up with friends where they have asked me if I have read them. I am completely honest and tell them I have had issues with pornography and erotica in the past, and so I don’t read books like that now. My frankness tends to open up a dialogue about what effect it had on me and my marriage and takes the heat off them. I had two friends tell me they reconsidered reading the books after we talked. I’m good with that.

  21. I have responded to some of my friends that I have just decided, after going through a phase reading them for a while, that I have decided that they gave me unrealistic expectation and I decided I didn’t want to have reality tainted by my imagination. Don’t care if they want to read it or not, I just know that I am happier NOT having expectations that no one could ever live up to.

  22. Speaking as a woman from experience– I spent years being addicted to reading and writing smut/porn/erotica. God has had to clear my mind of many things because of that time. When we are being “entertained” by such things, we do not understand the scope of what will be a lasting effect because of what we’ve allowed to enter into our minds.

    Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

    God had to use this scripture to reshape my mind. Taking the word of God and holding it up to what we read and write, and watch, we can’t go wrong… If we are in the right frame of mind. When I read now–which is only Christian fiction and only to a degree–I use this scripture as a foundation.

    Is what I’m reading honorable in the eyes of God?
    Is what I’m reading true in the eyes of God?
    Is what I’m reading right, pure, lovely,( and so on) in the eyes of God?

    You are not being judgmental. God has set a standard for His people, holding that standard in your life is right. Expressing that with others, is right.

  23. Megan G. says:

    I’m so thankful that some of the Christian bloggers are tackling this issue. I had never heard of the books and might have picked one up without realizing what it was and gotten hooked. Now I know to avoid them at all costs!

  24. If you’re telling them, when the subject comes up, that you’re not reading them and YOUR reasons for not doing so. And they get defensive, it’s their own guilt that they’re trying to sway when they argue “judgement”. And really, if you just tell them your reasons why you couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. It might show them the right way and it allows them to correct themselves without being told to. Also, know that what might tempt one person, might not another. I could sit in a bar all day long and never once feel tempted. Yet I have friends that couldn’t do such things.

  25. I’ve been dealing with the same situation. My spirit rises up in me when non-believers and believers are blindly pulled into reading this trash. The Lord woke me up at 4 am one morning and gave me a strategy to fight back with messages of truth, righteousness and purity! I purchased (10) Redeeming Love books by Francine Rivers and have been giving them out to specific women He leads me to. This incredible story (based on Hosea & Gomer) has wonderful messages of true love, mercy, grace and forgivness. I encourage you to read it (if you haven’t) and pass them out too! Or, find another book you can give to your friends to obey Romans 12:2 – Be transformed by the renwing of your mind. And hang in there…I hear they’re making these into movies!

    • Krista, I love that book, too! And I love how you fight back using good books, doing something positive!

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