For those who have somehow missed it – the story is about a young woman who becomes fascinated with a wealthy man (named Christian!) who pulls her into a physical relationship that includes activities most married couples consider inappropriate. The details are graphic and the book is described as mommy porn. Its supporters say it is a love story that winds up with the couple getting married and having a family.
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Whether or not Christians should read the books, and whether or not the actions it describes are perverted, are the subjects of fierce debate on social media. Lots of young people have jumped into the fray, many of them defending the books and labeling their detractors as being judgmental.
If you are going to engage young people in debate or discussion, here is some research you should first consider.
Let me quote directly from a publication present by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala which is responsible for instinctual reactions including fear and aggressive behavior. This region develops early. However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later. This part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.”
In other words, the part of the brain that associates consequences with actions is not fully developed until we are in our 20’s. A publication produced by the American Bar Association in January 2004 states that “The evidence now is strong that the brain does not cease to mature until the early 20’s in those relevant parts that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning for the future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that make people morally culpable…. Indeed, age 21 or 22 would be closer to the ‘biological’ age of maturity.”
Recent research shows that teenagers’ brains are wired to respond to pleasure without considering consequences. They point to statistics that show suicides, auto accidents, pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, and other results of risky behaviors are high during the late teen years affirming that the parts of the brain that organize and associate present actions with future effects are still maturing.
What does that have to do with Fifty Shades of Grey? If you notice, most young people completely ignore the research that shows that the type of behavior featured in the books, in real life, frequently leads to the abuse of women. Their whole debate focuses on a person’s right to do what they want — that reward based response their brains are pumping out. That these activities could produce future emotional issues goes right over their heads. That this could in any way be related to the CDC statistic that says one in five women will be raped in their lifetime doesn’t even register.
If the research is correct, these young people are not stupid, insensitive, or carnal. It could simply be that they just haven’t lived enough days to be able to process and see the whole picture.
This research screams for parents, ministers, and teachers to sit-up and pay attention. We can’t check-out of our teenagers’ lives just because they can look us in the eye and verbally intimidate us. They may look fully grown, but they still need the wise guidance of strong authority figures. Smart parents will take this information and carefully incorporate it into their daily interaction with their children. Pastors and teachers should help teenagers understand how their brains work, and encourage them to trust their parents and the authority figures God has placed in their lives.
Together, we can nurture and empower a generation of apostolic young people committed to serving their generation by the will of God.