Thanks to the recent spotlight on ‘female’ pornography (such as “50 Shades of Gray”), the Christian world has suddenly become interested in addressing fantasy. First, let me say, I am just delighted that somebody is finally addressing something (can I get an amen!). Second, let me say, we still have a long way to go as the body of Christ to extend grace to those women who struggle. I am going to follow that up by saying that “50 Shades” isn’t fantasy- it’s erotica (sexual fiction). Yes, there is a difference.
Fantasy can be mislabeled quite often. Peek in the dictionary and it has a broad, sweeping definition that pretty much includes anything you create. In the realm of lust sins, though, fantasy has a more fine-tuned connotation. For a while, I defined fantasy as “anything that isn’t true.” Well, that’s… not true. Because if that is true and fantasy is wrong, then I am in a heap of trouble.
Then, I thought, “fantasy has to do with sex” but that isn’t true either. There are many ways I can sin in a fantastical way without it having to do with sex. So, without a clear, concrete black and white definition for the gray area of “the sin of fantasy,” here’s my take on it.
1. Fantasy is Not “Fiction”
In Philippians 4:8, we are told to think on many things, one of which is ‘whatever is true.’ ‘Untruth’ can be any number of categories. Obviously it can be lying, but it can also include the world of fiction, and fiction in and of itself is not wrong.
During His time on earth, Jesus used parables to teach. Parables are fiction stories told to illustrate a purpose. They’re made up! Jesus used fiction. There is nothing wrong with fiction. Our ability to create is not evil; in fact, it is a reflection of our Creator and can certainly be used to His glory.
Obviously, in the case of “50 Shades” this creative gift was used in an ungodly way to further a dark sexual agenda, but sexual fiction is still not fantasy. Sexual fiction is called erotica, and “50 Shades” isn’t the first. It’s just the first one to create such a stir. Erotica has been mainstream for decades. we’ve just called it romance novels.
2. Fantasy is Not “Thinking About the Future”
This is where I floundered a bit. For a while, I wrote letters to my future husband (still do). It was the Christian “in” thing to do when I was a teenager. I stopped though because I felt like it must be wrong. I wasn’t married yet, so therefore I wasn’t focusing on truth. Thinking about the future must be bad.
Well, again, there’s a problem, because the whole idea of ‘hope’ as expressed in the Bible is actually a look toward the future. More specifically, it is a look forward to eternity, which is about as future as we can get. Throughout Scripture we are encouraged in hope and expectation and told to plan ahead. Looking ahead is not wrong; it is encouraged!
3. Fantasy is Not “Thinking About Sex”
There’s a healthy way to think about sex and an unhealthy way to think about sex. The unhealthy way is more often called ‘lust’ (though that is mislabeled too). However, there is no shame in the fact that we are all created sexual beings with God-given, God-honoring sex drives- none. There is no shame in looking forward to sharing our bodies with our future spouses (or current ones). There is nothing (that’s right- nothing) wrong with thinking about sex.
Here’s where the real problem with fantasy comes in.
We fall to fantasy when we do any of the above in place of, or with disregard for, God.
When we think about our future to the point that we don’t follow God now, we are thinking about our future in an ungodly way. When we think about sex to the point that it consumes our thoughts, dictates our relationships and controls our actions, we are thinking about sex in an ungodly way (which, as I said, is often referred to as lust). The area closest to my heart, though, is a misuse of fiction, which I feel is the real problem with fantasy.
I can be a creative being, but when I use that creativity to fashion an alternate world in which I live, I have officially strayed from Godly creativity. That little world may have nothing sexual about it, but if I use it to escape reality, or if I use it to escape the working and conviction of God, I have officially crossed into a sinful fantasy behavior that will actually begin to manifest as compulsive lying, lack of remorse, even anger.
These are the women that, I fear, get overlooked the most. Struggling with a true fantasy addiction of this sort is very difficult. When fiction is a coping mechanism, you don’t connect with people. You don’t grow in Christ. You don’t love at all. Nothing is real—death doesn’t even feel real.
I grappled with this long before I ever struggled with pornography. I could not function in reality. Even the most basic, everyday tasks required fantasy, not in a sexual nature at all. If it was time to vacuum, I could only do it if I pretended I was someone else vacuuming. I would talk to the air, interacting with people I created in a world I created. I lived and functioned in my little alternate reality.
That’s how I studied. That’s how I cooked. That’s how I got dressed in the morning. That is how I coped with life. The pornography just added this whole new dimension of lust-based fantasy.
Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I am not crazy, and I am not alone. That is why I am so concerned with making sure we, as a body of Grace, come out addressing the whole aspect of fantasy, not just the sexual implications. If we want to speak grace to this issue, we have to speak to the whole issue, not just the part that affects society right now. We need to be speaking truth and healing into lives that only know lies and pain.
Fantasy isn’t about sex. Fantasy is about numbing our hearts to hopelessness. How that hopelessness shows up will constantly change- but remember, our Hope never changes.