50 Shades of Chesterton

Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.

-- Bloomberg News, April 27th, 2007.

While the eyes of the world are beginning to focus on London for the 2012 Olympic Games, my attention is diverted north toward the Lake District of England. This is where you’ll find the Damson Dene Hotel, a 40-bedroom retreat that has made the bold decision to replace the Gideon Bible in each room with the smash hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James.

On his blog Innkeeper Jonathan Denby explained the decision noting the world is a more secular place, no one reads the bible (some even dislike that it’s in their room), and that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is something everyone seems to want to read at the moment.

-- Forbes, July 25, 2012.

While I haven't read it, the racy new book sounds ultimately like awfully heteronormative stuff, according to its Wikipedia page.  If it's the new Bible in the rooms of the Damson Dene hotel, which pages will Ian McKellen rip out if he ever checks in there?

When openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, among other memorable roles) stays in a hotel with a Bible in the nightstand drawer, he rips out pages that contain a certain passage from Leviticus, according to a new interview with the actor by Details magazine.

(The passage says: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable," as translated by the New International Version; the King James Version uses the word "abominable.")

As Umberto Eco wrote in 2005, "G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: 'When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.' Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity."

And one in which you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Related: At The Catholic Thing.org, George J. Marlin on "The Original Godless Terrorists."

Update: The Insta-Professor in the New York Post on "Those shocking bourgeois values:"

In one traditional form of pornography, from the Victorian “A Man With a Maid” to the more recent “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a young woman is initiated — sometimes uncomfortably — into the mysteries of adult sexuality. In the end she is, at some level at least, grateful for the new horizons that’ve opened up to her.

Well, we still have that. But let’s face it — porn has gotten pretty boring.

The sex lives of many average Americans today would shock Grandma. And the depiction of sex in popular media has reached the numbing-point. A 2012 issue of Cosmo would’ve seemed obscene in most places 50 years ago. To most moderns, it’s just dull.

Nowadays, you can’t really shock with sex. Even gay sex has gone from edgy to ho-hum. No, if you want to make an impression, it takes something really exotic, like . . . traditional middle-class values.

In the 19th century, the rallying cry of the avant-garde left was "shock the bourgeois" -- but now that they are the bourgeois, we're seeing how easily they themselves are shocked. (Heck, just support your local Chick-fil-A.)