Saturday, November 7, 2009

Methinks he protests too much.......

Ran onto this from an author I read, and who I emailed once about the use of "go to hell" in one of his books. Guess it is no surprise that he would hold these opinions. I will say before pasting it here, that the publisher in question does go overboard, but I agree with more of what should be left out, than what I don't agree with.

I also would like to point out, that the Love Inspired books is an imprint of Harlequin books. I don't know if anyone else will agree, but even though they carry their guidelines futher than necessary, I find it sad that a secular publisher who publishes sex-filled books on the secular market, is more concerned about offending Christian readers than some of the Christian publishers and authors out there.

What's Wrong with this Picture?Share
Today at 12:41pm
I recently came across a web page that rocked my world. In the worst of ways.

It’s the writing guidelines for a major publisher of “Christian” fiction called LOVE INSPIRED GUIDELINES. Interestingly it was another major Christian publisher that brought the webpage to my attention. They were as taken back as me. There was something disturbing about what showed up on the page before us. Something offensive to all of us.

The guidelines represent an unintentional but devastating attack against realism. Certainly against all writers and readers interested in truth. If these guidelines, or anything similar to them, help define “Christian” fiction than surely I must never be classified as such. I never have, nor ever would, write by such guidelines and would run from the term with a loud scream that attracted all the world’s attention. Thankfully, this does not describe my publisher, but it brings up a critical point we must consider.

Let me explain.

I understand the reasoning of many to avoid offense—loving your neighbor rarely includes intentionally upsetting them. But to avoid offense at the expense of the truth is in itself offensive, yes?

Case in point, Jesus pointed out the truth to the Pharisees by calling them a brood of vipers. They were a clean bunch who followed every part of the law to a ‘T’. They didn’t lie, steal, commit adultery, or use foul language, etc, etc, etc. But he looked past their works and called their hearts impure in light of their high standards and he offended them deeply by speaking this truth.

In our stories we need to concern ourselves with truth. When we write about love, for example, we need to understand that there is more than just love in the world. That there is much ugliness which stands in the face of true love. Our characterization of that ugliness in our writing must be consistent with its true nature. To whitewash the page of that contrast makes a mockery of love’s ability to overcome offense and ugliness.

The Pharisees lived by a code avoiding all that was scandalous, but Jesus embraced that scandal by associating unapologetically with the unclean. They dehumanized the lepers and prostitutes by refusing to associate with them, yet Jesus reached out to them and let them wash his feet. He was beauty in their ashes, the oil of joy in their mourning; they flocked to him and he embraced them as they were.

The disparity between his approach and the pharisaical approach was in part what got him killed. The word that became flesh walked into the dark corners of thieves, adulterers, heretics, Samaritans, and political oppressors. Jesus derided the religious for their attempt to remain pure by shunning the very real, human condition of others.

Forgive me, I mean no harm, but I can’t help thinking that the following ‘LOVE INSPIRED GUIDELINES’ unwittingly do the same. They suggest that in our writing we do what the Pharisees did in their living. We must not be puritanical at the expense of incarnational truth, nor must we forget that the truth is as scandalous today as it was two thousand years ago.

I want you to read the list below and consider with me: Is it any wonder that Christians are branded as out of touch with human need and realism? Many mourn the fact that the world looks at Christianity with such disdain, yet if this list helps define Christianity, would you not scoff as well? The world is laughing at such pettiness—such a puritanical, even Pharisaical standard—that has nothing to do with true faith.

I paste, without a single edit:

Love Inspired Guidelines

Terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel:

Breast (except for breast cancer if necessary)
Buttocks or butt (alternatively, you can say derriere or backside)
Damn (try "blast" instead)
Devil (except in the religious sense, but the circumstances would be rare)
Dang or Dagnabbit
Father (when used to describe a religious official)
For heaven's sake (can use "for goodness' sake" instead)
For the love of Mike
For Pete's sake
Geez/jeez (but "sheesh" is acceptable)
Heat (when used to describe kisses)
Hell (except in the religious sense, but this would be rare)
Holy cow
Need/hunger (when used to describe non-food-focused state of being)
Sexual attraction
Tempting (as applied to the opposite sex)
St. [name of saint]
Swear, as in "I swear..." - Christian characters are not supposed to swear.
Undergarments - of any kind

The following are allowed only in the context mentioned:

Angel - only when used in a Biblical context
Miracle - only when used in a Biblical context
Oh my God/Oh, God - ONLY allowed when it's clearly part of a prayer
Heavenly - only when used in a Biblical context
Although you can say “He cursed” or mention cursing, do not overuse. Furthermore, only non-Christian characters can curse.
Situations to be avoided:
Kissing below the neck
Visible signs or discussions of arousal or sexual attraction or being out of control
Double entendre
Nudity - people changing clothes "on screen" or any character clad only in a towel
Hero and heroine sleeping in the same house without a third party, even if they're not sleeping together or in the same room

Also, Christian characters should not smoke, drink, gamble, play cards or dance (except in historical novels they may dance but please limit to square dances and balls, no “sexy” dancing like waltzing cheek to cheek), and terms associated with these activities should only be used in connection with bad guys or disapproving of them or such.

Bodily functions, like going to the bathroom, should be mentioned as little as possible and some euphemism may be necessary but we don't want to sound quaint or absurd.

There you have it. As I said, thankfully, my publisher doesn’t hold to such a narrow standard. But make no mistake, these kinds of guidelines publically characterize Christianity and so called ‘Christian Fiction’ as being out of touch with reality, narrow minded and judgmental, regardless of the publisher’s intention.

So I have to ask you, what do you think Jesus would think of this list and what should be your reaction?

A) He would be appalled by it and call it out, and so should you. B) He would be appalled by it but would say nothing, and neither should you. C) He would commend those who embrace it, as should you. D) He wouldn’t care either way, and neither should you.

Be heard

My thoughts - I beieve Jesus would be careful in what He reads, and would be offended by cursing and some other doubtful words and situations that are creeping into Christian books. And if He owned the publishing company, I believe His standards would be very high.


Mozi Esme said...

I actually found their guidelines much easier to swallow than the Barbour Books one you posted. I'm all for clean language. And sex can remain private, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps they're being nitpicky about the wording (I see nothing wrong with "pee" in the right context, for instance), but I do appreciate the guidelines for the most.

I think what bugged me about Barbour's was the need to stay away doctrinal topics, and when you start stripping away doctrines, you start stripping away vital pieces of Christianity, in my opinion. And for some reason their "divorce" rule grates at me.

Steve-n-Deb said...

I agree with you and with MoziEsme.