I addressed this a bit on my other blog, and I have addressed the issue of cursing a few times already, but its been really bugging me.
There was a lot of discussion about a book that recently came out, My Stubborn Heart, by Becky Wade, published by Bethany House Publishers. There was a lot of dicussion on one blog - I can't remember it to link, and a newer Christian author, Mike Duran, blogged about it, actually thanking Bethany House "for dabbling in language and subject matter that is typically deemed taboo in Christian fiction circles." I wouldn't call the words she used curse words, but vulgar and inappropriate for a Christian book, and aren't words a Christian should be throwing around, even in a book. Duran's post really bugged me, and I commented either there or on the other blog that referenced him that he was basically saying "yeah for being vulgar! Yeah for offending people!" Oddly enough, the two books I have read by him contain nothing like the language he was cheering on. He writes for Charisma House, and I can't see them allowing it.
Other publishers have had worse words. Thomas Nelson led it, and Zondervan and Waterbook/Multnomah has joined the cursing bandwagon. I don't like to put in print any of the words, for someone would try to paint me as hypocrtical for sure, so let me get them across without saying them. These have appeared in Christian fiction:
1) The "d" word
2) The "s" word"
3) "King James Donkey"
4) Vulgar term for urinate
5) Hell, used as an expletive
Those are the worst, though Waterbrook topped that with a non-fiction book I just read. They had mutiple uses of the "f-word" abbreviated, but in a way that they may as well used it. Add "ing" to the word, take out the "uc", and that is what they used.
I am disturbed by this trend, and disturbed by those who defend it. I had a woman who claims to be a Christian admit she would have no issue with even the above word being used, and even sex scenes in Christian fiction. Really?! If we drag Christian fiction down that low, why even bother calling it that? Why even have it?
Adam Blumer, who though he only has one book under his belt, feels very strongly as I do. We had messaged back and forth some about the Becky Wade novel, and in an email to him, I asked this: "if these authors want to put cursing in their books, then why don't they just write secular?" He replied "Why not just write for secular? Because it's cool to be a Christian author who pushes the line and goes against convention." And I think he nails it. (Check out Adam's book, Fatal Illusions).
There are people who condemn and look down on Christian fiction. I have heard people refer to Christian novels in the same tone they would talk about some major sin of the day. And I'd like to briefly address that. Not all Christian ficion is equal. Some is just fluff. There is wide variety of Christian fiction: romance, suspense, historical, sci-fi - you name it, its there. Some just entertains, which there is nothing wrong with that. Some can encourage, inspire, even convict. There have been times in my life where I was struggling spiritually, and something I read in a Christian fiction book was a help to me. Jesus told stories often to make a point, so I think there is definite possibility of Christian fiction book being a help.
That said, why not cursing in Christian books?
1) First off, Christians should not curse and use foul language. We are to be different. If we went around using curse words all the time, what kind of witness for Christ would we be? Not a very good one. Would you use that kind of language in front of your pastor and people from church? In front of your kids?
If there are words Christians should not use, and I think - I hope - we agree that there are - then why is it acceptable to put them in a book? If I let off with a string of profanity right here on my blog, would that make it ok since my mouth wasn't saying it? Of course not!!! And neither does it make it ok when it is in a book being spoken by a fictional character. It is still cursing, and it is still wrong.
One of the "pro-cursing" crowd on the one blog I mentioned, made the point that some words are offensive to some people and not others, trying to use the excuse its ok to use certain words, because not everyone is offended by the same words, and not everyone considers the same words to be vulgar and cursing. I replied and said if it is a word you wouldn't want your kid to blurt out in front of the pastor, or a word you wouldn't want certain people to hear you use, then it probably falls into the category of vulgar or cursing. It doesn't take rocket science to know what words are curse words and/or vulgar.
2) Christians are commanded in the Bible to not offend our brothers. Granted, this could be taken to extremes, but come on people..... cursing cannot be excused from this. It seriously boggles my mind that I have had Christian authors defend cursing in their books and not be apologetic at all about it, yet I have had non-Christians apologize for using those same words around me, and I never said a word. They knew I was a Christian, and knew I didn't talk like that.
3) It is tearing down the lines between secular and Christian fiction. If there is cursing in Christian fiction, and God forbid, sex scenes, which will be next - then why have Christian fiction at all? There should be differences between the two, and one difference is language. If there is no difference between secular and Christian, then why have Christian?
I never watched much TV, not having one after the age of 11, so maybe that is one reason this is a big issue to me. I haven't been as desensitized to it as people who watch a lot of TV. I don't know. Maybe that isn't the reason, but why are so many Christians ok with cursing in Christian books? I seriously don't get it.
One woman told me we should leave it up to the author. Maybe they have a reason for doing it, and its between them and God. I politely disagree. When I buy a Christian book, I expect certain things from it, and one is no cursing/vulgarity. It isn't just between them and God.
3) Even non-Christians get it. I was talking to a friend of mine who doesn't claim to be a Christian and its evident by their life. I was talking about the language in this one Christian book I had read. They were shocked. "That was in a Christian book?! You're kidding!" This person was truly shocked and said it shouldn't be in there. If a non-Christian gets that, why can't Christians?
There are probably other reasons people smarter than me could come up with, but those are a couple I came up with.
A while back I read and reviewed a book by Susan May Warren, Sons of Thunder. It had one use of the "d-word", and my sister and I both sent her a polite email about it. She replied and said that was the word her character would have used, and she wanted to stay true to his character. I thought this - and think I replied to her - "so if he was the kind of guy to say the "f-word", would you have used it? Authors are creative, and can get across what kind of person the character is without him actually using the word.
Some time before I read the above book, I read a novel by Noel Hynd (Zondervan Publishing). It was suspense and centered around the FBI. Great plot and writing, but...... it had several language issues. What most people could classify as cursing. I remember the "d-word" and "King James Donkey", and there was one or two others, used more than once. I sent him a polite email. He replied that you cannot write that kind of novel without using that kind of language. You.Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. (Then he should stick to secular!) I have read a lot of that kind of book that didn't use that kind of language. Maybe Mr. Hynd needs to meet Bob Hamer. Bob is a former FBI agent who has written two great Christian books about an FBI agent. And guess what....... no cursing. Wow. If a real, live, former FBI agent can do it, then I would wager a guess that even Mr. Hynd can do it. He just doesn't want to, and doesn't care. That was the last book I read by Noel Hynd.
I've thought a lot about this issue of Christians being different from the world/non-Christians. Nothing is wrong anymore. Even sexual sins are accepted by some churches and Christians, so I guess it should be no surprise that Christians would defend cursing.
This statement will go not go over well. I know we are not to judge, but the same Bible also says people will be known by their fruits. If a person claimed to be a Christian, and was continually cursing around other Christians, and when confronted about it being offensive, just kept doing it...... what would we think of their Christianity? Really - what would we think? So if a person who claims to be a Christian author and publisher keeps cursing in their books, and when confronted and told it is offensive, and they keep doing it........ well, fill in the blanks.
To condemn sinful and un-Christian behavior can get you labeled narrow-minded by even other Christians (check out Mike Duran's blog, he infers that). And that is sad. So I am sure I will get that label.
Just think, not that many years ago, people on TV and radio got bleeped out for the same words that are appearing in Christian novels. Wow, what wonderful progress. Can we honestly think that is ok, and even worse, like Mike Duran, cheer on profanity?
I've thrown this idea out before, but doubt it will happen, but if Christian publishers and authors are going to insist on putting vulgar language and cursing in their books, then I suggest a couple of ideas:
1) Put a notice on the back of the book. Something like "This book contains some language that could be offensive to some people"
2) Make a special imprint for books that contain that kind of language, and market it as such.
Sound dumb? I don't think so. We rate movies, why not books?
In closing, I'd like to share something Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, had on his blog. They are standards for their books. I commented once and said I don't think cursing in their books line up with the standards. He didn't agree, nor did I think he liked the comment. Read them and see what you think...... with the standards he outlines, should not their books - and all Christian books - be held to a higher standard, language-wise, and others?
It can also be found here.
"At Thomas Nelson, we often refer to ourselves as “a Christian content company.” However, we understand our identity as a Christian content provider in a very different way than most of our competitors.
- Communicators who profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ. We want to work with people who are willing to say, “I am a Christian.” We do not try to judge their profession or assess the validity of their faith. Only God knows their hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Nevertheless, we want to work with communicators who claim to be Christians and are not ashamed of it.
- Communicators who embrace the central truths of historic Christianity.Such ancient documents as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are simply convenient summaries of these truths and nearly all Christians can agree on them. Beyond these basic truths, we want to allow latitude—and even disagreement!—on non-core doctrines.
- Communicators who seek to live according to the standards of biblical morality. We do not expect perfection. We acknowledge that all Christians—even Christian communicators—fall short of God’s standards. But we want to promote communicators who are committed to living in obedience to God’s revealed will. We want to promote communicators who “walk the talk.”
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
- It must be true. This means that it must be authentic and must correspond to reality. We want to promote content that embraces reality as God created it, not content that “sugar coats” reality or tries to make reality something it is not.
- It must be noble. This means that it must raise us up and make us more like God. The opposite is to debase or degrade. We want to promote content that ultimately motivates people and calls forth their best qualities.
- It must be just. This means it must be righteous or consistent with the commandments of God. It also means it must be fair. We want to promote content that promotes righteousness and godly living. By the way, this doesn’t mean that novels can’t have evil characters. (There are plenty of them in God’s story.) But it does mean that in the end righteousness is rewarded and evil punished—if not in this life, the next.
- It must be pure. This means it must be chaste, modest, clean. We want to promote content that promotes holiness and offers a necessary corrective to current trends to sexualize everything. This does not mean that we are opposed to sex, of course. But we want to make sure that our content advocates a view of sex that is consistent with Christian morality.
- It is lovely. This means it must be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. We want to publish communicators who are committed to beautiful writing and speaking. Bothwhat is said and how it is said are important. Beauty is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself, because it reflects the beauty of the Creator.
- It is of good report. This means it must be commendable or of high reputation. Again, the emphasis is on that which represents the best, that which anyone could read or hear and agree that it is well-written or well-spoken.
- It is virtuous. This means it must affirm behavior which is consistent with the highest values. Values that don’t manifest themselves in behavior are merely platitudes. We want to promote content that challenges people to live lives of moral excellence and virtue.
- It is praiseworthy. This means it must be worthy of recommendation; something you can personally endorse. At the end of the day, we want to promote content we are proud of, books or conferences that we are willing to recommend to a family member or friend with the confidence that they will wowed and grateful that they took the time to enjoy it.