Friday, March 23, 2012

Christian books and cursing

Its one of my pet peeves and favorite soapboxes, and its been a while since I blogged about it, so here goes.

I am amazed at how may people disagree with me on this: curse words and even some words that are not curse words, do NOT belong in a Christian book.

It seems like Thomas Nelson started the trend. Then Zondervan, owned by the secular Haper Collins, followed. I even found an objectionable word in a Tyndale book a few months ago. Why? Why does a Christian author feel the need to put curse words in a Christian book that Christians are going to read. Why does a Christian publisher allow it?

I usually email the author and publisher both when I run onto curse words in a Christian book, and usually get excuses. The man in charge of the fiction department at Nelson actually called me once and was very nice, but only excused the language in the book I complained about. He even gave me a free book, but didn't change anything.

I emailed Susan May Warren. She had the "d" word in one of her books. She replied that she used it because that is the kind of word that character would say. Really. So if he would say the "f" word, she would use it? (I hope the publisher wouldn't allow that one, but give it time).

I read one book by Noel Hynd. It had a handful of curse words in it, including the commonly-used one that is also used for a donkey. He replied that one cannot write the kind of books he writes and not use them. (FBI/suspense). Really? I have read many excellent books of that genre' that use none of that language. And, might I add, they were better stories than the one I read by him.

Any Christian worth his salt would believe there are certain words Christians shouldn't use. You know what they are. Even if you use them, you wouldn't let them slip in front of your pastor or kids. (But its ok to use them in front of God). So if there are certain words that are inappropriate for Christians to speak, why does it become ok to write them, where even more people are going to witness you using them than if you spoke them? Because the characters are fictional, does it make it ok to say "go to......"? Because the characters are fictional, does it make it ok to curse and use other inappropriate words? If so, why? What is next, the "f-word", or taking God's name in vain, and because it is a fiction book with fictional characters, it is ok?

The Bible talks about being careful not to offend. So why is it ok to offend in this way? I am sure I'm not the only person to be offended when I run across curse words in a Christian book. I may be one of the few outspoken enough to complain about it.

TV could be the problem. Have we become so accustomed to cursing in TV shows and in movies, that we aren't shocked or offended by cursing anymore? That even when it shows up in a Christian book, we just tune it out? There are words appearing in Christian novels that years ago, would have been "bleeped" if spoken on TV and on the radio.

I heard a preacher say once that the church is just so many years behind the world. (Don't remember how many, but seems like 10). What the world is doing now, the church will be doing and ok-ing in 10 years or so. It seems to be true. It was once taboo to curse. People did it, but not on TV and radio. But it became more accepted. They quit bleeping people for saying certain things. Now its creeping into the church, and in one way, in books.

Thomas Nelson has some standards they claim to abide by for their books. One is the verses in the Bible in Philippians "Whatsoever is pure, noble, of good report, etc." I actually pointed out to the CEO of Nelson on his blog where he posted the standards, that allowing cursing in their books does not fall under those standards. He disagreed of course.

I am thankful for Christian authors who write books and don't use them as an excuse to curse: Mike Dellosso, Kathy Herman, Terri Blackstock, Randy Singer, Karen Kingsbury, and many more.

If an author wants to curse in their books, then let them write secular.


Adam Blumer said...

I am totally on the same page with you, Mark. The Lord willing, I will never insert any of this type of language in my novels. In fact, I've considered making a "pure language" badge for my website so readers know what to expect. It's a sad state when we can't pick up a Christian novel anymore and not find this stuff. The rationale is that this language is necessary to offer realism. Yeah, whatever. If we wouldn't say this stuff aloud (Phil. 4:8), we shouldn't make readers read it. I chalk it up as just one more step of the church becoming more like the world. I don't mind going against the flow.

Annette said...

I agree whole-heartedly with you. Unfortunately too many believe a curse word is just another word used for emphasis.
I don't curse, I rather think it a crutch, and I feel it would tarnish my testimony of who I state that I am.
I cannot abide in Christ Jesus if my mouth gushes forth expletives and an inner desire to hurt or cut someone down.
But, out of the "overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Mt 12:34

Andi said...

I understand your position. However, if as a writer you are trying to reach the unsaved through your writing I would think to make a character appear believable you would need to be realistic. I know for myself I don't mind reading a curse word here and there as long as it fits with the character. Plus most of the books I've read, the author brings the character full circle, and shows redemption through Christ. Look at Christ, Himself, He hung out with the worst of the worst, and was criticized for it. I think this is clearly between the author, God, and the publisher and we need to stay out of it. Just my .02