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Real, not Raw

There are discussions among Christian writers as to whether or not certain types of language belong in Christian fiction. The debate seems to circle around the question, “how far is too far?”

I happen to believe that there’s nothing wrong with vigorous debate, until that debate becomes disrespectful. The problem is we’ve raised a few generations of people who don’t know how to discuss issues without taking things personally. Such a beginning point makes “agreeing to disagree” a noble yet nearly impossible goal.

Another part of this equation–for me–is that I don’t know if there is a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of using strong language in our Christian fiction. The reason is I can’t find the definitive list on what is and isn’t considered improper. Oh sure, I know there are the “really bad” words like **** and ****** and even **********. But what about *****? In some parts of the country people consider that a compliment. But what about the terms that are only kind of offensive, like ******, *******, and ****.

In all seriousness, there are Christian people on both sides of the language debate. Each is just as committed to good fiction as the other. Each seeks to produce powerful stories that will honor the light of the truth without ignoring the reality of the darkness into which that light shines. Some want to write characters–especially non-christian characters–who represent accurately the fallen humanity that lives around us. Others believe that capturing the ungodliness of the carnal world can be done without resorting to their vocabulary.

Personally, I am not comfortable in using “curse words” or four-letter words in my fiction. My reason is simple: I just don’t need to use those words. I believe that I can be creative enough to find other words that will show the same emotion without planting unhealthy seeds in a readers spirit. Do they encounter–perhaps even use–such “bad/unchristian” terms in their daily lives? Perhaps. That’s something I can’t control. But I can control whether they’ll encounter them in my books.

Which is more likely to happen: readers will stop reading my books if I DO use “bad” words or readers will stop reading them if I DON’T? Does slipping these words into my fiction repel of draw a reader?

Friends, in the spirit of Christian unity, let us be very careful about how we treat one another while carrying on this uncomfortable discussion. And when it comes to how we talk about one another, and our choice of vocabulary words to place in our books, perhaps Ephesians 4:29 can guide us:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

 

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