I recently started a Goodreads Group for Christian Books Only. I had the idea after I joined another Goodreads group that required me to review books in order to generate reviews for my own self-published book They’re Rugby Boys, Don’t You Know? Although the category I joined was labelled “clean” I found that I was uninspired by the books I was assigned to read and as a Christian also felt uncomfortable with some of the content. I was also concerned that my own book was being reviewed by non-believers who would be unlikely to respond positively to the Christian content (although in some cases they did.)
Having been running for a few months our group now has nearly 100 members. There has been some lively discussion in the group surrounding certain topics. One of these is worthy of further consideration; the issue of Christian authors using profanity in Christian books. Those that have been reading my blog for a while, or that know me, will guess that I have strong views on this subject. I tend to be more flexible as the moderator of the group as I know not everyone shares my opinion.
For myself, in the past I developed a “three strikes and you’re out rule” in relation to secular books, music and movies and would switch off the TV show or dispose of the book on the third swear word. I found myself becoming more tolerant to certain less offensive words and not “counting” them. This was necessary, or I would never have been able to watch or read anything! My rule also meant that I couldn’t watch anything above a 12 certificate in the UK as standards were lowered across the board. More violence, sex, swearing, drug taking…you name it.
But that’s the secular world and is to be expected to a certain extent. Christians can’t hold the world to their standards of holiness as the world makes no claim to be holy. Christians can and should, however, hold themselves to different standards, standards set by God in His Word.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12 vs 36-37
I first discovered profanity in a “Christian” book; “The Shack” about 10 years ago. I threw the book away after a few chapters due to the other content but mainly stopped reading due to the swearing. At the time, I couldn’t believe the book went on to be a best seller and that little comment was made about the language used by the author.
Since then I have discovered profanity, and more worryingly blasphemy, in many “Christian” books and also on Christian blogs, including one very popular female missionary blogger who seems to want to make a name for herself by shocking people with her bad language and making herself as un-stereotypically “missionary” as possible. On reading the comments on her various blog posts I was disappointed to see that not a single person commented on her language. Instead they heaped praise on her and her blog has reached the “most read” lists. I was disappointed but not surprised.
I think we need to ask why Christians feel the need to express themselves in this way especially when not relaying actual events. In a book of fiction why would a Christian author choose to use words that may offend their readers or more importantly might offend God. Do authors really believe that readers will buy books because they contain profanity? Or that they will lose sales if they don’t include it? Or that using profanity creates a more realistic and lifelike scene and builds characters? To those that think this is legalism I would ask whether you would use that language in a conversation with God in prayer. If there is a word that you are not sure about, why risk using it and potentially causing a brother or sister to stumble. Find another word, there are plenty of them.
In a Non-Fiction book it is more understandable but still not acceptable. In Planet Police when someone swore I just wrote “insert two four letter words,” rather than shocking the audience with the words that were actually used which definitely shouldn’t be repeated by a Christian author.
It beggars belief that some Christian authors are even using blasphemy (using God or Jesus’ name as a swear word) and sometimes frequently throughout their books. This is a direct violation of a biblical commandment and it’s now in print, copyrighted and for all the world to see.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20 vs 7
What kind of message does this give out; that Christians don’t value their faith, their God, their standards of holiness? At times, Christians are even shocking non-believers with their language/ blasphemy; the world expects Christians to adhere to the values they claim to represent. When Christians don’t adhere to these values it gives non-believers a reason to doubt the sincerity of the Christian and their message. In their minds (and with the enemy’s input) they may even use this hypocrisy as a reason to dismiss Christianity altogether.
When Christian authors use profanity, especially blasphemy, they are undermining the message in their books and seeking to identify themselves with and blend in with the world. This is the complete opposite of what God tells us to do in His Word.
“Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you” – 2 Corinthians 6 vs 17
We should not be seeking to shock people, or to entertain them by using curse words or by walking danger lines to get attention for ourselves, our blogs or our books. Instead we should seek to inspire each other, as Christian authors, to greater standards of holiness so that our message of HOPE in Jesus remains authentic.
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4)
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:10)