I want to give you a scene.
The angel Michael overlooks the lake of fire at the end of time and sees multitudes of men and women screaming. Moans, and wails and curses echo from the Lake of Fire. As he listens, he hears a curse come from one of the persons judged to burn in the lake of fire. Ready? Here it is.
“I hate your f—ing guts angel of God! I hate you!”
Now tell me. If you were to read this line in a Christian novel…would, you be offended? Would you think the novel is not Christian? Would you think the author herself is not Christian?
Would you think the book is filled with other racy language because of this one sentence?
Yesterday I read Tony Broodens blog entitled “@#%*!!, or Dirty Words & the Christian Author – Part 1”
It is a well-written piece that discusses the challenges that Christian authors face in writing their stories to a Christian audience. In reading his blog post, it reminded me of my own challenge when creating my own book. Why? Because the sentence above is the actual original sentence I wrote in the prologue of my book; The Third Heaven: The Rise of Fallen Stars.
When I wrote the sentence originally I thought of Matthew 13:42 “And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
I imagined a place of wailing and cursing and agony. So lets say oh an angel happens to stroll along to see this site, and your one of the damned. I can imagine some pleas of mercy, help, and yep a curse at the onlooker. It seemed pretty reasonable to me at the time.
But along came a reviewer. Now keep in mind that when I first published the book, this sentence was in there. But a Christian reviewer came along and basically said that they couldn’t get past the language, and because of that (and a few other ‘symbolic’ things), they decided to choose not to review my book. (They never read the whole book.)
So here I am as a Christian thinking to myself. Perhaps I simply cannot write this story, because the audience can’t handle the F word coming from a burning soul in the Lake of Fire.
I admit I was kind of put off. I was like really? Someone screams F you from the lake of fire, and you can’t handle that?
But then I took off the creative hat of the author, and put on the business hat of the entrepreneur. If one person feels this way so much that they wont finish a book given to them for free to review. How much more then might this be the case for others. So I changed the sentence. It reads like this now.
“I hate you your guts! D you hear me angel of God? I hate you!”
Honestly, I don’t think it’s as powerful a sentence. (and you can tell me I shouldn’t have done it. (It’s my book..nana, nana nah!) People who hate other people in my experience might use an expletive or two now and then to express that hate. (Maybe that is why they are in Hell….that’s a joke by the way.) Bad Donovan…bad Donovan sorry.
So anyways I took it out. So I wrote a book about angels killing each other, but that was OK. (Pray for me the spirit of sarcasm might be influencing me.)
This reviewer finally told me that I might be a part of what was called “Edgy Christian Fiction.”
I was like wow, now there is a label I had never heard of. Needless to say yep there was an actual group or a genre that is called “edgy Christian fiction”. So one instance and one partially spelled out expletive coming from the mouth of a condemned person in Hell in a book of over 100,000 words is edgy…really? It really made me wonder is this is what we’ve come too? I am for “clean” fiction just as much as everyone else. But if this is “edgy” I dunno seems kinda lame to me. I can think of a lot racier things.
If I tried to write “Saving Private Ryan” as a novel I think I’d have a hard time writing that book, thinking that not one GI used some kind of curse word during the whole experience. I’m not saying you have to see everything…somethings are best left to the imagination. But that’s why I spelled out F—K as opposed to spelling the whole word out. Which Tom in his blog covers. I guess that still doesn’t count for some!
Don’t get me wrong. People are entitled to read what they want. Christian or otherwise. But 6 times my Bible uses the phrase, “pisseth against the wall.” Now that’s not a curse word. But man, it’s not something I went around condoning my own kids to say–just saying.
In the end I don’t want a person being so offended by language that they can’t even finish the story. Yeah, yeah I know I can’t please everyone. But I think Christian authors really struggle over how to depict violence and sexuality, etc in a way that honors God, and is real to the fictional world they are trying to convey. It’s not always easy.
In any event, I’m curious how other authors in the genre have handled fiction. Christian readers have you had issues about language that unsettled you. Do you apply this standard towards all media? Any advice or encouragement for us authors out there? What saith thou?