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Thanks for everything you did! John Anderegg

Writing Fail #2: Using Profanity in Christian Books

Father son fightingSome may be surprised that I am raising the topic of profanity in Christian works, but my experience in Christian publishing has shown me I need to. It is a more common issue than you might think.

When I came to Christ in 1982, profanity tended to be frowned upon by the Christian community, by and large.   In fact, my ability to tame my own “potty mouth” was a standout victory for me as a newborn Christian.

Let’s put it all in perspective. Is profanity a grave sin? No. Does refraining from profanity prove we are Christian? No. Is profanity unseemly? Yes. Does it betray a lack of self-control? Yes. Is it simply unnecessary in the Christian life? Yes. Can it confuse non-Christians when Christians curse? Yes. (Is Jim sick and tired of adults using profanity around children? Yes.)

I still remember the scandal caused when Frank Peretti included a single, “minor” curse word in his book The Oath, back in 1995. People boycotted some Christian bookstores for carrying the book while some stores refused to carry it. It definitely made waves in the Christian community.

Turn the clock forward to the last 5-8 years when even pastors of some postmodern and emerging churches (particularly) had a grand time including some profanity in their sermons–just to show how forward thinking and free from religion they were 🙂

Against this forward thinking, “free from religion” backdrop, it seems like many authors are coming up with the same “original” idea–“Hey, I am going to use profanity in my Christian book!” After all, they reason, this will: 1) make my dialogue more realistic and, 2) do something truly “unique” in the Christian publishing world.

A few thoughts for you to weigh as you consider incorporating profanity into your work:

1) People curse and write curse words because they lack a better idea or are just lazy.

When I learned NOT to curse as a young Christian, I had to change my thinking, go deeper, and try harder to communicate. I had to think before I spoke, exercising discipline and self-control. Using profanity is easy…and lazy. The goal is to go deeper, try harder, and to think more deeply about what we are writing. God help us if the day comes when Christians are convinced by the world that profanity is necessary to produce a well-crafted, successful work. Writing well is hard work, just as is living well is, at times.

2) Using profanity in your work will place before it potentially insurmountable obstacles.

Your Christian self-publisher may well refuse to accept the work.  Most of them have “outs” in their contract, so that if your book is found to contain profanity, they can cancel your book at any time–and you could be out the money you invested in publishing your book.

If Spring Arbor finds out about your profane content, it is likely they will refuse to distribute it.  Spring Arbor just happens to be the biggest distributor of Christian books.  They are a partner you do not want to lose.

Once readers become aware of the profanity in your content, those who are offended could put out some negative feedback on the internet and really make life difficult for you. Think of it this way: Would you rather spend time talking about your book and building good PR…or defending your use of profanity in the work and battling bad PR?

3) You risk losing your distinctive identity.

When the rock band Stryper was signed by David Geffen back in the eighties, it was a significant event. A Christian rock band signed by a secular label–and then selling a lot of records? It was amazing. It did not take long before Geffen began receiving hundreds of demos from starry-eyed Christian bands that wanted their shot at the big time. Geffen claimed in an interview that the common message he heard from these bands was, “Hey man, we can tone down the Christian message if you will sign us.” Geffen marvelled at this and pointed out that the reason he signed Stryper was BECAUSE of their Christian message–they were unique. He could not understand why other Christian bands would so easily give up that disctinctive. Why indeed.

The point of that story is that you risk losing your distinctive when you seek to conceal, lower or blur your Christian “identity.” If you have a Christian book, targeted at the Christian audience that will be published by a Christian self-publisher, why risk alienating that audience?

Self-publishing, generating good PR, cultivating book sales–all these are difficult enough. Why add profanity and make the job that much harder?

Blessings as you write!

Jim Kochenburger, Christian Self-Publishing Association

 

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