When I first published “Amidst Traffic” my goal was to write gritty and compelling stories that conveyed the depravity of the world in which we live. We live in a world full of fear, violence, rebellion and chaos. Christians have to somehow weigh in that reality into an equation that involves a Just and Sovereign God.
As an effort to display that depravity, many of my characters indulged in some pretty graphic language. I created scenes involving Soldiers in Iraq and bank robbers in the middle of a heist. In the process, F-bombs were dropped along with a few other choice words.
It was a struggle for me to publish the first edition with that type of language inside. I originally justified the decision by reasoning that this is how the world really is. This is how people really talk.
So I published the book, but I constantly battled with that decision.
This book was always intended to be literary first (with passages of poetic prose and story endings that left you wondering or figuring things out for yourself), and Theological second. I think both Christians and Atheists struggle with the emotions conveyed in this book. We are all human, after all, and we all suffer human pains. I wanted this to be a book that could bring Christians and Atheists to the table and provoke a conversation. This is not a book that bashes Atheists or proclaims Christians victorious.
This book is meant to make the reader reflect on how we are all connected. Our pains touch one another, even among complete strangers. It’s a book that is meant to strip down our pretenses and our defenses, and force us to face our inner struggles, our fears and our doubts.
But I realized that I was alienating fellow believers with language that was intentionally written to offend. How can you spark a conversation with someone if the language you use forces people not to listen?
So I asked myself, “Is the vulgar language really necessary? Is it vital? Would these stories cease to exist without it?”
More importantly, was I compromising myself as a Christian by including this type of language in my book? What kind of witness or ambassador was I for Christ?
I made efforts to rewrite dialogue and passages that would portray a sense of vulgarity without actually being vulgar in doing so.
I slaughtered my own children, as they say in the creative writing world.
In today’s world of literary fiction there is already too much vulgarity, and I didn’t want to add to it unnecessarily.
Unfortunately, nowadays, redemption found in novels and movies relies on worldly solutions to worldly problems. That’s like saying that gravity can help stop an avalanche. Not all of my characters get redeemed, unfortunately. But those who do get a chance to battle with deep, theological questions we too often dismiss in our society.
This Amazon forum discussion about heavy cursing in Christian fiction served to be very helpful in my decision to remove the strong language. Ultimately, I prayed about this decision, talked to my wife and my pastor, and I’m more confident than ever that this was the right call.
Even in fiction writing we have a responsibility to our readers and an obligation to our God to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Some helpful scripture:
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11 ESV)
“Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” (Proverbs 4:24)
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
I will replace your first edition for free:
P.S. If you currently own the First Edition in paperback, and you simply find the language too offensive to get through, I would be happy to replace your copy with this edition. Just send an email to the address found in the copyright page, and we’ll replace your First Edition with the Renewed Edition.
What about you?
Have you ever been in a place where you thought you might be compromising your integrity for the sake of art or work you do? What was your response and how did you overcome it?