Well let me tell you, that was nothing - nothing - compared to the kerfuffle raised amongst us bloggers here at Novel Matters before his post even went live. Really, you have no idea. Well - If you were observant, you might have noticed this phrase: “this book sucked but they have such a (killer) brand" If you were impressively astute you might have guessed at the reason behind the parentheses.
But probably not, so I'll tell you: In the original, Andy didn't say "killer." He said something that started with the same letter, only... less seemly.
We couldn't believe it.
Because Andy and his ilk had told us more than once that this word or that word was unacceptable to a Christian audience. And I'm talking about words a lot milder than (killer). So what would we do? Edit the editor?
Believe it or not, we didn't all agree.
I'm a non-swearer myself - mostly. I hardly ever, almost never say a bad word. There have even been memorable occasions when I dropped heavy objects on my foot and bravely clenched my lips against the barrage of expletives clamoring just this side of my teeth.
However, I was raised not so much in church as in Alcoholics Anonymous (my mother stopped drinking when I was seven). And growing up, I knew a lot of very good and brave people for whom naughty language was the native tongue. To this day it's hard - though not impossible - to offend me with swear words.
Not only that, but my personal take is that we Christians sometimes get a bit too precious about the whole thing. Because Jesus said if you call your brother a fool you are in danger of judgment. "Fool" is not a cuss word; it's a put-down. And there are those among us who would never say (killer) but would call you a fool twice a day. So my first reaction to Andy's transgression was "Oh, what the heck."
Oh boy. I didn't even notice Andy had used a no-no word. Let me explain.
Soon after becoming a Christian, I abandoned my bad-girl vocabulary and thought less of anyone who used swear words, whatever their belief system. I asked people not to use certain language around me. The result? I became a holier-than-thou personality and a caricature of a churchgoer. My zeal for the menial built a wall between me and those around me.
And then...one night at Bible study, a young man said something like this: Our most powerful witness is to walk humbly alongside the lost as sinners saved by grace.
As I grow in my ability to walk humbly in this world, my need to edit people's vocabulary has lessened. After all, Jesus probably heard swear words as he hung on the cross. His response was to die for them. This is why I don't have a knee-jerk reaction to swear words.
But I don't use swear words in my novels.
Because they would be a stumbling block to readers, and I love my readers. We are the body of Christ! Besides, creativity without any strictures is not creativity at all. The challenge for the inspirational writer is to convey intensity of emotion with truly powerful language and action. Honestly, it would be a lot easier to use swear words.
And so, I voted to leave Andy's original words. There are so many other things more worthy of our passion.
When Andy sent me his guest post via e-mail I read it through - not with the intention to edit, but because, well, because I could. I loved its meaty goodness, it metaphorical bent, and its insider fun. This, I thought, is (killer).
I set about scheduling the post, but a wee voice in my head said, "(Killer) though it is, some may not appreciate the vernacular [My inner voice sounds very much like Stephen Fry]. I sent out a quick e-mail to my co-bloggers: Andy's post contains the word (killer). Are we okay with that? The six of us took the back roads getting to the answer.
Whenever you ask a novelist a question, expect a long, well thought out multi-dimensional response. It's to be expected. Ask six novelists and, well, I hope you packed a lunch. Those of us who agreed to leave in (killer) agreed for very different reasons. Those who preferred an edit did so for very different reasons. Me? Well, I was more like Pontius Pilate, trying to wash my hands of the whole thing. Edit Andy? Well, gee - how would that go over? I actually like this guy as a person as well as an editor. But risk offending readers? No!
It was a gong show for awhile there. What if I just posted a disclaimer? [Early risers may have seen it Friday morning before it was unceremoniously deleted]. What if we added dashes? If Lisa Samson* can get away with it, why not us? So many issues to consider. For me, the decision to change it became clear when I asked myself, "What compelling reason do we have to leave (killer) in? What great purpose is the word serving?" The word didn't strengthen Andy's idea, wasn't necessary to convey meaning - it other words; editable.
We want to hear from you - naughty language in your Christian fiction? Where do you draw lines? [Keep in mind, in an interesting and deliberate oversight, we left in the word "sucks"] Do you put a book down if it contained certain language?
*Lisa Samson employed the use of dashes for profanity in her latest, The Passion of Mary Margaret.
I confess to objecting to the questionable word Andy used in his guest post a week ago Friday, the (killer) word that was edited out. I respect the opinions of those in our NovelMatters group who voted to leave Andy's post as it was submitted to us, but I also appreciate their willingness to edit out the offensive word.
Profanity has become so commonplace in our society that it's easy to become desensitized to its usage. The argument for or against profanity in Christian literature is endless and one we'll never all agree on. We don't even agree on what constitutes profanity. But here's where I'm coming from. As a Christian author I feel my books, my blog, my website, whatever I put out there from a professional, public platform is my pulpit. I believe I'm held to a standard of conduct of which Christ would approve, and to me that means taking care not to offend those who read what I write, not to place a stumblingblock in anyone's path, and most especially not to offend the One I represent. Liberty isn't always license.
Yeah, we rub shoulders with the world, we don't live in a bubble. But who's supposed to be influencing whom? I have a feeling this will generate a lively debate. We look forward to your input.