Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making the Case for Tougher Christian Fiction

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. Devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, her family, friends, and pets, you can find her most days on her blog: where she welcomes your visit. Author of the novels Breath of LifeThe Famous One, and Hope of Glory among others yet to be seen.

by Nicole Petrino-Salter 

The argument for and against tougher, more realistic, edgier - pick your word - fiction plagues writers and readers of Christian Fiction. Blogs profess their opposing positions on a regular basis. Pro cuss words. Anti cuss words. Pro more sexual content. Anti more sexual content. And so it goes.

To give you my position on this touchy topic I must first explain my belief that Christian Fiction should be as versatile as God allows and instructs His writers to be. This is the single factor a reader (or another writer) cannot determine for an author. If a novel professes unbiblical doctrine as truth(s), it's acceptable to challenge it. The problem I find with what we refer to as CBA fiction is not the novels themselves in all their various forms, styles, and themes. It's the reactions to books that don't fit a certain mold.

Readers often fail to remember not everyone shares their history. Not everyone grew up in the same denomination. Not everyone, in fact, grew up in a church body. We all start out as unbelievers. How far we progress in that condition makes for some great testimonies and some fascinating stories. From Pentecostal to AME to Anglican faith walks, from housing projects to gated communities, our life support systems range from none at all to protective and loving. It's reasonable to assume the Lord selects His writers from all of these backgrounds because to Him we're equals. It's unreasonable to assume writers will mirror each other in their fiction endeavors. Styles, voices, contents - differences should be expected. And not condemned.

A critical point both sides of the writing aisle must remember is their words cannot save a single soul.

Conversion scenes, depictions, symbols, or didactic instructions of Christian lifestyles included in stories don't serve as the catalysts for the salvation of a soul unless the Spirit of God chooses to incorporate them into the romancing of a soul. Our writing does not determine this miraculous series of events. And neither does the absence of these methods navigate a reader toward the consideration of God unless He points a soul in the spiritual direction.

All of that to say this: I came out of the world. Nothing is as important to me as my Savior Jesus Christ. My tagline is Passionate: right or wrong, and I'm passionate concerning all things Jesus. I don't write for the happily-ever-after crowd although I enjoy positive endings. I don't read novels I consider "fluff". But I applaud those who write those novels I don’t read.  I think the boundaries of Christian Fiction need to stretch via imprints to stipulate “this” line of fiction fare might not engage those who prefer Amish chronicles or sweet little romances without even a hint of UST (unresolved sexual tension) because there are many readers who are Christians who can't consistently find the kind of novels which present them with honest depictions of the kind of life lived outside what some refer to as the "Christian bubble".

No one requires a reader enjoy a novel. Yes, it’s unfortunate when we pay only to be disappointed by a book. And if it doesn’t meet our standards for “Christian” content? Well, we can express our personal preferences. What we shouldn’t do is criticize unjustly. Stating things that question the author’s Christianity, and hence his/her integrity, by making pointed comments in public forums about those things judged “un-Christian” by individual readers serves no good purpose other than to be divisive. It’s okay not to like a novel and to express that opinion respectfully, but the clamor often created in the public eye by certain Christians about Christian novels that dare to stretch or shed the “clean and chaste” label demonstrates so clearly the label the world attaches to us: judgmental.

Making the case for “tougher” Christian Fiction simply means we allow liberty to those authors who write stories we might not embrace without lambasting their method for telling the tale or acting as their spiritual accusers. The motives and content chosen for those stories remain between the Lord and author, not for you or me as reader and/or writer to determine.

                                               .    .   .

Breath of Life tells the story of embittered, wounded, and divorced Michael Jamison, who, after a prolonged period as the casual observer of a lovely woman, discovers his attraction to her supercedes remaining a stranger. With a smarting ego and nothing to lose, he figures out a non-threatening way to introduce himself and is overwhelmed with her pristine beauty and challenged to change everything about the way he’s lived his life so far.


James Castellano said...

Excellent post, thanks for your candid approach.

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Hey, Nicole (waving from here!), you know how much I always appreciate your honesty and your integrity. You're the gal I'd want on my debate team.

Ane Mulligan said...

Well put! Now I have another book to add to my TBR pile!

Katie Ganshert said...

Love. This.

You nailed it on the head.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal convictions. And that's just it - they're personal. Between God and each individual author. These are not the black/white things in the Bible - but the gray areas. I think the reason Christians as a whole are deemed judgmental is because we look down on others when their personal convictions don't match up with our own. Not just in writing/reading, but in life.

Rel Mollet said...

Nicole ~ love your insight, as always :)

Heather said...

I think you are exactly right on this point.

Gina Holmes said...

amen. Legalism abounds.

Gina Holmes said...

Another author recently wrote on my facebook page that someone was actively trying to become the first author of an R rated Christian novel. I find aspiring to write the cleanest book and aspiring to write the edgiest both strange goals. I want to write truth and write it well. I think the vast majority of us do (I hope).

Chihuahua0 said...

Yes, an author has a right when it comes to their story's motives and content, regardless of whether it's Christian or non-Christian.

Brenda Anderson said...

How fun to find you here, Nicole! Well said as usual. I love your passion, & your courage to be honest! :)

Nicole said...

James, thank you for taking the time to comment. Appreciate it.

N, waving back. Believe me, this and maybe one or two other things are the only things I could debate. ;)

Ane, Heather, Katie, Chihuahua0,appreciate your words.

Bren, thanks for your support, my friend.

G, thank you for this opportunity to express a particular passion of mine. And you bring up a good point. It's not about writing to offend, shock, please, or prove. It's about writing what the Lord has set before us and to do it just the way He intends. (Unfortunately, according to some, I've already written that R-rated novel in The Famous One, even though it has the gospel spelled out. Oh well . . . )

Gina Holmes said...

Unfortunately many of us do write to please and placate, just not always to the one we will answer to one day.

Laura said...

Just...thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking. :)

Nicole said...

Rel, love you. Laura, thank YOU.

Margo Carmichael said...

My big, huge problem is the challenge from Philippians: "Whatsoever things are pure...lovely...think on these things." In light of that, what does that Author think about our books?

I'm struggling with some things I want to put my protagonist through. They aren't so lovely. How to present them? And even more, how to present them so as not to earn myself the millstone aound my neck as Jesus talked about for leading someone astray? Where do we draw the line? It that legalism? I don't think so.

He also says that He shows up more in the lives of those who obey Him. John 14? I know I need Him more in my life. I'm so not perfect.

And this is startling, but, yes, Paul says we will judge the angels and we should judge one another! ***Not for salvation,*** but for ***influence on one another.*** But, meekly, in a spirit of love, as we would want to be treated. (And he threw someone out of the church for sleeping with his father's wife. I Corinthians 5-6.)

I just think about all these things as I write for the One Reader who matters. May He guide us all in our writing, because the choices can be difficult.

We want to tell good stories and still be happy when we someday stand with a long line of authors and present our books and crowns at the Throne of God.

Chila said...

Very balanced post, Nicole. And yes, we have to write what's on our heart, in the way we feel is best for the readers we're trying to reach. But whatever we decide to write, it should be with excellence and emotional honesty - this, I believe, is the strongest testimony of all: a Christian who can stand with the best when it comes to quality. To me, that extends far beyond what words we use and whether our protagonist smokes a cigarette on occasion or not. (My hobbyhorse, as you know. :) ) Though it might surprise you to know that I generally disdain "foul" language in our books at PYP; I do make a few exceptions in our crossover/mainstream books, but they're certainly in keeping with the situations. In my Christian imprints? I don't believe there's a single one, if I remember correctly, but not out of prudery or any such sense of legalistic this or that - audience again is the key issue.

Thanks much!

beBOLDjen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beBOLDjen said...

Some read to escape reality, others read to see it reflected back at them in new ways. God can be glorified through both. I especially appreciate your point about God selecting writers from varying backgrounds, and how it's unrealistic for us to expect them to mirror each other. How boring would that be?!

Nicole said...

Margo, I'll try to be brief in my response. If you get a caution from the Lord, heed it. However, I think you would agree if you came out of the world like I did, your testimony to a child would be considerably different from the one you would explain to adults. The Lord spoke to me about drinking. When I was saved, the majority of our friends drank. A lot. Some of them were alcoholics and died young from their addictions. He told me not to drink because those friends would be encouraged to continue since this new Christian didn't seem to see anything wrong with it. That would've been "leading them astray" because it was harmful to them. My first pastor was an amazing man. He supported us and helped us with ministry on the racetrack. He wouldn't accompany us to the front side of the track because he admitted gambling held a particular addictive appeal to him, but he'd watch our horses from the backstretch, able to enjoy and appreciate the equine athletes and the people, lost and found, who worked at the track.

We write stories. Portraying Christians without flaws is a lie. Portraying the worldly characters without flaws is a lie. How you and the Lord decide it should be done is not for anyone else to decide. Almost everything we say or do could be deemed a thread to leading someone astray. My personal opinion of this scripture is to be aware of what you're doing/saying/writing in obedience to God. The Holy Spirit is the determiner of that, not other writers or readers. The Spirit of Truth is able to guide us and not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. We have the power to set down any book which tempts us. I find it hard to believe that any Christian author would deliberately and without discernment write a story to tempt anyone to sin. Responsibility resides with the reader.

And if a writer is at fault, rest assured the Lord will choose the discipline.

Nicole said...

Chila, I do believe audience is key. And I support your claims for excellence - but that's a topic for another day because one person's excellence is another person's folly. Or something like that. ;) I write for adults. That's my assignment, and I make no bones about it. I attempt my version of excellence, trying to improve with each new book. My characters are composites, both lost and found, of the many people I've known, loved, nearly hated - jk, folks. Real, lifelike, authentic. Those are what's very important to me as a writer and a reader.

Couldn't agree more, Jen.

Thanks for your comments.

Gina Holmes said...

"My big, huge problem is the challenge from Philippians: "Whatsoever things are pure...lovely...think on these things." In light of that, what does that Author think about our books?"

We might say a murder in a book is not lovely, infidelity is not lovely, most of what's in the bible would not be considered lovely. For me, redemption from sin IS very lovely. And to present that is to contrast it with the unloveliness of sin. That's why I love the hope in Christian fiction and many non Christian novels.

Nicole said...

I agree with Gina, Margo. And writing isn't the same as meditation on "these things". These things are the motivations for who we are and are becoming in Christ. These are the things we use to steer our thoughts in the right directions. Writing a story portrays the right, wrong, corrupted, demonic, and things which show the struggles in life. Some stories give a direct path to "these things", others lead us in a covert way to discover "these things", and still others show the contrasts and leave decisions in readers' hearts.

Bethany Kaczmarek said...

Exactly, Gina. I also write stories of redemption, and my characters are entangled in some dark places when I meet them. It's their journey and the hope they find from truth-speakers along the way--whether Christian or non--that brings change in their lives.

Nicole, thanks for sharing your passion! I wholeheartedly agree with you about the impotence of our words on their own. No matter how I write, no matter which words I choose--it is the Holy Spirit's role to woo. All I can do is write in obedience to him and unto him.

I was struck by Margo's comment above: "...he shows up more in the lives of those who obey him." While it's absolutely true that he reveals more of himself to those who obey and desire to know him, as I read the gospels, I see the Christ who went into the homes of the sinners. He shows up in the lives of the sick and broken, too. I'm not calling anyone a Pharisee. I certainly see Margo's point (and scads of others I've read in the last few days.) I'm glad we're having this discussion as writers, publishers, editors, and all. It's crucial to study and discern. I never want to take a step or speak a word without hearing his voice behind me saying, "This is the way. Walk in it." But I see the sin, the selfishness, the brokenness and uncleanness of the Old Testament, and I know God was already busily writing His own story of redemption. He does show up in the lives of the needy. Is it not the sick who need a doctor? Some of us are called to write their stories.

I am one of them.

I don't know how all of my words will be perceived, but i know I'm writing every one unto Him. And no one else. Let him do with them what he will.

Jennifer Major said...

My WIP has some pretty serious violence in it, alot of racism, some suicidal thoughts and attempts and then to finish things of nicely, some *almost* justifiable anger at God. I do not write sweet cozy romances, I write hard, painful, "Life IS hard" stuff. The vast majority of the human race suffers day in and day out. And I mean, they suffer! I write to show that no matter what, God can and will reach down and pull us out of the miry, dirty clay and make us brighter than snow.

Nicole said...

Keep on keepin' on, Jennifer.

Nicole said...

Well done and well said, Bethany. Right on and write on.

Scribbler said...

Living a few years in Muslim-majority countries helped me see Americans and American Christians from a new perspective, especially the "Christian bubble." The new perspective changed the way I write and the things I write about.
Ann Gaylia O'Barr

Nicole said...

Ann, American Christians, like any others, deal with their own unique, often regional, flaws. As you know, we're all works-in-progress and sometimes we let small things tweak us way more than they should. Always the big picture is focused on Jesus. I would imagine your perspective has been forced to look at the bigger picture because of your locations and experiences. I find it a remarkable blessing and am so thankful He allowed me to be born in the USA. So very thankful. In spite of our flaws.

Margo Carmichael said...

Enjoying everyone's thoughts here.

Nicole, forgive me for ignoring you. I accidentally skipped right over your post and saw Gina calling my name. LOL

My goal is to find my favorite B-word--balance.

While writing may not be meditation, a reader is sort of meditating, immersed in a situation, an atmosphere.

We need to be cautious, considerate, and yes, led by the Holy Spirit when we invite a reader to come along into our story world for hours, days, weeks. We all know how a book or movie sort of hangs on to our minds for some time after we're through with it.

Somewhere else, this discussion took place and I stated that I believe if we show someone doing wrong, we should show consequences. Otherwise, that could be where we tempt another to go astray. When we make sin attractive. That's what I believe, anyway.

Thank you for the courteous comments.

Bethany, Jesus did go a lot of places, but His promise in John was to show up in the lives of those who obey Him. I was applying that to today, our lives. I'm not the most obedient person in the world, and I need to work on that in order to see Him more, and set a good example in my writing somehow, as I show those fascinating, painful struggles and challenges and joys of life.

Margo Carmichael said...

Oops, Bethany, you are included in that thank you. : )

Bethany Kaczmarek said...

Thanks to you, too, Margo. This really has been a great discussion. I know personally how he shows up in the lives of those who obey him, but I'd never have known it if he hadn't awakened me right in the middle of my darkness. Right smack in the brokenness and hopelessness and enough apathy to drive away anyone else. I couldn't have deserved his grace if I'd tried, and I try to paint the picture of those awakening moments.

MOST often, there are consequences, but not always. Sometimes, my characters have to trust that Justice will come later and simply trust the Advocate. Sometimes, my faithful and obedient characters suffer hardships with no "lessons" in them. Only the blessing of sharing in Christ's sufferings.I've never yet typed-out what Jesus or my mama would consider a vulgarity. I don't think I will, either. I truly appreciate your caution and goal of setting good examples. We'll pray for each other, for the industry, for the diversity and excellence of craft among believers who write, and for faithfulness of each to do as they're called to do.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Great post and discussion. Thank you!

Nicole said...

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Debra.

Nicole said...

Margo, thank you for your sweet spirit. And one last thing. One thing the world uses as an excuse not to seek after God is the "injustice". Why do bad things happen to good people, etc.? Without the enlightenment directly from the Holy Spirit those questions go unanswered. We can show and tell them about sin and its consequences in this world, but sin is not a word they want to hear especially when it applies to them. The conviction and instruction must come supernaturally. You must admit not all "bad" things done in this world receive apparent consequences. But we know there is a judgment coming if not here and now someday. We know in spite of all evidence to the contrary that God cannot be mocked.

Fiction shows the good, bad, and/or the ugly. However the Lord leads a writer to portray these factors should rest between Him and that writer. We don't have to like the result, we don't have to recommend the result, and we might wonder about the result actually being a collaboration between author and God. It's His to determine.

We need the liberty to write our stories without our Christian brothers and sisters challenging our faith, demeaning our relationship with the Lord, insinuating our walk is something less than loving, devoted, or sold out to Jesus. If we don't like an author's work or their spiritual conclusions, in our commentary we express that respectfully and not read further additions. We judge sin, not people, not their relationship with the Lord. And we certainly cannot judge their hearts. We will know they are Christians by their love and fruit. It's unfair to take a story and select small irritants within it and overlook the big picture. If the picture is wrong, we note it again respectfully. What irritates one reader - or possibly offends - will in fact bless another reader. We might not like that or even consider it "right", but it happens. God's always there to apply His understanding if we allow Him to do that work.

Thank you all for such thoughtful comments. Appreciate you.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I totally get what you're saying about being judgemental when people's convictions don't line up with our own. But it cuts both ways. When one Christian's conscience is pricked by cursing, another's is pricked by overtly sensual scenes. I just don't like it when Christians engage in name-calling ("you're a legalist!") when someone holds a different standard than they do, on something they might deem to be "minor" (ie language/scenes, etc).

I find it interesting that everyone agrees that a Christian should not aim to write the first R-rated book, yet no one wants to draw the line. What is too much sensuality? What is too much language? If we just say, "everyone has Christian liberty, put it all in there!", we're neglecting what Chila mentioned--it's all about AUDIENCE.

No one will deliberately flip through a CBA book to make sure the language reflects whatever walk of life they've come out of...but many will refuse to read a CBA book if there is language that offends them in it. Some people take the "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" verse very literally, just as others take the "A woman should not dress like a man" verse very literally.

I have neighbors whose girls always wear skirts. It would be offensive if I give them a bag of clothing that's filled with jeans, if I'm aware that it's against their convictions. Same thing with including language in the CBA or gratuitous/titillating scenes. It's just not necessary. I've read about many bad characters who beat their wives, etc, and they didn't have to utter one curse word for me to know they were bad news.

I guess I'd just appreciate it if the legalist, judgemental labels were not thrown around so quickly in Christian circles. And I do argue for higher standards to be maintained in the CBA, because it's what most readers are looking for. AND because if no line is drawn, what's WRONG with writing a rated R book for the CBA?

Gina Holmes said...

My legalism abounds comment wasn't meant for the argument as a whole (or those whose opinions differ from mine). I'm sorry if it was taken that way. There has been a comment here or there that feel extreme to me, on blogs surrounding this same discussion. Who should draw the line then? Me? You? A vote? Webster's dictionary? I think we all draw the line according to our convictions. We can all agree (I hope) that we want to do as the bible says, but we may not all agree on what that looks like exactly in every case.

Nicole said...

But it's like you said, Heather. It works both ways. I have no objections to those who object to certain words or types of scenes. None. What I object to is the explanations of why the rest of us are allowing "corrupt" speech, foul language, and "lower standards" into our Christian lives. Many of these people read or watch secular books, films, TV romcoms. Some of course do not. There's often a double standard. What if what someone "eats" offends someone else? Do we all get on the bandwagon and criticize them citing the unfurled sheet of animals in Peter's vision? Or meat sacrificed to idols? The name-calling works both ways, Heather. And, yes, I do feel it's judgmental to stipulate what words are suitable for one another. If we don't like them, we don't use them, we don't read them, we don't consider them okay. We stop reading an author's work, we air our dislikes respectfully, but we don't assume someone is a lesser, less literal Christian because of their use of certain words or scenes. We trust the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts if in fact conviction is needed.

I admit you (and many others) would be offended by my work. I contrast the world's view of love, romance, sexuality to God's view and what a chasm there is. However, the gospel is always present and the contrast is stark. I don't write for everyone, and I readily admit that. Please don't think I love the Lord or His Word any less than anyone else who has a deep commitment and high biblical standards. The Holy Spirit is active in my life (and with good reason) to let me know when I mess up which isn't infrequently. But, believe it or not, some of my novels have truly ministered to people with their honesty. And we all know honesty isn't always pretty and refined.

Thank you for respectfully submitting your opinions here, Heather. I appreciate them.

Gina Holmes said...

I love the way you wrestle, Margo. Me too. :)

Mocha with Linda said...

"What if what someone "eats" offends someone else? Do we all get on the bandwagon and criticize them citing the unfurled sheet of animals in Peter's vision? Or meat sacrificed to idols?"

Actually, Paul wrote a LOT about liberty and grace but said "if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall." (I Cor. 8:13) In fact, he says he would be willing to be cut off from Christ in order for his brothers (the Jews) to be saved. (Romans 9:3)

But my main point is this: This discussion began on an earlier post as a dialogue about what standards the CBA should have as a whole. One recently released book was used as an example in many comments. Unfortunately, some interpreted the comments to be an "attack" on that author, in spite of the fact that the commenters expressed the opposite intent.

Advocating certain standards for CBA as an industry is not the same as judging an individual for his/her work, nor does it presuppose that those expressing that opinion are "very pious and legalistic Christians determining for everyone else what sin is while ignoring it in their own judgmental lives."

Yes, Jesus showed compassion and grace to the woman caught in adultery (notice there was no graphic detail given regarding what that was). We should respond in the same way. But He also told her to "Go and sin no more."

Regarding words, several verses have been mentioned. James 3 has always been convicting to me. And then there is Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Thanks for the opportunity to share our opinions. Though we may agree to disagree on some things, I pray we agree on ! Peter 4:8 - "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I am not offended by portraying sins Christians and others struggle with--the Bible does that, but never in a salcious or titillating way. I have never said or indicated that I'm the stronger Christian in this debate. I just said that finding vulgarities in Christian fiction is offensive to what I believe the Bible requires. Quoting verses about corrupt communication was a way of showing you WHY I believe this (I have a teenager, so I'm no stranger to explaining the "whys" of things Biblically. You may not agree. But what if I see no problem with dropping F-bombs and writing the next SHADES OF GREY for the CBA? SEems to me that at SOME point, a line will have to be drawn. If the majority of CBA readers don't want vulgarity, why write stories that include it? Is it edifying? All things are LAWFUL for us who have been redeemed, but not all things are PROFITABLE.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thanks for clarifying that, Gina. I've been attacked as a "fundy" (fundamentalist) and "legalist" in Christian circles, even when I would consider myself neither of the two. I'm a totally realistic person who loves realistic fiction. But if I want vulgarity/profanity, I can look in the ABA. And I don't eschew it so vehemently there--I expect it.

But there is a huge majority of Christians (not represented in this comment section!) who thinks that opening the door for "some" language in the CBA would be the slippery slope to "whatever" language. We owe it to your readers and to these Christian writers to voice our offenses at the outset, when that FIRST book is allowed to include them. Otherwise, we can't complain later on.

I think the line is easily drawn on language. Not so easily on sensual scenes. If something can be said in a way that doesn't offend Christian brothers/sisters, we can say it in that way.

There was a time in my life when I wasn't walking w/the Lord. I said all kinds of words. But I can guarantee--we can turn those words on or off, given the society we keep. And I did turn them off, when I turned back to God. It's not hard to say "groin" instead of a more anatomically racy term. It's just not.

But I'm with Linda, I'm glad we can respectfully disagree in this forum. I would hope you would think far LESS of me if I didn't stand up for what I feel is important in the CBA. Thanks, Gina!

Nicole said...

Interestingly - or not - this post was written before all the hoopla regarding Becky Wade's novel. The point about eating the meat being: it wasn't sin to consume it. Here's the thing, Linda. Christian fiction writers cannot be held totally responsible for what some readers consider "sinful". Yes, we're certainly responsible for our walk with Christ. Yes, we should be cognitive of others' weak areas. But this is fiction we're discussing. Stories. And stories cannot be told without some liberty. And no one forces stories on readers.

It's fine with me if the majority of CBA wants to restrict its writers as they've done and produce the same kind of fiction they've produced, but don't think for a minute it's totally motivated by pure language and subject matter. There's money at stake, profit and loss. As well there should be because it's a business. And if they choose to cater to those readers who desire the restrictions, good or bad, they certainly should do what their bottom line - spiritually and monetarily - demands.

"I am a man of unclean lips." Aren't we all in comparison to our Lord? We war against the world with our sin natures intact, our hearts cleansed by the Blood of Christ. I think the concern is that a story and how it's told can perpetuate sin in ours or others' lives, and I disagree because of the power of the Holy Spirit to convict. Perfection will always bypass us. We cannot attain it by our actions or our words. It's our heart after God, how we pursue Him, doing what He asks of us that matters. The specifics of those things differ for every level of Christian individual. The overall assignments are the same: Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15-18; Eph.2:8-10; Col. 2:8 (which I know could be used by either side in this discussion).

Linda, we might not agree, but I want you to know those of us who write for a slightly different group aren't in any way advocating or suggesting we turn Christian novels into worldly tomes with all of their vulgarity and sensuality. I'm only speaking for those writers who need a little more latitude to reach some readers who also love the Lord.

And I do think it's disrespectful to a God-fearing, Christ-serving author to set h/her standards up for debate over a few words (which are not definitively offensive to everyone) when a story is all about redemption. And when those words are used sparsely, authentically, often providing a close picture of a/the character(s), I'm suggesting the microscopic scrutiny is too extreme.

Thank you for your contribution to this topic.

Nicole said...

Sorry, I have no idea what Shades of Grey is about or how it was written. The line has already been drawn. Which is fine. The definition of vulgarity in the case of Becky Wade's novel is not definitive. And the novel's core is redemption and following Jesus. That's PROFITABLE.

Judging the core of a story by a few words (not F-bombs or myriad other definitively offensive words) authentically placed is divisive and NOT profitable.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Shades of Grey is a hardcore erotica book that is on some kind of best-seller list, AND I will add that CHRISTIAN readers are buying it. Basically porn for women. I find it interesting that some libraries are buying it b/c people are requesting it, with little or no knowledge of what it represents.

I think that's what I'm arguing for--that books in the CBA REPRESENT something to most readers. A cleanness and purity they're not going to get in the ABA. But I think the only way to uphold any kind of standard is to set a standard, or at least adhere to one.

I will now stop commenting, and try to overcome my sinful problem of always having to get the last word in! I think this issue of language needs to be taken up, not in Christian blogposts, but taken straight to Bethany House, for those readers who feel it's taking things the wrong direction.

And I'm sorry to derail this post, if I did. I think that's very interesting that it was written before the hoopla about MY STUBBORN HEART. I appreciate your views, Nicole and we're probably more on the same page than you think about many things.

Gina Holmes said...

I appreciate the kindness in the responses.This could have gotten ugly. And I do think we are as someone mentioned closer in sentiments of what is or isn't acceptable than further apart. Some of us don't think Bethany crossed the line, some do. The problem, for me, with the weaker brothers argument is that it's a slippery slope.

Someone pointed out it might cause some of our brothers and sisters to be offended by us wearing jeans or not treating our body like a temple by eating junk food or whatever. We might be on one side of the argument today but find ourselves defending what we deem okay tomorrow against our "weaker" brothers. (Some of our weaker brothers don't believe it's Christian to write or read fiction btw. Will you stop writing and reading it to not cause them to stumble? Will we ever be able to live our lives, unmedicated, without offending some sect or person?)

For me, I couldn't care less about putting some of the pg rated words in my novel if they upset some this much. (I've never-so far- had one edited out that hurt the book). This really was an eye-opener for me (and I'm sure others). I've spend most of my Christian life either trying to live up to not God's ideals but man's and then the last ten or so years, throwing off the yoke to be who I really am unashamed in Christ.

If we try to live our lives strictly according to our weaker brothers hangups, well, it might start to look a little like sharia law around the CBA. Yes, that's extreme but that's a real fear for some of us. I don't want to go back to standards that won't let us mention "nightgown" or some of the other odd little rules that man has put in place. Chest is okay, breast is not... grape juice vs. wine... ugh.

Give me stories that really show the struggle of the human condition in an authentic way. That's what I think will change hearts.

Nicole said...

"Give me stories that really show the struggle of the human condition in an authentic way. That's what I think will change hearts."

If only . . .

Sibella said...

Just catching up on mail now and found this post. Great conversation about a topic that needs addressing. Thanks for your courage, Nicole.

Nicole said...

Ah, Sibella. Thank you. Love your courage, S.

Candis Tilley said...

If we don't write about issues worth wrestling with, the work probably isn't worth reading. And although we write to influence and persuade, we go astray if we stop writing for an audience of One. Wholeheartedly agree with the blog and with Margo.

Michelle Massaro said...

Beautiful reply, Margo. Amen.

Michelle Massaro said...

Gina, I agree that redemption from sin is lovely. And I like dragging characters through the mud to show them cleansed by the blood of the Lamb on the other side. But what I try not to do is make that mud itself titillating. And I try to trust my reader to know certain things without needing a visual aid via my heavy-handed descriptions. My stories should portray a journey from sin to grace, not an invitation to explore and enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. For me it's not a matter of what sin I allow into the lives of my characters (they're a really flawed bunch!), it's how I display that sin. I don't want to display it in such a way that it actually arouses the sin nature in my reader.