Why I Put Cursing In A Supposedly Christian Book

I have already received a good number of emails from random readers of Every Bush Is Burning, and most of them have been incredible. It’s overwhelming to see the Holy Spirit using this story to speak to people in moving ways, and I am grateful beyond words for that.

I did get one email recently, however, from a person who was very unhappy with some of the language in the book. (For the record if you haven’t read it, there is some PG-13 language.) This person was, to quote, “perplexed and disturbed” that I as a pastor would allow cursing in a “supposedly Christian book.” The person said they were confused because if the book really was for non-Christians, then they would surely be perplexed as to why a pastor would allow cursing–and if it was for Christians, then they would be offended.

I was thankful for the person’s willingness to contact me and to be honest, I knew that this would come eventually. Seven years ago I probably would have said the same thing. So, because I assumed there would likely be others who had the same question but may not ask, I decided I would post some of my response to the email here on the blog to share where I’m coming from (it’s slightly modified for length & clarity). If you read it, I’d love for you to comment and let me know if you agree or disagree. (Genuinely, I want to know). Here goes:

 

First off, I just want to thank you for approaching me directly with your concerns. I appreciate that. I’ll try to keep this as succinct as possible.

The simplest answer to your question about the language is that I wanted the story to reflect real life and real people. I had a friend that read an early draft and one of the things he said was, “Jack is a non-Christian, a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy–it seems like he would almost definitely cuss. I think that would make his character ring more true.” Over time, I began to agree with him. I do think it adds an element to the characterization that makes it more authentic, and it would have been wrong for Jack to say “dang it” or “dad gum”. It just wouldn’t have been believable. I don’t know how many non-Christians you know, but in my experience, many of them do use rough language (as well as a lot of Christians I know). In other words, real people are messy. Very messy. I lead a Recovery ministry and if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that. When people are honest about their issues and struggles, it’s ugly. Even me, when I’m honest about the heart-level issues and broken motivations I struggle with. So I wanted the book to reflect that reality. Not to be too obscene or drastic (I made an intentional effort to keep everything PG-13), but to be real.

Because the book is primarily directed at non-Christians. They are who I’m most concerned about. I knew it would upset some Christians, and I’m a people pleaser so I don’t love offending people, but I felt it needed to be done. If I started making concessions for the Christian who is offended, then I think the book would have begun to lose a lot of it’s power and authenticity to the most important intended audience. Because if you try to write for everyone, you end up writing for no one.

You may disagree with me, but in regard to Christian art, here is what I think has happened: Christians have demanded clean, family-friendly books, movies, music, etc….stories and music and books that are not gritty or messy but clean, tidy and righteous. A lot of Christian art is kind of like a Thomas Kinkade painting–very pretty and nice, but not realistic. Therefore, it’s entertaining and inspiring to some Christians because it’s exactly what they want. But for those outside the church, or even my generation? It can be off-putting. It doesn’t ring true because it doesn’t reflect reality. Most Christians I know close to my age do not read Christian fiction or watch Christian movies for that very reason. Some of this art is useful and serves a purpose in the church, but if you tried to use it as a missional tool to start conversations with culturally savvy non-believers? It would not be pretty. For many it would be seen as too tidy, unrealistic, and probably cheesy.

So, the bottom line is–my intended audience is those people. The ones who don’t want anything to do with church, who won’t hear a sermon, who think Christians are out of touch with reality. It truly is a missional novel that is intended to start conversations with those people, and I’ve already been able to have some really incredible conversations. So for Christians who are offended, I would ask for as much grace and understanding as possible, to really think about the possibility that our culture needs some gritty, messy, missionally Christian art that hopefully will resonate with people who are far from Jesus.

This is a secondary reason, but another thing is that I wanted to tear down any unnecessary barriers between people and Jesus. Growing up in the religious South, I felt like a lot of people thought that the essential message of Christianity was: behave. Stop cussing and drinking and then you’ll maybe be good enough for God to like you. Which is religion as described in the book–the direct opposite of the gospel, that the grace of Jesus meets us where we are–that we can’t clean ourselves up and earn salvation–but that it is freely offered to us in Jesus. And if we really get that, then our hearts will change to want to obey Him.

Let me know if you have any follow up questions or want to talk more…thanks again for your reply and I hope you are well!

 

So, that was my hope for putting some potentially offensive material in the book…to be a voice directly opposed to any messages they may have gotten to “Clean yourself up and then maybe we can talk about Jesus.” I’m not saying all “Christian” art should be gritty, I’m just arguing that there should be room for it.

And I’m not trying to start some kind of “Cussing Is Cool” club or anything like that, but frankly, I think it’s crazy that our Christian culture has gotten to the point where a made up non-Christian character can’t say a cuss word in a story if it has a Christian message.

Not only do we expect real non-Christians to adhere to our morality, we demand the same of fictional characters as well.

Okay, I’ve yapped enough for now.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Should a fictional non-Christian character be allowed to curse in a novel with Christian themes? Comment below and let me know. I think this is a conversation worth having.

(Also, if this post interests you, check out this great post from Mike Duran entitled “Let’s Stop Being So Easily Offended”).

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  • http://www.facebook.com/coreypotter Corey Potter

    I agree with your reasoning for the book.  I think adding “cussing” can really help define a character.  I guess you have to ask yourself as an author if something like that REALLY adds to the story, and if anyone would really pick up on the fact that it was missing if you left it out.  That’s one reason to have proof readers, and obviously someone did pick up on it.  The other question is, does something that small in a book really make it seem unbelievable?  I think as an author you have that “artistic” freedom.

    I guess I agree with your point about barriers, its just tricky how to word it.  I think if you start to make points like that, there is no clear definition of where it will stop.  Is it ok for me to be sinful in order to reach sinners?  I can approach someone without asking them to clean themselves up, but that doesn’t mean I have to be like them to reach them.  Is cussing in real life in order to remove barriers ok?  My opinion is no.  Sure, some cuss words aren’t inherently sinful, in fact Jesus told people they would be “damned” and even “hell” (a real place) is considered vulgar.  The idea is that God clearly tells us to be holy, like He is holy.  His Word clearly says not to let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.  We aren’t supposed to say anything that doesn’t build others up.  I think you agree with that, and you aren’t arguing that people should start cussing around non-Christians.  However, I have heard that from people at Midtown, so I know some people do believe it.

    I think I really agree with you in general because I noticed recently (at recovery) exactly what you are talking about.  Sometimes when regular people (Christian or not) who are “rough around the edges” start to cuss around Christians… all the Christians just get really quiet, awkward, and don’t know how to respond.  You can almost literally feel a barrier go up.  Its a sensitive subject, because sometimes even laughing at other people’s jokes or bad language will seriously offend other Christians, but when you get stiff and awkward, you put up that “holier than thou” barrier.  In my opinion, the key is in really loving people where they are.  Its silly to expect everyone to live up to God’s standard, even when they don’t know God.  God didn’t give us the job of “morality police”… He gave us the job of loving people!  Whenever we show people God’s love (while they are still sinners, just like God did for us) and they seek after Him, He will clean up those rough edges. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Corey, these are really good thoughts and questions. The barrier thing you noticed at Recovery is exactly what I’m talking about. And no, I don’t think that we should sin in order to break barriers, but if there is anything we can do to tear down that “holier than thou” wall that gets erected it’s worth it. (I love your last paragraph). I used to get so frustrated when non-Christian friends would change their behavior around me because they knew I was a Christian ministry major or pastor or whatever, because I would be like “I want you to be YOURSELF around me, not some pretend cleaned up version of yourself!”

      I have a story that really illustrates this, but it’s too long for a comment. I’ll tell you about it or post it sometime.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response…it is much appreciated.

  • Abby Baker

    I think your reasoning is very valid. I think that a made up non-Christian character would be expected to curse. When I read the book, it didn’t surprise me that you allowed Jack to use such language, but you are right, I believed his character so much more, rather than if he would have made it ‘family friendly’. 

    I personally curse when I feel it’s needed. I mean, you can argue that it should never be needed, and you would be right, but when I am trying to make a point and not using such language AT someone, I don’t find that it’s a huge deal. There are certain words that I can’t stand saying or hearing, so I refrain. But here’s how I see it: If you have to think about the curse word you want to use before saying it, you probably shouldn’t. I’m saying there are going to be instances where you don’t have to think twice about it and speak freely and there are going to be times when we need to refrain, and I think that anyone could be a good judge of when those times are. 

    But back to Jack and the rest of the book, I think that if certain words weren’t used, it wouldn’t of had as much of an effect on readers. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for your perspective Abby, I really appreciate it.

  • Landon

    I completely agree! Jesus’ worst critics, greatest enemies, and the ones who eventually had him killed were…   religious people. And unfortunately, not too much has changed.

    Here’s the funny thing about religious people… They pick certain “sins” and say “those sins offend me! Neither you or I should have anything to do with them! We are better than those “sins”! ” All the while completely ignoring all the sin that has actually consumed their life. Pride is the doorway to all sin, and religious people are full of it. 

    The whole argument is ridiculous. I guess it’s ok for Jack (the character) to can have an affair on his wife, hate God, and be a prideful prick. But he better not cuss because that offends me! Really? Give me a break.

    Yes, 1 John says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness, and if claim to have fellowship with Him, yet walk in darkness, we are liars. But it also says, that if we claim to be without sin we not only deceive ourselves, but make God out to be a liar! Yet once again, this is referring to believers in Christ, Jack was not. 
    Anyway, you said it best above. I’m just adding my two cense. 

    Fear God Brandon. And don’t give a shit about what man thinks. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks Landon, I really appreciate your response. That’s a really great point that no one would black-list a book because a character cheated on his wife.

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  • just sayin’

    Okay, I have lots of thoughts but I may just censor some of them.(maybe not) 

    First off. Was it necessary for Jack’s character to cuss to show he was “realistic”? No. Was it appropriate for his character to cuss based on what was going on in the story? As a non-christian; absolutely. Was it necessary for other characters to cuss to make their characters seem more “real”. Well Frank wouldn’t have had speaking lines if he didn’t cuss. I love you Frank, but it’s true. Did the Yeshua character need to cuss for authenticity? Well actually it seemed to be a clever insight into his “true ‘character’ “. 

    I think the book could stand on it’s own without any cuss words. I didn’t need it to connect nor did it draw me in deeper to the story line. 

    However…

    Why haven’t you had anyone call you to ask why Jack was so concerned about his wife and his marriage and yet he still slept with Jordan after “breaking it off”? 
    OR, why was Jack so concerned for his sister’s health but instead of throwing away her pills, he took them and got wasted instead? What kind of person acts like that? (rhetorical question)
    Jack was a complete a** hole and all around loser. He failed at life on the regular. But wait Jack is not real. He was made up, by a christian no less. 

    SO, are we concerned that Brandon had the audacity to create a drug using, adulterous, all around creep as the main character? And even though he (Jack) was a writer for a living and obviously had an extensive vocabulary Jack still used foul language when he was upset.  
    OR…. Are we upset that Brandon made us read dirty words in our heads. 
    Or do we think that if a believer or non believer reads this then they will get confused as to what is acceptable or not acceptable to God? 

    I’ll admit it caught me off guard when I saw the first cuss word in the book. And honestly I disapproved. Mainly because I thought it was unnecessary. And if I didn’t know Brandon better I would have thought he was trying to be cool. But to be honest the whole “a pastor shouldn’t talk like that” would have made me a hypocrite. Not only do a lot of pastors make dumb and inappropriate jokes that we pretend are okay, and a bad jokes is not any different than any other “unwholesome” talk. And that isn’t even close to some of the more obvious SIN in a lot of ministry leaders lives. 

    So my question is why is cussing so offensive? 
    Because it’s dirty or because it makes God unhappy? 
    I think we all get upset when we know something is wrong. But mostly we get excited when we can point a finger and say “I know this is wrong” without a doubt. The sad truth is most church goers are just waiting for an opportunity to catch someone , a pastor especially, doing something they can point their finger at. I think this is a sad phenomenon for many reasons. 
    Mostly people just want to feel better about their own short comings. They want to know that they aren’t the only ones that make mistakes. 
    Also we all know that there is something wrong with this world and we want to be able to prove it so we know we aren’t crazy for thinking we are alone in this mess. 
    On a good note we should point out sin as sin and try to avoid it and help those that are dying from it. However we get caught up on these little things like cussing while our pastors are full of pride and lust and power and control. Not only that, but we are all horrible, wretched, sinners that fucking murdered the Son of God.  And yet, we are still caught up in the rules of “christian” literature. 
    What about all of the heresy being sold in christian bookstores? What about these so-called christian rock stars, that we look up to, that are making all of this “Godly” music? We don’t know anything about who they are or if they even confess Christ much less live it out in even the slightest sense. And are these songs we are singing in church even theologically accurate or do they just make us feel good?
    Well I know cussing only makes me feel good when I say it. I don’t want to have to read it in my so-called christian novels. I have a rep you know. (Please pick up on the sarcasm.)

    Thanks for letting me ramble. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      There is truly nothing in this world like a good David Cook rant:)

      Thanks for your thoughts David. I appreciate them as always.

      I do disagree about Frank’s character. I know we all know and love his brutal honesty, but I did not include his character just for that (or to show that faith is a process and Christians are messy). It was included for a true no-bull personality (Frank) to call out another no-bull personality (Jack) and help him in a very specific way.

      Thanks for your honesty with thinking the language wasn’t absolutely necessary. I knew there would be those who felt that way, but also many who felt like it added something important. I do wish I could create an alternate universe and hand you the book with zero cussing and then compare to see if it’s really true. But unfortunately, I’m too busy to do that right now:)

      I’m totally fine with people thinking it is unnecessary. I just really, really hope that people don’t say “Well, this book might be really helpful to start good conversations with my non-Christian friends, but if I let them read it then they might think it’s okay to cuss, so I’m not going to.” If we care about our friends not cussing more than we care about them loving Jesus…then that would just make me feel sick to my stomach.

      I would keep responding to you, but I don’t know where to start:) Thanks again for your thoughts and maybe we can talk more later. I’ll let you buy me coffee…

  • Ashley Wright

    you are certainly a writer, brandon clements!  as you respectfully answered this question, there was so much grace and also the kind of truth that made me say, “yeah…yeah…YEAH!”  if there is anything i know about you and your mission, it’s that there is a very determined purpose behind what you put in the book and what you left out. You have really thought about the ramifications of this story.  conclusion: this book is so legit.  if it offends Christians…what’s new?, you know what i’m saying?!  no, actually, i’m not trying to be ridiculous.  it’s just that to know you is to trust that you have really weighed the losses and gains and found that if it breaks down a barrier for a non-Christian to interact with the Gospel, it’s worth it.  the healthy don’t need a doctor, you know?  also, your wife is so legit, as well.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Haha, thanks a ton Ashley, I appreciate that. I agree, my wife is very legit. And yes, I did weigh this decision very heavily for months and went back and forth on it. But I feel at peace about where I landed and I trust it will work out for the best.

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate you sharing!

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Haha, thanks a ton Ashley, I appreciate that. I agree, my wife is very legit. And yes, I did weigh this decision very heavily for months and went back and forth on it. But I feel at peace about where I landed and I trust it will work out for the best.

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate you sharing!

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Haha, thanks a ton Ashley, I appreciate that. I agree, my wife is very legit. And yes, I did weigh this decision very heavily for months and went back and forth on it. But I feel at peace about where I landed and I trust it will work out for the best.

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate you sharing!

  • Starla

    I am currently reading a book and every time the author shows “foul” language he used “____” . It was up to the readers to “fill in the blanks”. The author was Zane Grey and the book, a western, was written in 1936.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Interesting. Thanks for commenting Starla!

  • http://www.heartchoices.com Debbie

    I just had to write and tell you that I purchased your eBook on amazon today and haven’t been able to stop reading.  I finally had to get dinner ready but I’m sure I’ll finish it in the morning.  

    This is a book I can share with many of my non-christian friends.  I actually think they would read it.  So many of them have the same issues with the church as your main character does.  

    I will have to return after I complete the book (probably tomorrow).  But for now, I’m loving it.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Awesome to hear Debbie, thanks for letting me know! Would definitely love to hear your thoughts when you finish, and I do really hope your non-Christian friends are willing to read it! Please let me know about it if so.

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  • http://www.jessicathomasink.com/blog Jessica Thomas

    No need to explain yourself to me, but regardless, you’ve stated it very eloquently.  I’ve only read two of your blog posts and I’m already sold.  Your book is going on my to-read list!

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Haha, thanks Jessica. Glad to hear! Would love to hear your thoughts when you get to it. 

  • http://undistractedchristian.com/ Tyler Hess

    I understand the rationale, but I don’t think it is necessary to make characters real. The Hunger Games had teens killing teens…but Katniss didn’t have to toss out F-bombs or anything of the sort to get the point across that she didn’t want to get killed. What’s important is the story and the relatibility (sp?) of the characters, not if they use curse words. i don’t think unbelievers will be like “dang, they didn’t curse? i do not relate!”

  • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

    Just reading this now. Such a great post, Brandon. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks Joe!

  • Jonathan R Whitlatch

    I think a part of it is the whole “family-friendly” thing that fills all the pores of today’s Christian media today. Stephen Bateman and I were talking about the cheesy nature of Christian radio nowadays. While that is all well and good for families, a lot of college-age, young adults are not interested in that kind of stuff. It is quite off-putting. Now, while our generation is quite enamored with the violence and sex that pervades the media, this generation is made up of upper level educated men and women who have been taught to be skeptical and live in the real world. This has made a lot of us pessimistic or “realistic” but we much prefer seeing something “real,” not this cheesy made-up world Christian media portrays. We don’t need the same protection as children (to a degree) and desire more reality, the things we actually see from a day to day basis. It is sort of a part of this post-modern/post-post-modern whatever our culture thrives in.
    It’s refreshing, truly, to see it more realistic. It’s important not to sugar-coat the world for people or they will never learn to live in it. Sin is a major factor of the world and we can’t turn a blind eye to it. We don’t judge, we don’t condemn, God does those things; we love people despite their flaws because God loves us despite ours. Time for Christians to wake up to the real world.
    We are not here to change the world, we are here so that God can change people.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for your thoughts Jonathan!

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    Completely agree, Brandon! I wrestled with this very thing while writing my novel. Though my main character is a Christian, there are times when only salty language will suffice. Words hold power and swearing shouldn’t be thrown in for the sake of edginess but in preserving the art of writing and moving the story forward. It’s sad that much of the Christian publishing industry doesn’t recognize our need for real, messy, gritty stories- no matter what they entail or the language used to write them.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      So true. Thanks Leigh, appreciate you stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/unsanitaryjesus Matt Rickman

    I will never forget my 8th grade teacher accidentally cussing in class. She turned red, then said, “sometimes only a ‘cuss’ word will do for describing an event or a feeling. Strong times call for strong words.” Sitting in many a hospital room watching loved ones deal with impending loss, I have come to understand the sentiment. I think 2 verses apply for me. 1) 1Cor. 10 – I think care with other believers, and non-believers is important. We need to understand that our words are attract or detract, and know when certain words will do certain things. Your point about art geared to non-believers falls along these lines. 2) “To the pure, all things are pure…” The heart of a person is instructive. For a truly strong believer with a love for wordplay, and a tender heart sometimes harsh words will act not as something profane, but as the issuance of their deep feelings and beliefs. 
    A year or so ago I was talking about the injustices of the world and comparing them to the Christian’s belief that in Christ and His Kingdom a new measure of justice is coming into the world. I was getting more and more excited and passionate in my oratory when someone asked about some situation or the other, without realizing what I had done, I totally used a normally inappropriate word choice. I was immediately embarrassed until one of the guys laughed and said that’s OK, we think that situation is messed up, too. A week later I prayed with him that he might come to know God. My heartfelt reaction to this horrible, messed up situation broke the barrier between us in a way that a “golly-gee shucks” shoulder shrug never could have done. 
    I like what CCM Mag columnist John Fisher once wrote: “God uses us in spite of ourselves as often as because of ourselves.” To that end our God is great enough to use both appropriate and non-church approved verbage. 

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Man, fantastic thoughts Matt. Very thorough and insightful. Appreciate you stopping by and putting in your perspective. Hope to see you around more!

  • http://twitter.com/Journeywoman7 Mary McKennell

    Normally I don’t like bad language in a novel since I hear enough of it in real life.  However, since I know quite a few people like Jack it did not seem offensive to me when I was reading. I would have been turned off however, if you had elaborated on “bedroom scenes” with Jordan. I appreciated the allusion to what was happening without all of the graphic details

  • http://twitter.com/Journeywoman7 Mary McKennell

    Normally I don’t like bad language in a novel since I hear enough of it in real life. However, since I know quite a few people like Jack it did not seem offensive to me when I was reading. I would have been turned off however, if you had elaborated on “bedroom scenes” with Jordan. I appreciated the allusion to what was happening without all of the graphic details

  • http://twitter.com/Journeywoman7 Mary McKennell

    Normally I don’t like bad language in a novel since I hear enough of it in real life. However, since I know quite a few people like Jack it did not seem offensive to me when I was reading. I would have been turned off however, if you had elaborated on “bedroom scenes” with Jordan. I appreciated the allusion to what was happening without all of the graphic details

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      For sure Mary. Thanks for your input and I appreciate you reading!

  • Dwilson179

    The curse words did not bother me at all.  He was a non christian guy. Christian’s are not perfect so a Non Christian is not either. The curse words were not what the book is about. If in reading it, all you noticed were the curse words then go back and read the book again because you missed the point. I would recommend this book to people. Gives you much to think about in your everyday life

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Amen! Thanks so much for your comment.

  • http://twitter.com/KennynNewman Ken Newman

    Well said! As a Christian writer myself I have been in this
    very same debate for the past year. Christian fiction does tend to be cheesy
    and completely estranged from the real world. Folks act like I spat in Gods’
    eye if I throw in a hell or damn. The same folks who stub their toe and think
    nothing of spouting a long tirade of French. To make matters worse, I write
    Christian speculative fiction, which most consider an oxymoron. Apparently they
    skipped over the parts in the Bible about talking snakes, fire from Heaven,
    angels of death, witches raising the dead, walking on water… ect, ect, ect.

    Sometimes I don’t want the label, Christian fiction. The Christians shun it because of the sci-fi
    and the secular folks balk at Christian. Seems I have written myself into a
    corner! I would prefer to write a secular appealing story, but one in a
    Christian worldview with Godly protagonist. Perhaps I can lead someone to the
    Lord by example.
    Pardon my rant. Have a great day!
    Ken Newman

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Very true Ken, I understand your predicament. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and good luck with your writing!

  • Kathy S

    I suppose many would think Jesus was cheesy…I just love Him. He is holy and won me with His kindness. I was a cusser, and soon after He saved me, I surrendered my tongue to Him. If a profanity ever slips into my heart or mind it grieves me deeply and I fall in repentance and cry out for deliverance from my sinful flesh!

    When I consider how Jesus lived, He never tried to compensate for the Pharisee’s religious oppression by compromising His holiness to make people feel more accepted. He gave the gospel and trusted God to do the rest. I believe profanity grieves the Holy Spirit (or why would it make me, a former cusser feel ill?)

    I must say though that your writing is very compelling and I think you could have written it without the profanity and it would have been very effective, because my conscience wont allow me to share it.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for your perspective Kathy. I know people will disagree about this one and that’s okay.

    • Landon

      Kathy, out of all the sin that was written in the book, you’re upset because there were some curse words?!? I believe you missed one of the key points of the book- that the church and people who claim to be christians, like yourself, easily become self-righteous and add rules and regulations to Christianity that are either unbiblical or so unrealistic that no non-christian would have anything to do with it.

      Kathy, you are not a former cusser. You were a sinner, and still are a sinner, yet saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Just because you no longer cuss doesn’t make you a good person. James 2:10- “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” So Kathy, unless you are claiming to be completely sinless, you are still a sinner. God doesn’t love you more because you don’t cuss, He loved you while you were a sinner (Rom 5:8), and now He loves you because Jesus died for your sin. (1 Cor. 1:30)If I get angry at someone and scream “You idiot!!!”, or if I get angry at someone and yell “You sh*t-head!!!”, is there a difference? Does God become more upset because I used a naughty word in one scenario as opposed to the other? Or does God look at my heart and see that it was filled with anger in both scenarios?
      Am I saying we should all go around dropping f-bombs? No. I’m saying that there’s sin in the world and it’s perfectly ok to write about it (and in this case with it), in order to help people find freedom from it in Jesus. There are accounts of terrible sin written all throughout the Bible, and sometimes in a very detailed way. Was this wrong? No.
      I bet you like movies made by Christians with Christian actors. And I bet you like that there’s no cursing in the movie. But do the actors ever have to act out sin in order to show Jesus saving them from it? Of course they do. There would be no point in making a movie (or writing a book) where everything began perfect, stayed perfect, and then ended perfect. What’s the difference in acting out someone doing drugs and acting out someone saying “sh*t”? If you believe cursing is sin, aren’t they both the same to God? (Matt 5:21-26)
      I have the Holy Spirit also and I did not feel “ill” when I read curse words in the book. You fill “ill” because you think the author made you sin by silently reading a curse word which was said by a fictitious character who in no way claimed to be a Christian.
      I hope this makes sense and doesn’t make you sin by becoming angry at what I have written to you. I am also a sinner saved by grace and I’m not perfect. But I can tell you from experience, pride and self-righteousness in religion can drive you just as far, if not father, from God than any other sin. Matt 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

      I’ve taken so much time to reply to you Kathy because I was just like you. But God through His grace reveled to me that my heart was still wicked even though I was near perfect on the outside. He softened my heart and showed me that I’m nothing without the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I pray you will allow Him to do the same for you, and everyone else who can’t see pass the curse words in this book.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/viczarley Vic Zarley

    Brandon, some amazingly deep, heartfelt, and poignant Christian movies and books have achieved their deep and redemptive levels without resorting to offensive language. It simply isn’t necessary and what goes through my mind, when I come across it is why is the writer so limited in his vocabulary that he feels he needs to do this.

    You don’t have to go into the bar and get drunk to reach the lost there. You don’t have to shoot up with heroin to reach the addict to that stuff. You don’t have to have sex with a prostitute to reach the lost who are involved in that racket. You don’t have to kill someone to reach the murderer. You don’t have to become a habitual liar to reach the people who cannot tell the truth. And you don’t have to use blasphemous and filthy and disrespectful language to reach those who have no qualms in using that language themselves.

    Thanks, Vic Zarley.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for your thoughts Vic.

    • Landon

      There is so much hyperbole in this comment it’s comical.
      Whenever someone is making an argument without much of a case for one, they will often belabor and exaggerate to make their point seem more impressive and crucial than it really is.
      Vic please tell me what language in the book you found “filthy” and “blasphemous”.
      To be honest, I feel that your arrogant and belittling attitude towards others is much more filthy and anti-Christian than anything found in this book.

  • https://audacitytowrite.blogspot.com Tiffany Chacon

    I just stumbled onto this blog post (by way of Jeff Goins’ blog) and wanted to comment because I’ve gone back and forth with this issue in my own writing. On the one hand, I do think it adds authenticity to certain characters if they do curse or use foul/vulgar language. I recently read Stephen King’s book on craft called On Writing and he mentions over and over again how we have to be “honest” storytellers, and part of that honesty is showing the good, the bad, and the ugly in people. On the other hand, I’m writing a YA novel and I think I can “get away” with having characters that do not curse because of my target audience. I also feel like if I were ever to do a public reading of my work, and there was cursing in the reading, I would feel uncomfortable before God and before other people saying those words, even if it was part of a character (and not my own). Thanks for sharing your thoughts and being open to other people’s thoughts/opinions as well.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for pitching in Tiffany. It is a difficult balance.

  • Lindsay

    If you know the meaning of some idioms Jesus used, then you will know that he himself cussed. I.E. Brood of vipers was cussing in his language. Just like his first public miracle was to make water into wine after it had already run out, meaning people were most likely drunk. Our modern Christian culture loves to put everything in a box, but life is not quite so clean cut.

    • http://www.brandonclements.com Brandon Clements

      Thanks for chiming in Lindsay!

  • Mary Jo Payne

    We are all broken people, Christians and non Christians, we are all broken and need the Lord. Your words did not offend me.

  • Sheldon Cooper

    Don’t forget that Jesus Christ used offensive words in his ministry, yet did not sin. Many words Jesus used (fool/raca) are considered low key today but were deeply offensive in 1st century culture, punishable by fines or worse. It was as offensive as racial slurs are to us today.