Cuss Words & “Christian” Books

In the weeks since my book, Paper Dolls, was published I have had almost one hundred percent positive reviews. Not only has that been a big boost to my confidence, but it has also validated a decision I made early in the writing process: In my book…in my book that contains a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ within the story…are characters who cuss.

This past week, I had one reviewer on Amazon who took great issue with that and I would like to address it here. I realize that person may never read this, but I feel it is important to clarify my heart behind this decision.

I thought long and hard about how to portray realistic dialogue between my characters. I intentionally chose to use “milder” words…ones that are not (as Ralphie would call them) the “mother of all cuss words” but ones that would make the point of clarifying the personalities of the characters and the stress they are under in the moment. I could have said phrases like, “he said a string of curses,” etc, but to do so takes the reader out of the action and, let’s be honest, what they imagine might even be worse!

I also chose to list my book, not only as “fiction” but also as “Christian fiction.” Now, I do not love the term “Christian fiction” for many reasons that I won’t go into here, but it is an option I took advantage of because I fully believe the story of God’s work amidst horrific circumstances is one that believers, unbelievers and survivors of abuse need to hear. I also believe that we tend to focus on externals so much that we miss the forest for the trees and, after consulting with many men and women who have walked through suffering and abuse, not one of them advised me to take those words out. In fact, every single person thanked me for leaving them in.

Every one.

“Because it’s real life,” they said. “Because what you wrote is nothing compared to what a victim has actually heard.”

“Because we are sick of cheesy books and want to read stories that move us, inspire us, awaken us. Stories that spur people to actually ACT and not just shake their heads in disappointment.”

Is my book appropriate for young children? No. It is appropriate for adults and teens over the age of 14. It will bother you. It will be hard to get through (because no one wants to think about what trafficked children suffer) but it will also make you realize the need for the Church to rise up and take action. To say NO MORE.

Not under our watch.

If you are offended by the occasional cursing in my book, I urge you to keep reading. Get to the end. Understand why the characters say what they do. And if the words they use offend you more than the unspeakable abuse portrayed in the story then I would gently suggest you are missing the forest for the trees.

I truly believe that being offended is the surest way to be rendered ineffective in reaching the world for Christ. If I go into the inner city and get into a conversation with a desperate, lost soul I must be able to file their language away as a non-issue or else I will put a wall up between us. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He didn’t tell them to clean up their language first. In fact, in Philippians 3:8 Paul uses the Greek word skybalon when referring to his previous life and everything from which he has walked away…a word that was considered a profanity at the time. Our modern translators have softened it to the word, “rubbish,” but it was actually a vulgar word for dung. Yes…the ancient version of “the S-word.” Why am I telling you this? Because I believe we are so caught up in our societal propriety that we are often unable to identify with and connect with the hearts of those who desperately need a Savior. Yes, we are told to be holy as God is holy. We are admonished to refrain from unwholesome speech. But you know as well as I do that we all fail at that sometimes. And that is what my book portrays…characters in various stages of life, some who know the Lord and some who do not.

When I was writing the book, my dear friend and expert on sex trafficking told me she believed survivors of trafficking would read this book and find hope. THAT is why I left the words in there. THEY are who I pray will identify with this story. Survivors of trafficking must know there is a real Church and real Christians who will not be turned away or turned off by their flaws. They must know they are loved as they are, scars and all, and that Jesus lived the life they could not live on their behalf then died for them so they can live.

I would love to tell you I have never uttered a bad word (shoot, I would give anything for bad words to be the worst of what I have done), but I would be lying through my teeth. Thank God for His mercy, that He saved me and set me apart through the life and sacrifice of Jesus and NOT through my own works. In Him I am seated forever, sealed and redeemed. In Him I find grace and freedom to walk out His calling on my life, and freedom to fail. I pray you are able to see that grace in the story I have written. And I pray that you will do the same thing Joshua commanded his men to do in Joshua 6:22…

“Go to the prostitute’s house and bring the woman out of there, and all who are with her, just as you promised her.”

Joshua was not offended by the lifestyle (or, I would assume, the language) of the prostitute, Rahab. He did not allow disgust to cause him to avoid her because he was offended or for fear of “how it may look.” And, because of his obedience, our Savior has a prostitute named Rahab as part of His lineage!

Paper Dolls: Trust Your Instincts is available on Amazon, both in paperback and on Kindle. If you have purchased the book would you please leave a review and share it with your friends? ALL proceeds from the sale of Paper Dolls through the month of February will go to organizations fighting against trafficking.

Be the change. Buy the book. Save a life.

Thanks, friends.


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