Unity And Disagreement

Apparently I entered the Christian fiction wars again last week with my Thursday post, “The Misconception About Weaker Brothers.” The irony is, I actually intended to remove some of the shrapnel the combatants so often use to snipe at each other. But according to Fred Warren at Spec Faith, Sally Apokedak at Facebook, and Mike Duran in the comments to the above post, I apparently initiated an incursion. Not my intention.

The truth is, Christians aren’t supposed to be warring with each other. Paul said to the church in Philippi

make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Later in the book he scolded two women who weren’t living in harmony with each other, and earlier he pointed out there were some believers preaching Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives. About the latter, he said, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached, that’s all that matters.

Which brings me to the fiction wars. The issue in question is whether or not Christian writers should use profanity and cussing in fiction. (Sometimes references to sex get thrown into the mix as well, but of late the topic has centered on “certain” words).

Both sides have their reasons and their verses–one of the more popular being Romans 14, which I addressed in my “Misconception” post and even more so in “Weaker Brothers, Legalists, And Christian Fiction”, believing as I do that so many of us are ignoring clear passages of Scripture in order to make this a treatise on how to handle “gray areas.”

In all honesty, I don’t see why Christians can’t look at each other’s writing and conclude, So what? Just as long as Christ is being preached. OK, I could hear it from the abstainers before I’d finished typing the sentence: But they’re not preaching Christ. They admit it. They don’t even think they have to have good theology in their books. They’re sacrificing truth at the altar of art.

I submit that this position isn’t tenable. No one knows what God can or will use in someone else’s life or for what purpose. For example a story with some of “those words” may well bring a reader to the author’s Facebook page or blog where he will hear the gospel or at least interact with Christians.

At the same time, I can hear the accommodaters saying, YIKES! Preaching in fiction? That’s been the whole problem with Christian fiction and the very thing we’re crusading against!!!! (OK, maybe only two exclamation points. 😉 )

So what, I say. There are Christian brothers and sisters who have a different vision of fiction than you do. But aren’t we to be serving the same Lord? Aren’t we to have one purpose?

Not the same methods, mind you. It’s the whole feet-hands-ears-and-eyes argument showing that even the small and apparently offensive parts of the body are important and necessary. So why can’t abstainer writers simply look at the accommodater writers and say, there go those smelly old feet. I’m sure glad they’re trudging the mean streets for me. Or why can’t the accommodater writers say, there are those Bible-thumping hands. I’m sure glad they’re out there contending for the faith, even in stories.

The fact is, there are no winners in the Christian fiction writer wars. No winners. None. When we judge each other or treat each other with contempt, the Church loses. We are to love each other as a demonstration of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we fail to demonstrate love for one another, we give the world the opportunity to discredit God’s name.

This does not mean we need to wave the white flag of surrender or that we need to find a position with which we can all agree. I suspect we won’t. This does not mean we should stop stating what we believe. Most of us have that right and freedom–thank God.

It does mean, however, that we refuse to fight with each other, that we respect those who disagree with us, that we stop treating them, even in subtle ways, as incompetent or inferior, either spiritually or artistically. It means that we make a decision to value our witness over our ideas about writing.

13 Comments

  1. Rebecca, I wrote a blog post on the same topic back in July, as a response to a question asked by a group of writers (http://eastereditingservice.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/my-response-to-three-common-christian-arguments-against-using-foul-language-in-fiction/). I didn’t answer the question at the time it was asked; I needed to consider before e-mailing a coherent reply.

    I have no idea if I created a firestorm or debate — I should find out later this week — but after being brought up in a judgmental, outwardly-squeaky-clean denomination, I have had to find my own way, as a Christian and as a writer, in my pursuit of truth.

    You wrote: “I submit that this position isn’t tenable. No one knows what God can or will use in someone else’s life or for what purpose. For example a story with some of ‘those words’ may well bring a reader to the author’s Facebook page or blog where he will hear the gospel or at least interact with Christians.”

    Absolutely.

    Many folks — readers included — are wary of anything that appears to be more about perfection than it is about reality. It’s an unfortunate fact that people use language they shouldn’t, but even folks who never “cuss” can say hurtful, ugly things. It all comes down to the heart.

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    • even folks who never “cuss” can say hurtful, ugly things.

      That’s certainly true, Elizabeth. It’s a great point.

      I read your post on the subject and especially love your conclusion–much like mine here.

      If you read the posts I linked to in this article, you know that I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about who the “weaker brother” is, so I do have a different take on how we are to treat such person. I don’t think Paul would advocate us telling them to “man up,” but I also don’t think Paul would consider those wanting clean fiction to be in the camp he was talking about.

      I’m one who chooses to write fiction without using profanity or cussing, and I prefer reading stories without that kind of language, but I don’t think that means I need to grow up (and I’m not sure using bad language is a sign of maturity).

      In short, I think we’re in agreement in a lot of ways. However, I think we might differ in how we see people like me. 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Elizabeth.

      Becky

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  2. Becky,

    The intent of my link to your blog in the preamble to my Speculative Faith post was to point readers to the conversations that sprang up here and on Mike Duran’s blog regarding this issue, not to implicate you as a firebrand in the Profanity Wars.:) Quite the contrary…you’re an excellent model of debate that is reasoned, mannered, and passionate, and we could all learn from your example.

    Or, to paraphrase Billy Joel,

    “You didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    You didn’t start the fire
    No you didn’t light it
    But you tried to fight it”

    Fred

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    • Fred, I didn’t take your intro at Spec Faith to be a negative, but thank you for your kind words here.

      Mostly I felt as if I had failed to make my point. I think I did a better job the following day, so I wanted to link to that article in the hope of bringing some resolution to what I consider a distracting topic.

      I’ve written before that I think this pre-occupation with what words we can or can’t include in our fiction is pulling Christian writers off point. Of late I’ve seen more animosity in the discussion–not openly, perhaps, but sort of with either backhanded judgmentalism or contempt. I see that as a problem.

      Becky

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      • No trouble on this page…everyone’s tripping over each other trying to avoid offense and misunderstanding. 🙂

        The issue of language in Christian fiction seems like a silly, shallow problem, but I’m beginning to think it’s the tip of a much larger iceberg, and it’s not just about profanity. It’s more fundamental than that. Maybe if I can get my thoughts organized I can blog something coherent in a couple of days.

        Fred

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        • I think it seems appropriate to trip on the way toward avoiding offense and misunderstanding in comments to a post about unity. 😀

          I’m interested in what iceberg you think the language wars top. I kind of dealt with that in “Truth In Fiction, Or truth In Fiction?” but I suspect you’ll have provocative things to say. Looking forward to it.

          Becky

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  3. Rebecca, I was going to email you personally but I haven’t had time. Just wanted to say that your well-worded post, combined w/my NT readings about circumcision vs uncircumcision among new Christians, has made me pull my dog out of this fight.

    I still don’t support vulgarity in the CBA. I still won’t write it. I’m not going to recommend CBA books that include it. But I think we’re getting nowhere debating it–nowhere productive. Christians who want to include language in their novels will continue to do so. Christians who don’t, won’t. Agents and editors will do likewise as far as getting things published.

    I think you’re a peacemaker at heart, and I truly respect that. Sometimes “fighter” Christians like me need more of your perspective. I’m still going to stand up for the position I feel is best supported Biblically. While all these word-fights with our brother/sister writers seem to be jolting up the CBA, in reality, I think it’s not advancing the kingdom (and possibly engendering bitterness).

    All this to say, I think it was a great post and you’ve convinced me to “draw down” in this debate.

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    • Yea, Heather, someone else willing to fly the Swiss flag! 😀

      I’m with you, too, about stating my own standards, both in what I write and what I read. I’m an abstainer because that’s the position God has led me to starting back in 5th grade when I stood out in our front yard and tried out the F-word to see if I felt any cooler, or whatever I perceived the other kids were going for in their use of that kind of language. (Amazing how a decision when you’re ten can become lifelong.)

      I’m pretty sure my stating my own preferences will continue to get me pigeonholed by some writers, but that’s OK. I can love them anyway and pray God will use their writing for His good purposes. God can use their work in ways and with people different from those my work can touch. Praise God!

      Becky

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  4. I’m totally confused.

    I wanted to share Lori’s article with you because I thought it was so good. I didn’t see her as arguing or battling at all.

    I agree that we aren’t to battle one another. I certainly haven’t been battling anyone. I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write and what I want to read. I could care less what other people write and read.

    I’m sorry I called you over to read Lori’s article. I thought you’d like it because she reminded me so much of you in that post.

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    • Sally, Lori’s article was thought-provoking, and she made some valid points. I was probably overly sensitive about getting pitted against Mike since I don’t see myself as taking a position opposite his. Different from, yes, but not opposite.

      I linked to your FB update because I thought others might be interested in Lori’s article and the discussion there, which I thought was healthy. I hope I haven’t given you reason to stop tagging me when you find interesting articles.

      Since Fred also felt as if I was pointing a finger at him, clearly the problem was that I wasn’t clear–either in my previous posts or in this one. I truly am sorry I gave you reason to regret sharing that article.

      Becky

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      • I honestly had no thought of “pitting” you against Mike. I, like you, have never seen you as taking a position opposite from Mike. On the contrary, I thought you and Mike would both agree with Lori’s post. I was not trying to stir up anything at all. I simply liked her article, felt she was calling us to a lofty place, and thought you and Mike, and others who have thought about the issue, would like the article.

        I will continue sharing articles I think you’ll like. Don’t worry. You won’t get rid of my so easily, Beck. 🙂

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  5. I mean, I could NOT care less. 🙂

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  6. I agree with the gist of your points, Becky. One of the things I’ve always tried to do is be respectful in disagreeing with other people. Some will, no matter what, take any disagreement as a personal attack (que the gay marriage debate), and sometimes I fail at my own ideal as well. But it has allowed me to make friends with atheist and pagans while debating topics. Generally, if you show respect to others, they will respect you as well.

    And it is that kind of thing that tends to be missing when people don’t remember there is another soul on the other end of that internet connection, and they would never say what they are saying if they were sitting next to them in person.

    I guess since I’ve already said my peace the last time this topic came around, in my own blog post as well as comments (I think here) and on Mike’s blog, I didn’t even feel a need to jump into it this time.

    Weaker Brother Issue
    http://blog.rlcopple.com/?p=667

    To Explict or Not to Explict
    http://blog.rlcopple.com/?p=395

    At least, I don’t think my “position” has changed much, so no use resaying it. I’ll just point to those blogs. 🙂

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