I was on my way home from church yesterday, when my phone buzzed in my pocket to let me know that I had gotten an email. So I did what any responsible internet-addict would do and whipped it out to read a line or two at a time while occasionally glancing up at the road to make sure that I was still approximately on the road.
The email was from Ellie Anne Soderstrom, who is (by virtue of there not being much competition in this field) probably my biggest fan. She wrote:
I’m really curious about how you decided that you wouldn’t write about sex & you won’t use any bad language. It’s something that I’m really struggling with right now, and I’d really appreciate what you have to say about it.
Which is an excellent question. There are lots of bloggers and writers out there that sling profanity left and right and center, many of them quite talented (I’m looking at you Chuck Wendig). Why should I be such a prude about language?
It might surprise you that the answer is not because I think profanity in and of itself is wrong.
“But Albert,” you might be saying. “You’ve mentioned in several interviews that your faith is very important to you. You’ve said that you read the Bible every day. Are you trying to tell us that that has nothing to do with your decision not to use swear words in your writing?”
Now back up a minute. That isn’t what I said at all. What I said was I don’t believe swearing is in and of itself a sin. But my personal beliefs do have a lot to do with my decision to abstain from profanity.
In the eighth chapter of the book of Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote to the people who lived in Corinth about a problem they had. Some of them were eating food that had been offered to idols (unsurprisingly, the statues themselves couldn’t eat it, so the temple sold it to people who could at a discount) but others were offended by this because they believed that eating food that had been in proximity with a pagan deity to be wrong.
Paul’s response was basically, Hey, it’s just meat. The fact that it was offered to an idol doesn’t make any difference because he’s just a dumb piece of rock carved to look like Bozo the clowns ugly stepmother.
(In case you couldn’t tell I’m paraphrasing rather liberally here.)
But Paul didn’t stop there. He went on to say, HOWEVER not everyone around you believes that way. Some of them look at that steak that’s been offered to that statue and they think that eating it would be a sin. Just because you know this isn’t true doesn’t mean you get to act all high and mighty and shove the fact that you’re eating at Baal’s Discount Steak House down their throats.
He went on to say.
But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
So what does any of this have to do with swearing? Simply this:
I believe that words are just words. All of them. The only power any of them have is the power we give them in our own mind.
BUT. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start carpet-bombing f-bombs in my blog posts and my writing. Because I’m responsible for more than just myself. There are other Christians out there who would look at my use of profanity and be offended by it. Still worse there would be non-Christians who would view my use of “bad language” as hypocritical.
Regardless of the inherent right or wrongness of profanity it would be foolish of me to ignore the connotations linked to it in the popular mind. As a Christian my number one goal in life should be to bring glory to my God, and I cannot think of a single scenario in which the cause of Christ would be helped by my exercising my liberty in this matter.
I realize that some of you won’t agree with this. Some of you may not even understand it. But I’ve come to the place in my life where I realize there’s no point in trying to win the blogging popularity contest at the cost of watering down my Christianity. That’s not to say that this blog is going to become some kind of religious diatribe, but if I feel the urge to speak out about something pertaining to my faith I’m not going to fight it for the sake of my readership.
If you’re offended or put off by what I say, then you’re more than welcome to stop reading. We all have to decide what we will do with God as individuals and I’m not here to twist your arm or put you on a guilt trip to get you to see things my way. But I’m through being worried that people won’t like me if they know how important Jesus Christ is in my life.
This is where I stand. This is who I am.