The Debate on PG-13 Content in Christian Fiction
Jul 16, 2012
There’s a heated debate going on in the CBA book blogging world about adult content in Christian fiction, particularly language. People have been blogging about this for a while, but the spotlight on this issue brightened considerably with the publication of Becky Wade’s My Stubborn Heart in May. I haven’t read the book, but reportedly it pushes the boundaries of what is considered acceptable language in Christian fiction. It contains words such as “crap,” “pissed,” “boobs,” and “balls” (referring to male anatomy). One reviewer also complained about instances of playing poker for money, designer name-dropping, Halloween observation, and characters practicing yoga. (I guess she would also be be scandalized if she saw me pulling out my yoga mat or distributing tootsie roll pops to mini Darth Vaders on Halloween…)
Shortly after the book’s release, popular blogger and Christian fiction author Mike Duran published a blog post applauding publisher Bethany House for “going against the grain of conventionality” and said he hopes “other Christian publishers will eventually follow suit.” Of course, there was bound to be a major rebuttal, and it came from Mark at Thoughts of a Sojourner in late June. Mark stated that he is “disturbed by this trend, and disturbed by those who defend it.” He went on to lament the direction Christian fiction is heading, saying, “If there is cursing in Christian fiction, and God forbid, sex scenes, which will be next–then why have Christian fiction at all?”
I am not offended by cursing in fiction–or any other type of media for that matter–as long as it’s true to the characters, does not disrespect the Lord’s name, and is not held up as a positive thing if it’s being used to degrade a human being. I think Sally Apokedak, commenting on Mike Duran’s post, said it best:
I have nothing against cursing, actually, if it’s not used to demean others. I would never want my children to say, “You’re an a-hole” but I wouldn’t want them to say, “You’re stupid” either. If they say, “I’m sorry I was such an a-hole,” that is perfectly acceptable to me. So it’s not the words I object to, it’s the way we treat others.
It doesn’t really matter to me what the character does. The thing I want to ask myself with every page I write is: Will my readers think this is sinful or fine for a Christian? Am I encouraging my reader to sin? Am I edifying or tearing down?
I think this cuts to the core of the issue, and it also indirectly addresses other types of adult content in Christian fiction, such as sex and violence, neither of which I have a problem with, as long as it’s not overtly gratuitous or presented in such a way that it encourages readers to sin.
The bottom line is that someone is always going to have a problem with the content of Christian fiction. For Mark, it’s salty language. Christian bookstores readily sell books that contain such language, but reject books that contain direct references to female anatomy (a double standard since male anatomy does not receive the same treatment). Then there are people like Russell Moore who take it ten steps further and actually try to compare Christian romance novels with pornography. I don’t think it’s worth getting all worked up over. If you are offended by a book than contains PG-13 content, then put it down and pick up something else.
What do you think about adult content in Christian fiction? Where do you draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable?