Profanity — Acceptable or Unacceptable

Okay, so I have heard differing views on this in the Christian writing realm, and was surprised when I attended a workshop recently where the speaker spoke about the importance of including “absolute truth” in our writing, be it fiction or nonfiction. This speaker also stressed that “absolute truth” only comes from the Bible, which I completely agree with.

The speaker also spoke about the difficulties of getting published with a Christian publisher because they have very strict rules, and the speaker mentioned that if we, as writers, want to reach non-believers, we won’t be able to do that if we publish with a Christian publisher, which I tend to agree with.

However, the speaker also said that it was okay to use profanity; that it makes it more realistic.  (This is something I have heard many times before).  I have been thinking about the contradiction in that workshop — “absolute truth” from God’s word, which clearly says, in Ephesians 4 and 5, where Paul is preaching about believers living as children of the Light:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.  

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”   (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:10)

I know that I could have simply shared Ephesians 4:29, but many people make accusations about taking scripture out of context, so I wanted it to be clear that the context is clear.  There is no question that we are not to participate in such behaviors, according to the “absolute truth” of God’s word, the Bible.

Therefore, if we are not to participate in those behaviors with our mouths, isn’t also our responsibility to not participate in those behaviors with our pen or keyboard?

As for the thing about using profanity making it more realistic, I have to say that I live a real life and do not use profanity, and in my real life it has been my experience that when others know that I do not use profanity, even if it is a normal part of their speech, they try not to use it around me and if they slip and use it, they immediately apologize.  My husband has told me the same thing happens to him.

Finally, I have to say that I know many people who use profanity daily, and yet I have never heard them complain about a book that they have read or even a movie or T.V. show that they have watched stating, “That was unrealistic.  There wasn’t enough profanity in that.”  Nor have I heard any of them base their like or dislike on a book, movie or T.V. show on how much profanity, or lack thereof, was included.

Therefore, I will continue to stand on my convictions and write profanity-free.

What do you think?  Profanity — Acceptable or Unacceptable?

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5 thoughts on “Profanity — Acceptable or Unacceptable

  1. Donna, I hope you will understand that I edited your comment. I wasn’t criticizing or judging the speaker. We all have things we need to deal with. I simply mentioned that speaker’s workshop because she had got me to thinking about the contradiction in what she said in regard to profanity and the “absolute truth” of God’s word. She wasn’t the first Christian I heard say that it’s okay to include profanity in your writing because it makes it more realistic. I’ve heard it several times before. It was just the contradiction that struck me and sent me looking to see what God’s word really says about it, and I wanted to share that for others, just to offer food for thought and to take my own stand.

    Cody, Thank you for your comment. I’m glad I could offer some clarity on the subject, but it was really God’s word that provided the clarity. 🙂

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  2. I’m with you and Brenda. There is no reason to have profanity come out of a Christian’s writing. Just because we do it in anger doesn’t excuse the behavior. Good post, Kelly! 🙂

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  3. I totally agree. There is no reason to violate God’s standards in writing, speaking or in any other way. If He wanted us to have exceptions it would have been clearly stated. 🙂 Even non-Christian comedians will tell you that it takes more talent to entertain without profanity. I say stick to your guns and honor Christ in ALL things, including your art form.

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  4. I agree with you 100%, Kelly. Christians should set the standard in all areas including writing, not lower our standard to meet the world. If our stories are well written and entertaining, people will read them and not miss what’s missing. If I have to use profanity to make my characters realistic, I guess they’ll remain bland. But I think, they can be hard-nosed, realistically bad-to-the-bone characters without actually putting the words in their mouths. We all know what those words are.

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