Why My Christian Memoir Has R-Rated Words (Guest Post at Convergent)

Are you getting so tired of hearing about my book? I feel like I’ve been talking about it a lot lately. I’ll be back to more normal stuff next week, but it just feels like everything started happening at once…and of course, I had to tell you about it all.

Today I’m honored to be over at the brand new blog of my publisher, Convergent Books. I took this opportunity to write specifically about the language I used in my memoir, because it’s a big deal to me.

I used curse words. I used them deliberately. I used them even though I know and respect and understand why it might feel like an issue for some of my readers. Even though I know it meant that many Christian bookstores would not sell my book.

RratedI’ve written candidly before about swearing. This piece I wrote a while ago for Deeper Story (“In Defense of the Four-Letter-Word”) was one of the more controversial posts that I’ve written.

But at Convergent today, I wanted to talk specifically about the surprising role of four-letter-words in my own faith journey. And the way that God used this language to speak into my darkness.

I hope you’ll follow me over there. Here’s the beginning:

When I began looking for a publisher for my memoir, When We Were on Fire, I didn’t have a dream list of demands or stipulations. I had only one question that lurked at the edge of my mind: Will they want to sanitize my story?

My manuscript felt like such a wily thing. It was a literary memoir that was a little too Jesus-y for a mainline press. It was a Christian book with too much shadowy doubt and too many sharp edges of pain. Try as I might, I couldn’t picture it shelved in the Inspirational section of a Christian bookstore, next to all the Jesus-swag.

And, of course, there was the matter of language… (Read the rest here.)

12 thoughts on “Why My Christian Memoir Has R-Rated Words (Guest Post at Convergent)

  1. Back in my day, churches preached against the concept of “Christian rock”, saying it was appropriating worldly methods to communicate the gospel message. Rhetorically, they would say “You wouldn’t use swear words to preach the gospel, would you?” A decade later, I’m like, “Hell yes I would!”

  2. No, never tire of hearing about your book. I do tire of thinking, “I’LL GO BUY IT! Oh crap, it’s not out yet. Waiting sucks.”

    Off to read your post.

  3. I’m back because I have two thoughts about your excellent article. (And I have a problem being long-winded, so I thought I’d come back to your homey blog to write…)

    1. A couple weeks ago my oldest (who is a “good” kid just like I was when I was little) called my husband “a moron with a cow” in the spirit of jest during a big water fight. He was then MORTIFIED that he had said the word moron, even though he wasn’t sure what it meant. As his parents we died laughing because it was so unexpected. (And “with a cow”? What?) Then we did explain what it meant and had a chat with him about the importance of words, but when I think of the huge value he had put on that word since he thought it was bad, as opposed to our view of the entire situation which took into account how he said it and what he meant and everything, I can see the implications to how God is not at all scandalized by words we might feel are bad. Does that make sense?

    2. The line, ” who knew God could sanctify a swear word?” was so redemptive. How often I forget that he can redeem ANYTHING. That there is nothing too foul that his touch can’t purify. Whether it’s Jesus touching a decaying and dead body and filling it with health and life our God infusing a “dirty” word with cleansing light.

    Thanks, like always, for your thoughts.

  4. I’m a little older than you and raised in a Pentecostal denomination (through the 70s and into the very late 80s when I was in college). And my parents were thought to be “liberal” because I got to go to the movies, listen to lite-rock, go to prom (went to 3, thankya!) …. but I was a quintessential “Good Girl Poster Child”

    Still, I will never forget the first time I used a swear word — and DIDN’T get blasted by lightning. Free. I felt free. It made me think that just maybe all they’d taught me about God was maybe not quite right. Maybe he loved us more than he was angry or disappointed at us. Maybe it meant I’d have to stop trying to constantly curry his favor, because I already had it, there for the asking.

    There’s still one word I cannot wrap my brain and tongue around saying so I don’t…. everything else, fair game. Because sometimes “meanie-head” and “Oh fiddlesticks” just doesn’t cut it at all. 😀 Can’t wait to read the book; got a feeling it will be a slow read for me just to allow things to process. 21 years as a confirmed Catholic and I still get willies thinking about some things from my past religious life, and wondering when the day will come that I won’t.

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