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Monday, January 10, 2005

Hell yes I AM TOO a serious Christian writer, dammit!!

It's occurred to me - on several occassions - that some people visiting this blog might go away feeling confused, and perhaps even upset or offended, at some of the language that I use here at times. And maybe that it runs wildly afoul of my claim to be a Christian and that must be something I need to bear in mind: my testimony before others, including my mannerisms and speech, should be a reflection of God's presence in my life so that others might see it. And if I'm not allowing God the fullest sovereignty or at least enough to keep from sounding like a Kid Rock video, wouldn't that make me out to be a hypocrite?

It really felt weighed on my chest to address this issue, and maybe point toward this post if it should come up again (as one person tonight did pass along a private mail about it). So here goes...

Yes, I do sometimes use what is considered to be "vulgarity", "swearing", "harsh language", whatever you want to term it. But hopefully you've noticed that I'm very, VERY selective in choosing which words to use and when to use them. They aren't used indiscriminantly by any measure: in last night's post mocking the Armstrong Williams "pundit-ola" scandal I started off with the word "Hell"... and not in the theological sense either. A lot of people and especially fellow Christians would find using "Hell" like that to be the hallmark of a wicked tongue. There's been no regret in my heart for running with it.

Words are but a pitiful vehicle through which we strive to convey thoughts and ideas and if "Hell" in one sense implies a careless "sure why not?" attitude and if there's no other word that has the same kind of "umph!" to it... well, I've no problem with using it. Yeah I could have used "heck" instead, but given the seriousness of Mr. Williams' actions, something more mature was called for, I felt. The same rule applies to whenever I use "damn": sometimes it's "damn" and others it's "darn" (and "darn" has been used the most by far of the two).

Look, I ain't stupid or inconsiderate here (I hope anyway). I grew up in the South, where yunguns are told to say "yessir" and "nomam" and to not use those words that come out of Daddy's mouth whenever he bangs his thumb with a hammer by accident. Even in this day and age, children are taught to have a healthy respect for the way they talk... or at least respect it if they want to keep their buttocks healthy lest a parent screams "I'm gunna ware you out!" And it's not just 'cuz of upbringing either: a person's language does say much about their thoughtfulness and maturity. What does it indicate of a guy when he uses the "f---" word at least every five syllables? I knew people like that in college though: can't help but wonder if their lingo ended up being a benefit or a liability if they decided to keep it after graduating. Yet even in that environment there's no excuse for it: your choice of language is a component of your character... and you can't lower the standard for that just because you're in a less formal setting.

That said, I do use "Hell" and "damn", if I've carefully judged that a writing situation calls for it. And on one occassion in this blog (and the only time in my life that I've ever done this with a published work) I employed the word "sh-t", but that was definitely the "once in a blue moon" time that (fortunately) is exceedingly rare: it was a situation that, I really had to convey a lot of sheer rage. Won't point to where it is, but if you ever find it you'll probably see why and that in its context, it really did seem quite appropos. The time I used "G-d-damn" well... that was the MOST I ever considered using a word and in the end I judged that it would be in the same spirit that Stanley Hauerwas uses it in (doubt I'll ever be that good though :-P) If it ever happens again, so help me I swear I'll eat my hat.

I'll NEVER make use of the "f---" word unless it's a direct quote of another person, and that's been done here too (when I gave an account of the time George W. Bush called me an "asshole" and had his private Brownshirts... ahh nevermind: go find it if you wish, and judge for yourself). But to use it facetiously or even to express the most intense anger and frustration... no, not going there. I've never done that and Lord willing never will. There are rules and boundaries in place and to write "f---" like that... it might limit me in revealing the fullest sense of anger on some things, but that's one line I can't bring myself to cross. It becomes particularly distatesful when you know the origin of the word and what it was used for.

But there's another reason why I choose to write this way sometimes. One that I choose not to indulge anyone with the details of, save those most intimate to me. They understand it perfectly. If they did not or were to object at it, it would put a great burden on my conscience to alter my style: that's how much I trust their judgment. They are the ones who know my heart best, and who or what it is most oriented toward. Though I do guard my speech, there is no obligation for me to tailor it so that it reflects something that my heart is not.

And isn't that the irony? Because I've known too many Christians that put on a show before the world about how "good" they are, especially how they want to sound so righteous in their language. But those same Christians are just as likely to be the ones most harboring malice in their hearts toward others. Their vocabulary is as sanitary as a Lysol factory... and yet when you close your eyes and not just "hear", but listen to their words and the thoughts they carry, you come to realize that it's all a show, to one degree or another. They coat the rancor of the heart with honey from the tongue to make it all the more delectable. They should instead devote their minds toward being as salt... but then, what good is salt, when it loses its saltiness?

I know more than enough Christians who you would never, ever hear such words come from their mouths as I've sometimes used here. Far more often than not, they are also the ones who relish any opportunity to let it be known that they despise "liberals", those of other religions than their own, people "over there" that "want to destroy our great country", other Christians that "don't worship like we do", and a myriad of other points of dissent. A few of them have even openly cheered at the news of their "enemies" dying in some far-off disaster, like the recent tsunami.

These are Christians that are far more concerned with how they appear and sound in this world, than how their hearts are devoted to the Kingdom of God. They try to satisfy all "the rules" but constantly ignore the greatest commandment: "Love one another".

There's a couple of names for people like that: "legalists" is one. I have to use "hypocrites" though... although no word I know of in the English language defines the wrath and frustration I feel toward them with. I'm almost tempted to call them utterly "degenerate", since their hearts seem incapable of showing that Christ's presence has enticed them to love even their enemies.

I'm not perfect. And I have written some things that were not pure of motive, at all: things that I've come to regret and wish that I could take back. But I can't compromise the honesty I try to have between God and myself regarding the condition of my heart, be it good or bad. No amount of "clean language" can hide or alter that condition in the slightest. And if my style of writing and language could be deemed a product of a lifetime of experiences that shaped me into who I am today... well, I couldn't change that overnight if I gave it my fullest effort. But I can rest in the assurance that Someone better than myself is in charge of editing my vocabulary, that I am still a manuscript from which He is working on making the final publication... and I'd rather defer to His expertise than my own.

To that end I choose to speak, and write, and definitely pray to God, as an extension of where my heart is in the fullest sincerity. By the way, people who know me best will tell you that my prayers are VERY informal, unorthodox, sometimes downright crude. But that's just coming from who God made me to be and it shouldn't be construed as an indication of what He's still making me into.

Besides, I figure that if you can't be honest when talking to Him, how can you possibly be honest with yourself?

I love God. I try to love all others be they friend or foe (and I confess to falling far short of meeting that goal... but I'm not ashamed to own up to that failure, either). The last thing I would want is to either hurt someone be it intentional or ignorant, or to be untrue about who I am before our Father in Heaven. And if I or anyone else strikes those of more legalistic traditions as being "uncouth", "immoral" or even "blasphemers" who couldn't possibly be their brother or sister in Christ... well, what is that to people like me, really? It's not they that I'm ultimately answerable to, but God. But at least some of us are willing to be so individual as to be compelled to admit that we are weak before God, instead of concealing our flaws and self-desires among those of others beneath the lovely veneer of factioned "faith".