Christianity and Literary Swearing
I’m Christian. I’ll even go so far as to say I’m a Latter Day Saint (Morman) so I abstain from smoking, alcohol, premarital sex, and swearing. I also have a super guilty conscience, which helps drives my day-to-day while staying in line with my beliefs.
I’m an author. I write characters who smoke, drink, engage in premarital sex, and swear. And I don’t have a guilty conscience when writing about it.
Some may believe, “Well, since you ‘can’t’ do those things in real life, you can still ‘enjoy’ it in your writing. THAT’S why you do it.”
Maybe in another life, but that’s not why I write about those things. I’ll tell you why: not swearing is not realistic. And in all things, writing must be realistic.
I grew up in a religious house. We watched clean shows and listened to clean music. In watching a clean cartoon (Actually, it was G-Gundam) the good guy and the bad guy were facing off. Bad guy had killed good guy’s father.) “You dirty piece of filth!” Good Guy screams.
Dirty. Piece. Of. Filth. Dude…this guy JUST killed your father. If someone had murdered my father in front of me, I’d turn into a psychotic banshee where’d I’d be screaming so loud I wouldn’t be able to even form swear words.
I must have been 15 years old or so when I watched this, and – again – having grown up in a religious home, I still had a corner of my mind where I went, “Huh? I feel much stronger words should be used there.” But I still knew swearing was bad, yet I thought swearing was needed in that scene, so……
I grew up, moved out, and began writing stories. At first I wrote my characters as not swearing and I was proud of the fact that my characters were good and clean. But then I frowned when character A chopped off character B’s head. That’s not clean – or Christian behavior – so why was I opposed to swearing, and not chopping off heads? For that matter, I was writing a fantasy, a made-up world, so Christianity didn’t exist in it. So what driving force was keeping my characters’ swearing in check?
It took me a few years to figure out where I stood between my faith and my writing to come to this conclusion:
1) Swearing is real life. I’ve seen it in the military, as a deputy sheriff, and everywhere else I associate with other humans. It’s not real life to say, “you dirty piece of filth,” because passion drives swearing, and if your father were murdered in front of you, I’m certain you’d be more passionate than that.
2) If you've read the bible, the only commandment I found that talks about swearing is “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” The other swear words are just words. Fuck. Shit. Cunt. Those are all words we made up and couldn’t even tell one another why or how they originated. They’re just words we’ve fueled with passion to make our points come across. “Thou shalt not take the lord’s name in vain.” Sounds pretty vague, but my faith feelers tell me that “Oh my G*d” is taking the Lord’s name in vain so you will never ever ever see that expression – or similar ones – in my writing. I can deal with that. Because I have a whole bunch of other made-up words I can use in its place.
3) What I write about is not what I do in real life. Writing is therapeutic in the sense that we can bleed out our aggressive emotions on paper so we don’t have those feelings anymore to compel us to actually act on what we wrote out. Is God going to judge me for what I write on paper and NOT carry out? If I thought about killing a real person in my life, sure, I’m to be judged for that. Am I to be judged for writing about killing a character who doesn’t even exist?
My religious family and friends might believe I swear because my characters do, but then they should also believe I drown people, cut off their heads, and burn them alive. Of course I do those things.
Remember, I have a guilty conscience and I DO want to follow in the guidelines my religion set for me. So if you are like me, yet struggle on how to incorporate worldly vices into your stories, I hope this post helped give you some direction.