I’ve been getting a little flack on the amount of language in the book, and — ya know — I can’t say that I blame anyone.

The violence, the language, the strip club and innuendos…

Raised my entire life in the church, having a very religious family, a very religious upbringing, The Dark Communion is not the book most that really know me expected me to produce.  I knew that going in.  I knew the audience would be polarized, that the language and worldly content would throw off the churchy crowd and the religious content and analogies might off-put the unchurched.

So who’s my audience?

God knows.  Above anything else, I believe this story was given from him.  I believe he’s crafted it to reach a targeted demographic.  I trust it will.

But I’m getting off topic.  This is about the vulgarity.  And here’s my take on it:

Over ten years ago, back when I still lived in the cold, wintery north, some friends and I frequented a “Next Gen” church.  Held Saturday evenings at the Salvation Army downtown, the church was branded a “Come as you are” place to worship, and the pastor was a tattooed, pierced drummer from a Ska band.  That’s what I loved about it.  Here was a church that I really felt was free of judgment.  It didn’t matter what you wore, where you came from, how you decorated your body, or even your sexual preference.  It was a collection of honest, broken people that didn’t pretend they were anything else coming together to worship Jesus.  And in a place like that, nothing was traditional.  Not even the messages.

The one that stands out to me, was the message on swearing.  The Bible never mentions modern swear words.  Those are human inventions.  But for whatever reason, those words have been set apart in culture and vernacular and branded low-brow, vulgar, taboo.  At least in certain circles.  But the message given was that words have power.  And that swear words were sought out because the speaker wanted a word of power.  Something bigger and better than normal words.  That makes a world of sense when taking the Lord’s name in vain.  There is no word out there with more power than the name of Jesus.  It’s the name that makes demons flee and darkness tremble.

There’s a point to be made from that, but I’ll come back to it.  I need to veer off here and tell my other story first.

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine — a spiritual mentor in many ways.  He told me this story he’d heard about the Gospel being spread overseas amongst American soldiers.  Bible studies were being held, and these rough, grim men were giving their hearts and their lives to the Lord.  He finished the story with saying how these soldiers were so on fire for God, and given their military vernacular, their expression was lacking.  He gave the example of one soldier that stated, “I fucking love Jesus!”

What my friend saw was an error that needed correcting.  He said the soldiers needed to be pruned, brought back, made to understand they shouldn’t talk like that.

What I heard was the passion in the man.  His heart. The intimate, burning desire of his love toward his Creator.

A few years ago, I was walking through a Family Christian Store looking for a new book.  After twenty minutes going up and down the aisles, I left empty handed, praying, “God, why are there no good Christian books?”

Many people will argue that God doesn’t actually talk to people, but I swear to you, I heard him tell me, “Write one.”

This was before Christian thriller writers like Ted Dekker.  Dekker’s stories are good, exciting, captivating.  And many props need to be given to him for expanding the Christian market to a broader audience.  For my money, it was Frank Peretti who really opened up Christian fiction, but it was Dekker that brought it more into the mainstream.  And from Dekker, we have the Eric Wilsons, the Tosca Lees, the Steven Jameses.  And I take a knee before each of those great writers because they’re wonderful at doing what they do.

But the last Ted Dekker book I read, he details a scene where a man’s penis is mutilated.  And yet, a few chapters later, there’s a car chase scene.  The main character is in the back of a cab, the cab is being attacked, spinning out of control.  And…”The cab driver swore.”

Penises can be ripped off, men can be made into girls, but a cab driver can’t say damn.  Or hell.  Or more likely, shit.  It seems more fantastic to me to have a man disfigured in such a way than for an old cabbie to be censored.  Even in a Christian novel.  It pulled me out of the book.  And I get that it may not have been Dekker’s fault.  It may have been the editor’s call.  But…really?  What would I rather my kid read?

See, I may not talk vulgarly, but I’m not offended by that kind of language.  I understand that it may make someone sound lower class, less intelligent. That there are certainly better ways to communicate a point.  But there are fewer more stripped-down and honest ways.  Nothing sounds more phony than adopting a fake English accent and using the biggest words you know.  Or think you know.  I was an English major in college.  I read a lot of classic literature: Shakespeare, Thorough, Dickens, Mary Shelly.  I can understand the big words, but I don’t enjoy them as much.  Sure, it feels higher class, but it feels dolled up.

Here, I’m writing a story for the average person.  I’m not writing it in Latin so only a priest can interpret it for the masses.  I’m writing it in a language that feels real, feels accessible.

See, in my life and in my walk with the Lord, I’ve been in some really low places, and I’ve known a lot of people in some really low places, and I do know this: people that are far away from God — that intentionally run from and want nothing to do with God — don’t censor themselves.

Swyftt is a character that has been running from God for twenty years.  In creating him, I wanted a character that felt believable.  I wanted someone that would be relatable.  Because here’s the thing: God gave me this story.  This is a story about redemption and salvation, in the end.  This is a fictional testimony of a man who goes through some very dark times and comes out on top because he will eventually discover where his true help comes from.  But he’s going to go through the mud before he does.  And in the past, I’ve said this is the story of Saul before becoming the Apostle Paul. I think Saul would have been the kind of man Christians wouldn’t have liked.  They would have feared him.  They would have rejected his Facebook requests.  Saul killed Christians.  I think he would have cut off penises.  I think he also would have said shit.  Or maybe not publicly because he was a religious figure, but privately.  One big difference between Saul and Swyftt is that Swyftt doesn’t care about saving face.

See, Swyftt can get away with the language because he’s looking for words of power, yet at the same time, he has no regard for power.  Here’s a man who’s danced with demons and laughed in the face of fallen angels.  He spent three days talking to God, and rather than affirm his faith in the divine, he turned in his priest collar and ran the other direction.  He’s a man who flirts with power but looks up her skirt any chance he gets.  There’s nothing sacred to him anymore.

The language is as much a commentary on his character, his blatant disregard, as it is an attempt to stay true to the culture.  It’s also a way to disarm the audience.  I’m writing these books, not for the church, but for people who don’t like the church.  For people who hate Christians.  Who hate preconceived notions of what Christianity is and who Jesus must be as a result of it.  I’m putting the Gospel into the words of the common man, in the most unassuming manner I can, and presenting a sympathetic, relatable character that — I hope — will lead others to say, since he can be redeemed, maybe there’s hope for me, too.

And the irony of it all is that I’m not even immune to this way of thinking.  I’ll be the first person to admit that God inspired this story and the Holy Spirit intervened at specific intervals throughout the entire writing process, but given the vulgar nature, I sometimes feel weird — embarrassed — by telling people that.  But I shouldn’t be.  Because Jesus spoke in parables to the people.  He didn’t stand up at a pulpit and preach to the choir.  He didn’t read from the Bible and condemn them.

When Jesus taught, he spoke to common people in a manner they would understand and relate to.  He talked about lost coins, lost sheep.  He used metaphors to explain and expound upon the meaning of the Gospel.  And, as I remember, the religious leaders of his day didn’t like it.

My mom told me that my grandfather would have a heart-attack reading my book, and I understand that my step-mom isn’t a fan at all.  But that’s okay.  I still love them, still respect their opinions.

I don’t want it to be a secret that I love and am a follower of Jesus Christ, but if you’re someone who isn’t in to church, doesn’t trust or like Christians, I hope you’re not put off from the books now.  Because I’m not a preacher, and these books are not my pulpit.  I’m going to write the stories as God reveals them in a language that is accessible and true to the characters.  I’m going to tell a great story, and the books will have a message that you may or may not get anything out of.  Certainly not everyone will, but…he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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Comments
  1. Dad says:

    I understand your point, but there are still instances where the f word is used just for the hell of it.

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