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ACW

Monday, 19 October 2015

Live a bit - by Veronica Zundel

Here’s a confession. Since my mother died, I’ve been swearing more and drinking more alcohol. And here’s another: I’m rather enjoying it. Now you’re shocked. I know you are. They are both things Christians aren’t meant to do. Because we may be saved by grace but after we’ve gotten saved, woe betide us if we ever do anything remotely naughty. We are the Galatians: we started with the Spirit, but by Heligoland,  we are going to go on with the law.

Let me tell you something. The teaching that baptism washes away our sins but any sin after baptism is unforgivable, is Jehovah’s Witness teaching. It’s not remotely Christian. And anyway, whoever said swearing and drinking are sins? When Jesus talked about not swearing by anything in earth or heaven, he didn’t mean using words beginning with ‘b’ or ‘f’ (pick your favourite) but about swearing an oath to prove you were telling the truth, in court or out. Christians are meant to be truth-tellers at all times. That’s why we Mennonites, and Quakers, won’t swear oaths in court but only affirm that we are telling truth - as we always do.

What about the drink then? I'll come clean. After one glass of wine or beer (or maybe
sloe gin) that’s me finished. I really can’t drink any more. I just do it a bit more often than I used to. No, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the taste.Or it may be that lovely mellow feeling... And what did Jesus drink at the Last Supper? I'm betting ( another sin) it wasn't Ribena.

Does any of this, I hear you ask, have anything to do with writing? Well yes, I think it does. I’m not suggesting we should ‘sin so that grace may abound’, but I do sometimes wonder if the reason some writing by Christians can be so insipid, is that we haven’t actually done much living to write about. I know some of us have struggled with illness, physical and mental, or bereavement, or violence. These things, which life throws at many of us, tend to make our writing more authentic. Look at the Bible, which is full of murder, rape, incest and all kinds of disturbing things. I’m sure that if it were published today, some religious people would want to ban it. But it isn’t half well written.

I don’t believe in seeking out suffering, or sin, in order to improve our writing. That would be silly, if not actually morbid. But are we simply too good to write well? Not real goodness, which gets its hands dirty and somehow still comes out smelling of roses, but a careful, self-protective virtue which keeps us away from anything that might contaminate or compromise us? Might we write better if we took a few more risks? Do we really believe in God’s forgiveness, if we are so mortally terrified of accidentally sinning? I don’t know the answer, but I’m off to pour a glass of wine and let out a few choice epithets to find out.

8 comments:

  1. Veronica, you are a tonic. And indeed, we can control (sometimes) what we say, but not so easily what we think, and not at all what we are. So we can be abstemious and pure of speech, and rank hypocrites at the same time. Here's my confession: already in a bad mood because I was doing too many (so I thought) tedious domestic tasks, I fell into the loft, hurt my shin and turned the air blue. Loudly.

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  2. Food (and drink!) for thought. I also wonder sometimes whether 'Christian' writing ends up sounding so squeaky clean that some people - believers or not - see it as inauthentic. Or is that a kind of holiness? I'm not entirely sure, but the debate is fascinating.

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  3. Wonderful and 'real' honest stuff, Veronica. I so agree. Funny story here: first time I was selling books (trying to) at a small Indie LitFest, a woman opened one of my novels, then showed me a page, pointing out the word 'b****r' said in dialogue by one of the characters. 'First word I saw!' she said, filled with self-rightousness. Gosh, I only write dialogue as it really is, without using the bleach of hypocrisy and making the book so squeaky clean you can hear 'Christian Story' from afar. Point I'm making here: not only are you totally correct about the meaning of 'swearing' but also that in writing we who do include such things do not do it 'to add realism' or 'to shock' but because, like any other characteristic, some people (or characters in fiction) naturally speak like that - it may well be offensive and not only to Christians, it may offend some others in the story! Do your characters 'speak' in your head? Yep, they do. Daisy definitely swears, at this point in the series anyhow. I draw the line at using the name of Jesus/Christ though, and that is a personal thing: I draw it there in real life. As for alcohol, never banned for religious reasons at home (it was a church background, but not fundamentalist) I am like Veronica unable to drink much of it anyway, it makes me feel really odd and sleepy, and sadly people always seem to think I'm being snobbishly judgmental when I stick to non-alcoholic drinks. One is spoiling the fun, they imply, one must, sadly, be very religious. No, just allergic to alcohol! But my characters are welcome to enjoy a pint, a glass or two of wine, a binge if that's who they are ... Yes, the debate is fascinating ...

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  4. Great post, Veronica. Since my mother was evicted from her home of 60 years by my sister, I confess to having uttered rather more than a few b words, and the odd f. Not so on the drinking because, like you, Veronica, I can only stomach one - and then only very occasionally.
    Interestingly, I once had a debate with Hugh Rae, novelist with Hodder & Stoughton under the name of Jessica Stirling. He professed to be a nihlist. And once, many years ago, he argued with me that Christians were far too hung up on the f word which, as he rightly said, was onomatopoeic when, at the time, we applauded the concept of a prostitute seducing and winning her man in the film, Pretty Woman. Made me think!

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  5. I'm here to confess that I CAN drink more than one glass and still walk in a (reasonably) straight line! Years of practice, you see, and growing up in an Irish Catholic family.

    My characters speak as authentically as I can make them and, yes, that means some of them swear (or use 'naughty' words) although very few ever blaspheme as I hate to hear that so that voice doesn't come into my head as I write.

    I have a strong, vibrant faith but I do find a lot of Christian fiction pretty sugary and predictable. (GP Taylor and C S Lewis exempt)

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  6. Love this, Veronica. You made me smile.
    Lets stop being so (ahem) blinking careful and live a little.
    Cheers!

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  8. A great post full of honest let's-stop-pretending-we're-perfect truth. I agree with everything you said here. Sadly my consultant says most asthmatics are allergic to the sulfites in wine so I've had to give it up. But am getting used to gin and vodka instead ;)

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