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When Christian Bookstores Ban Female Body Parts

Mar 27 2012
Unpacking the Rachel Held Evans-Thomas Nelson dust-up over the 'v-word.'

For me, it was the word crap. Later, it was the phrase darn it. Darn it.

for another friend, it was her dream of drinking champagne in a bubbly tub. Yet another friend had trouble mentioning drinking wine, location unknown.

And for yet another, it was walking into a sex shop that did it.

What are these things, you wonder? Why the language and talk of such unmentionables, perhaps you want to know? Well, these are the words or events we had to edit out so that certain Christian bookstores would stock our books.

while I'm sure other writers have brought this to light, in my writing world it had seemed this sort of issue stayed within a tight realm. It was the sort of thing we'd grumble about to our editors. Among writer friends, we'd roll our eyes and share war stories of the times we went to battle over the ever-changing list of "offensive" words (or beverages or situations) and lost. This is how it seemed to me, at least, until last week.

In a breathy post about her life as in the Christian publishing industry in general, blogger Rachel Held Evans wrote specifically about her about her forthcoming book about her experience living "biblical womanhood" for a year: "… I'm too busy arguing with my publisher. They won't let me use the word vagina in my book because we have to sell it to Christian bookstores, which apparently have a thing against vaginas." Though only one sigh among the many difficulties of being a Christian "industrialist," Evans's fans raced to her rescue for this.

Soon, a "Put the word 'vagina' back into Rachel's book" campaign popped up on Amazon.com, spurring Evans to write another post defending her publisher ,Thomas Nelson, (whom she says has "been great") and clarifying that "I can use the word vagina without repercussions as long as I am speaking strictly anatomically."

while the cynic in me—the one who still wonders if John Piper and Rob Bell were in cahoots—would normally see "Vaginagate" (as Evans and others are calling it) as nothing more than the fine publicity stunt it very well may be and while I am worn way down by all the battling between "types" of Christians, Vaginagate hit a nerve for me—especially as someone called by God to write.

The problem with Vaginagate—and any other effort to remove specific and frank language from books written by faithful Christians—isn't that bookstores don't have the right to decide what types of books they will or will not sell. They are businesses after all, and to be successful, businesses need to sell products their customers will read without getting up in arms. The problem with Vagina-gate and similar forms of "censorship" is that, in an attempt to protect customers, publishers and bookstores are making it a lot harder for writers to tell the stories God has called them to write. And when Christians are barred by other Christians from serving God, it dishonors God. In fact, it's sin.

Related Topics:Censorship; Writing

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When Christian Bookstores Ban Female Body Parts