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, 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.

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Lest you think I'm being dramatic or judgmental, hear me out: When God calls people to write (or teach or fill cavities or sell concessions), God expects us to do it well (Ecc. 9:10, Col. 3:23) and to his glory (1 Cor. 10:31). And writing in an excellent way, in a way that honors God, requires a few things: Writers must master the craft of writing, writers must be fearless, and writers must know—and use—their voices. While these three qualities are also essential to writers who don't give a rip about honoring God, to those of us who write to honor God, they take on holy importance. After all, when we believe God's called us to write, then we believe our role is a prophetic one: to shine light in darkness, to speak truth into lies. And we do this by telling our stories, by putting words to our experiences, by offering our very selves—and doing it all fearlessly with our God-given voices, not necessarily one acceptable to any and all possible reader.

Of course, to do this means that sometimes these stories include "near profanities" (as they are called), mentions of wine and anatomically precise words for actual body parts, and details about situations that make others uncomfortable. But it is through words, the true and right words, that we're able to prophesy as we're called to do.

This is not to say that the more "foul" or shocking is always the better, more God-honoring writing. And this is not to say we don't all need a "good stiff edit." The best editors will note where language or voice or stories don't ring true, where they fail structurally or where they are being clichfamp;copy;. They will know where writers are being crass or shocking for its own sake and when they are not trying to speak truthfully and carefully for Jesus' sake.

But there's a world of difference between being edited and being censored. It's been rightly pointed out by many people that according to their own standards, many Christian bookstores ought not to carry the Bible. Those of us who've read the Bible know it includes a fair share of "near profanities." And yet, we call it the Truth.

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while no writer today is writing the Word of God, we can't forget that writers who seek to follow Christ are called to convey his message. Because of that, writers have a high and terrifying calling. We share private stories, intimate details. We take our confessions public. And to do that in a God-honoring way requires the real words for the real experiences. It requires truth to get to the Truth.

And the truth is: We need to stop being so afraid of the truth. God isn't.

Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down (Tyndale, 2011) and a regular contributor to Her.meneutics. Visit Caryn at