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.