So I have a Twin who is one of my biggest fans. He likes my writing and is an easily bribed editor in a pinch, usually just takes a bottle of rum. And I get an honest review of anything I write. This is handy given that as it exists online there is also another guy who looks like me but isn't quite me either.
Jon and I look the same but we are in fact quite different. I'm fatter, he's more resourceful, and we both like books and working for churches but how we come about it is often a topic of one of our frequent phone calls.
But there's another version of our shared face out there that is often found hiding behind the cover of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. And that is R.G. Michales. R. G. whose letters do not stand for any proper nouns like Ryan or Reginald or Gregory or Graham is an entirely fictional person. Made that way on purpose to filter out my young adult writing from my non-fiction writing. I'm fairly open about this but feel it necessary to explain. Not because I don't think the people reading my work and rambling on theology can't grasp what a pen name is for, but rather what a pen name isn't for.
R.G. only exists to separate books about teenage drama and growing up in North America, from books written about the theological principles of online church and political commentary. He uses the same theological and political mind I have to write his books and imbue his characters and plots with realism and meaning, all the same. But what R.G. doesn't do, is run or help run any sort of vice tourism
Now maybe you haven't heard of the term before so here's your definition.
Vice tourism is when you use a medium like books or video games to do things you aren't morally allowed to do because by consuming the medium, you aren't actually doing the thing itself.
An essential part of the struggle I had in creating and then deciding to use a pen name was knowing what that name would and wouldn't be doing. Because let's be clear if R.G.'s avatar wasn't clearly my poufy hair behind my favourite book on writing, if it were a vaguely human anime avatar instead, then I could hide like Adam did in the Garden of Eden. And just like Adam, the fig leaves of online anonymity are a moot point with God. But you can bet your sweet apples it would work on almost everyone else.
The reason I'm open about my pen name is that not being open would be sinful. It's a kind of deception that in its plainest form could look like a card trick that works on people who don't know how to google card tricks. But there's a very big difference between the small actions of someone using anonymity as a divider and using anonymity as an alibi. Pen names should never be used to do what you wouldn't or can't do with your real name attached. Writing erotica or gore with a pen name as a Christian author is the literary equivalent of Romans 6:1. But on a real level so would writing about kittens as if you were a woman in a blue summer dress when you're actually a man in jeans in a leather jacket.
Deception for righteousness' sake is a tricky topic to navigate. The midwives of the Hebrews straight up Lied to Pharoah when the false god-king sought to kill Hebrew boys at the birthing stool Exodus 1:15-20. Lying is a thing God hates. Listed twice in the 7 things he hates, Proverbs 6:16-19 .
But God was kind to these liars because of what their lie accomplished.
My transparency of what R.G. is up to is my attempt to Lie in a worthwhile way. A way that honours God and his word and his world and seeks to bless other people as well. All pen names should do this. not because I choose to do it this way. But because there isn't a pen name in the world that makes it past God as editor of our lives.