How weird is this? Yesterday I’m writing about how the church has to love you, and then... I see a movie called “Lars and the Real Girl.” Its premise is sort of creepy, but what it is, is a beautiful picture of a church behaving how it should.
In the movie, Lars is a young man, damaged by the death of his mother and the grief of his father, who lives in an outbuilding behind the home of his brother Gus and his pregnant wife, Karin.
He wants to be alone, but is clearly lonely. So when an office mate shows him a site where you can order a fairly lifelike, life sized sex doll, well, that’s just what he does. When she arrives in the mail, Lars is just messed up enough to think and act as if she is real. To him, she is a deeply religious former missionary. He names her Bianca and takes her to dinner at Gus and Karin’s, where he includes her in the dinnertime conversation. Sounds bizarre, right?
His family is disturbed - no, freaked out - about this strange turn of events, and ... naturally, they go first, to a doctor, and then... to the church.
The following discussion takes place after Gus and Karin have told their
Bible Study Class about Bianca and Lars. The class, all humble, nerdy-looking people in their 50’s and 60’s and 70’s, are bemused. Here is their conversation:
MR. HOFSTEDTLER: We don’t want anything to do with her. She’s a golden calf. Remember what happened with THAT.
MR. SHAW: He’s not worshipping her, they’re just dating.
MRS. SCHINDLER: She’s a missionary. That’s good, isn’t it?
MRS. PETERSEN: I never heard of such a thing!
MR. SHAW: But if we go along, are we encouraging bad habits?
MR. HOFSTEDTLER: These young people have no will power.
GUS: He’s SICK.
KARIN: We thought if we came to you, you could help--pave the way--a little. If you could try to understand. Please.
The group mumbles, not knowing what to do. Mrs. Gruner gets impatient.
BIBLE STUDY CLASS: Well, I don’t know ... never thought something like this ... shouldn’t expose the children ... but if he needs help ... belongs in a loony bin ...
MRS. GRUNER: Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s the big deal? (to Mrs. Schindler) Sally, your cousin puts dresses on his cats. (to Mrs. Petersen) Hazel, your nephew gave all his money to a UFO club. (to Mr. Hofstedtler) Arnie, everybody knows your first wife was a klepto.
MR. HOFSTEDTLER: She wasn’t!
MRS. GRUNER: Then how come she’s buried in a pair of my earrings?
REVEREND BOCK Now, that’s enough now.
MRS. GRUNER: These things happen. Lars is a good boy. You can depend on me.
GUS: Thank you, Mrs. Gruner.
MR. HOFSTEDTLER: Well, he can’t bring her to church, can he, Reverend Bock? Absolutely not.
The others look at Reverend Bock.
REVEREND BOCK: The question is, what would Jesus do?
See? That’s what I’m talking about! Lars is a broken man, and while the church people’s discussion contains typical reactions, shock, fear, pity, Scripture-quoting... it concludes with grace and genuine desire to do God’s will. The people not only agree to embrace Lars in all his brokenness, but eventually add Bianca herself to their congregation with enthusiasm and joy – putting her on committees, signing her up for charity work... So, not only do you not have to be “fixed” before you go to their church... you don’t even have to be real! Once surrounded by the church’s love and grace, Lars begins to heal, and eventually, to grow past his need for his stand-in girlfriend.
As a person who does not have her stuff together by any stretch of the imagination, it is a real relief to me that a place like this exists. Sometimes in my head I call it the Love Shack... like that old B-52s song.
“The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together – Love Shack baby, Love Shack bay-bee...” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leohcvmf8kM