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Essay

Taking Sex Dolls to Church

By November 7, 2013 One Comment
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The film Lars and the Real Girl tells the story about a young man—Lars—trying to work through relational and emotional issues. His mother died giving birth to him; his father, crushed by his wife’s death, was emotionally distant. Lars is awkward – living in his brother’s garage, unable to muster up a verbal response to a woman at work who is clearly interested in him. Until one day, Bianca arrives. Bianca is a life sized sex doll. Lars treats her like a real, flesh and blood, girlfriend. He pushes her around in a wheel chair, talks to her, argues with her, he tells people about her missionary work. (She’s on a sabbatical…) His brother and sister-in-law are told that Lars is decompensating… that he’s working through significant issues. Her advice? Go with it. Follow Lars lead. And that’s what the community does. Bianca is welcomed at church, she’s accepted at parties, she even gets elected to the school board. The entire community – at times begrudgingly – accepts Bianca as a part the community. Why? Because they love Lars. “We do it for you!” his sister-in-law shouts when Lars accuses them of not caring. The hard work of bathing, clothing, and transporting a sex doll all over the community – they do it because they love Lars. 

After watching Lars and the Real Girl with Ecclesiology students I asked, “So, do you think our churches would accept a sex doll as a visitor? Would we be willing and able to ‘go along with it’?” It led to a wonderful discussion about what it means to be the church “in” and “for” the world. Students talked about entering the lives of others to help them deal with their “stuff.” We talked about what it means to be “normal” and the unattainable ideals we constantly hold each other up to. Students talked about their struggles, and the lonely despair that comes from thinking your the only person in the world with a particular concern or problem. So I asked them: What does it mean to “weaken” our churches? What if the Christian community practiced love and grace in such a way that the institutional structures – the litmus tests of who’s in and who’s out – cracked wide open, unable to contain the “event” of new creation and reconciliation in Jesus Christ? We diecided that Lars and the Real Girls is about being church, not in a way that gets everyone to believe and act the same, but in a way that turns toward the world to perform God’s reconciling love and grace revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

One Comment

  • Sara Tolsma says:

    Lars and the Real Girl is in my "top five" favorite movies. My favorite scene is when Bianca is "dying" and the ladies from church gather at Lars' home to sit. They don't talk or say the inane things I have heard said when someone is dying – rather they are just present with Lars. It's a beautiful model for us!

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