Thursday, January 01, 2009

lars and the real girl

We watched Lars and the Real Girl last night. It's a fascinating movie about a young man, Lars Lindstrom [Ryan Gosling] lives in the converted garage behind the house he and his brother Gus [Paul Schneider] inherited from their father. Lars finds it difficult to interact with his brother and sister-in-law Karin [Emily Mortimer], his co-workers, and people at Holy Grace Lutheran Church.

One day he buys a life-size doll - a wheelchair-bound missionary of Brazilian and Danish descent named Bianca - from an adult website, and presents her to his family as his girlfriend. After a consultation with their family doctor [Patricia Clarkson], his brother and sister-in-law decide to go along with it (his brother begrudgingly) and carefully tell co-workers, church members, and others about Lars’ delusion.

Part of the tension in the film is wondering who the jerk is going to be. Where are the teenaged boys to whistle and tease? Where’s the insensitive cad at the party? The jerk coming out of a bar?

When Lars’ brother and sister-in-law have a meeting with people at church (on folding chairs, in a circle, in the basement) one woman points out that other people in the church have problems, too, so what’s the big deal. She rattles off a few faults of relatives of the people in the circle and then points to one older man and finishes, ”...and your wife was a klepto.” “She was not!” the man retorts. “Then why is she buried in my earrings?” says the woman, not in an accusing way, but in a way that communicates that she simply absorbed this woman’s failings as part of being in a relationship with her. The church then simply accepts Lars and Bianca for Lars' sake.

It is obvious that in this small town, people aren’t just going along to get along. They are going along in love. In one of the early scenes, before Bianca arrives, Lars is in church and is playing with action figures while the pastor drones on that God is love, and when we love we can be God in action.

And that really is the key to the film. And it's right here that far too often we, the church, blow it. If a young man came into your congregation pushing a life-sized doll in a wheelchair and introduced her as his girlfriend, how would you react? Your children? Your board? I can hear the uncomfortable laughter from here.

How far would you go to include someone else who seemed left out? That question gets torn up and thrown away by Jesus, whose very life was given up to make outsiders insiders. Those separated from the love of God can find redemption in Jesus' death on the cross, and truly come alive. We're all socially inept, unable to talk with or be with God, but God creates community for us, opening the door through Jesus' sacrifice. And that love itself makes us all real boys and girls.

God is love.
When we love, we get to be God in action.
Sounds like gospel to me.


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