Opinion Piece Published Feb. 28, 2011

Controversial Language. Biblical Message.

Students’ eyes were forward, heads were up and ears were pricked as Mary Karr started speaking in chapel on Wednesday. She had us hooked from the moment she started talking about the nose-picker/thumb-sucker who sat next to her on the plane the day before. I assume most people’s minds started rolling with “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” sorts of judgmental thoughts toward that man. I know mine did. But seriously, what kind of grown man sucks his thumb and unabashedly picks his nose?

And then Karr said “boink,” and the giggles rippled over the audience. It was all downhill from there. Not as far as Karr’s message — that grew more and more convicting as she went on. No, it was the audience that went tumbling sheltered head over uncomfortable heel after “boink.”

It was funny and surprising when she said “The church has rules about … who you can boink.” I laughed. I also laughed when she said she wanted to sleep with her Fed-Ex guy. But she makes a good point — who wouldn’t want to sleep with a guy who looks like a younger version of Michael Jordan?

And yes, that’s called lust. It’s a sin. I’m guilty of it. And I’m betting that if you’re saying you’re not, you’d be lying. Karr just had the audacity to be honest about her temptations —the natural inclinations that we call sin — in front of everyone. And she made light of it, and we laughed, because we all know the sort of thing she’s talking about.

But when it got to the point that every cuss word became a punchline evoking uncontrollable giggles from the audience, I became embarrassed. Karr’s words held everyone’s attention, but I’m afraid that many people were caught up by her choice of words and her honesty to the extent that they heard her words, and not her message. Whether you were offended or found it hilarious, if you didn’t hear her message, I feel sorry for you, because it was a good one. And if all you remember is that she said “a-hole,” “bad a–,” “b–” and “boink,” then you missed out.

I appreciate the standards that this university upholds, and I abide by them. But my fear is that the way in which the standards are translated into rules fosters a community of people who are neither in this world nor of it. But that’s not what we’re supposed to be. We are to distinguish ourselves by living a different way among everyone else.

It is embarrassing to me that a room full of college students, Christian or not, cannot handle listening to a woman tell her real-world story in her own voice and language without responding in inappropriate ways by judging her, or by uncontrollable giggles.

To those who are offended: Were you offended by her message? Do you believe that voice inside of you (the one telling you you’re a failure, a fool, telling you that that man on the plane is lesser than you because he picks his nose, telling you Mary Karr isn’t a Christian because she cusses) is good and godly? Do you think Jesus would be offended by her message? If so, take her advice, and spend 30 days on your knees praying about it.

To those who loved the cussing a little too much: Get out more. If you can’t hear a curse word in or out of the chapel without laughing, you probably don’t understand that most times those words are used to convey seriousness, not hilarity. If you can’t handle the language of the world, then how are you ever going to minister to them?

I sincerely hope that there are many PLNU students who will remember Mary Karr’s message more than her language. That they will remember that God is not in that voice of judgment within you, and that every human is God’s precious creation who has their own brokenness to deal with. Love is what abounds when you are abiding in Christ. All of us could benefit from a little more honesty and love, and a little less judgment. Thank you, Mary Karr, for showing us.