One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year came from my oldest daughter. It was a black T-shirt displaying one simple message: “Shut up Karen”.
I doubt I need to explain the “Karen” cultural reference to you, which has morphed beyond its original definition and now includes anyone who obnoxiously complains and feels it’s their right to tell you what to do or how to act.
The Karen video that made me the most angry in 2020 was of a lady who sat in her car and condescendingly chastised a group of girls for using their ‘white privilege’ as they volunteered their time to clean graffiti off city buildings that had been marred by one of the many riots. I bet her attitude would have changed in a microsecond if the girls had the presence of mind to respond by spray painting her car with the same graffiti she thought was just fine to have on the city’s public property.
We’ve also seen many politicians mirror the hypocritical aspect of the Karen meme extraordinarily well when they, for example, tell their constituents not to travel, gather together, or eat out because of COVID-19, yet are caught doing those very things.
Our Karen’s today are sadly nothing new. Even Jesus wrestled with His own Karen’s.
Karens in tow
In our culture, Karens seemingly pop up from nowhere to lay down their law. In Jesus’ culture, the Karens actually followed Him around all the time, waiting to pounce on anything He did or said that appeared to violate their standards.
The Karens were following Him and His disciples through grainfields and felt the need to (wrongly) complain that they were breaking the Sabbath because they were plucking and eating grain (Matt. 12:1-2). They were intensely eyeballing Jesus and His disciples as they ate another time and whined that they weren’t observing their made-up tradition of hand washing (Matt. 15:1-2). They hounded Him in church as He dared to rightly heal a man with a withered hand (Matt. 12:9-14). They attributed His miracles to Satan (Matt. 12:22-24). They constantly demanded evidence of who He was and yet consistently ignored His proof (Matt. 16:1-4).
And on and on and on it went. Even God’s patience wears out at some point.
In Matthew 23, we have Jesus’ blistering rebuke of His Karens, which strips them down to the bone. It’s not surprising that none of Jesus’ biographers include a reply from them on Jesus’ reproof.
However, what they did do was follow through with their plot to murder Him, including going so far as to even gloat at the scene of His execution (Matt. 27:41). Of course, their victory only lasted three days and, after His resurrection, it’s pretty amazing to note that some actually became Christians (Acts 6:7).
Don't be a Karen
The urge to “Karen” someone can be strong, but one verse in particular always comes to my mind when I’m tempted to impulsively set someone else straight: “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). That forces me to back up and evaluate myself for hypocrisy as well as my motivation for what’s about to come out of my mouth.
Yes, there are absolutely times when you have an obligation to say something to someone who is involved in error and headed for trouble, even if they don’t want to hear it. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend”.
When your desire to correct someone is motivated by love, issued with a spirit of gentleness and respect, and backed by a life that walks your talk, then it’s a good bet you have the right intentions. But when it comes from a place of pride, arrogance, contempt and mistakes cynicism for sophistication, then I only have one thing to say to you.
Shut up Karen.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.