I saw the Simpsons movie on opening day a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was what I expected. The television show existed on many different levels from satire to slapstick, but it did not or was not translated well into a big screen movie. It felt like four previously viewed episodes crammed into a 90 minute movie with better animation. Homer lost the loveable aspect to his character. Marge was a robot. Bart seemed contrived, and nobody likes Lisa so she is a non-issue. But enough of my movie criticism.
Before the movie my brother and I were talking about the book, “The Gospel According To The Simpsons.” I had browsed through it at a bookstore, and he had a minister friend who often used it for sermon preparations. We both agreed that the Simpsons dealt with religious issues more often than most shows on television. Although it is shunned by the many Christians, the show offers them at least two valuable services.
The Simpsons often paints a caricature of Christianity which, whether accurate or not, provides insight into how it is viewed by some in society. Whether examining the sometimes dogmatic Ned Flanders or the apathetic Reverend Lovejoy, Christians would be wise to consider the message offered by the writers. I read an interview several years ago with a Christian writer on the show, and he spoke very convincingly about engaging culture from within. I think it was in World Magazine, but unfortunately I cannot find it.
Most importantly, the Simpsons is the only show on television that has a non-hypocritical evangelical Christian character. In all my years of watching television I would be hard pressed to name one other character who was a “born-again” Christian that considers the Bible to be God’s truth, and Jesus Christ to be the only way to God. You may see the occasional tele-evangelist make an appearance, but he never lives up to his own moral code. Where would the fun in that be anyway? Ned Flanders, however, is not only true to the Christian moral code (and then some), but he is a really nice guy to boot. I’m guessing he’s also the only character to attend Oral Roberts University as well, but I can’t prove it. Go Golden Eagles! Sure Bart is rebellious, Homer is a boozer, and Lisa is a left-winger, but you can see that just about anywhere on TV. Only on the Simpsons will you see Ned Flanders enjoying his life as true Christian no matter the circumstances. Christians should be setting their DVR’s just to get a glimpse.