In the tradition of Saturday morning cartoons, we go from Harry to Homer. The PBS television news magazine Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly examines the new movie with an eye toward how it portrays—and satirizes—faith in America today.
During the 18 years it’s been on the air, “The Simpsons” has become a true cultural phenomenon. It’s the longest running TV sitcom in history and reaches an estimated audience of 60 million people every week in more than 70 nations. But while the series’ brand of humor may not appeal to all people of faith, it may be one of the most interesting examinations of religion in pop culture today, tackling a host of complex theological issues, including salvation, divine omnipotence, the end times, miracles, heaven and hell, cults, religious exclusivity, and the nature of the soul.
Mark Pinsky, author of “The Gospel According to the Simpsons,” discusses religious themes in the show and the movie in an interview.
LAWTON: The Simpson family and most of their neighbors attend the First Church of Springfield.
Mr. PINSKY: It’s kind of a mainline Protestant church. They don’t define what it is, but they call it the “Presbylutheran” church. The theology is kind of lowest common denominator. The pastor is Reverend Lovejoy, who incidentally does not love joy. He’s kind of a venal character. He suffers from preacher burnout. His wife is a shrew. He has money problems. His daughter is a typical preacher’s kid, sort of a demon seed. It puts him through an awful lot. So he’s an object of satire and ridicule, but underneath there’s a lot of profound material about the ministry today.
LAWTON: In fact, The Simpsons has tackled a host of complex theological issues, including salvation, divine omnipotence, the end times, miracles, heaven and hell, cults, religious exclusivity, and the nature of the soul.
Mr. PINSKY: It’s hard to remind yourself that a discussion at this level is happening in a cartoon comedy.
See also this story from The Telegraph. An excerpt:
Let the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a long-time fan explain: “Goodness is taken very seriously in The Simpsons. Not in a solemn or moralising way, but the values of honesty and generosity and forgiveness are ones that, quite clearly, the programme endorses.”