Summary: The last of my Television series, looks at our need to show respect.

1 Peter 2:11-17

The Simpsons, Children love them, parents hate them. But the people who love the show have embraced it fully. There is no other series on television, either comedy or drama, where the environment is depicted so fully and consistently. "Simpsons" fans not only know what the family home looks like and where Homer works, but they also know the entire community of Springfield where the Simpsons live and all of the strange characters who live there.

Maybe you’ve watched the show maybe you haven’t here’s a brief synopsis of the cast if they are strangers. The Simpsons live in Springfield where Homer the dad, works at the Nuclear Power Plant. He holds the record for having worked the longest of any plant employee in an entry level position. Marge is Homer’s wife and the mother of his children. Her and Homer were High School sweethearts she has always been faithful to Homer even though she was tempted to stray once with a bowler even more handsome and charming than Homer.

Bart is probably the best known of the Simpsons; he is ten years old and a brat. He has some redeeming qualities though, he does look out for his younger sister and once he spotted and named a comet that almost wiped out the town. His younger sister Lisa is eight and she is a bit of a prodigy, she already writes at a grade 14 level and plays saxophone. The youngest of the clan is Maggie who is only a year old, but even at the tender age she has already written her name on a etch a sketch and shot the richest man in Springfield when he tried to steal her lollypop.

Not your average family, but if we were honest enough to admit it, most of us have more in common with the Simpsons then with other regulars on prime time, at least I hope we do. I told you the story before but it bears repeating: Angela and I were at a Wedding a couple of years ago and ending up talking to some acquaintances at the reception. The topic turned to television and children and the woman informed us that she didn’t allow her children to watch the Simpsons because of the values that were portrayed. This from a woman who had left her husband was now living with a married man who had left his wife, neither one of them was even divorced. My dear sweet Angela said, “I had to bit my tongue to keep from saying, ‘at least Marge and Homer are married.’”

Dr. Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Wales, nice hat. In a statement last year he said "A lot of people attack the show but I think it is very sophisticated and has an amusing slant on modern society. It is a light-hearted look at life and is surreal but there are good, strong Christian morals there too. It is very moral because the good people always win in the end." I don’t know if I’d agree with everything that Dr. Williams has said but Homer and Marge are married, and they are bringing up their children as best they can.

Some people feel that the show ridicules Christianity, of course it does, it ridicules everything. It is satire. That having been said it is seen as one of the most “Religious” shows being broadcast today. Sociologist John Hereen studied the Simpsons and came to the conclusion that religion was mentioned at least once in 76% of the shows and was the central theme in 11% of the shows.

One character who should be of interest to us is the Simpsons next door neighbour Ned Flanders, you see Ned is an Evangelical, born again type Christian, for better of worse. This is the conclusion that Hereen came to “The show’s writers also consistently contrast two symbolic characters. On one side is the Rev. Timothy Lovejoy, an often cynical, world-weary mainline shepherd who uses the public library’s Bible and says that the world’s religions are “all pretty much the same.” On the other side is Flanders, a born-again nerd who, nevertheless, is one of the only inspiring characters in the series.

Lovejoy, Homer and many other characters appear to be making up their religious beliefs as they go along, but Flanders is a true believer. What is fascinating is that the other characters often “see the light” and eventually try to act a little more like Flanders. As a result, “The Simpsons” almost always ends up affirming some element of a generic Judeo-Christian American creed — honesty, family, community, selflessness and love.

“I’m not sure what that says, but it says something. What remains is that strange kind of respect that is so hard to pin down. ... God is real. God hears prayers, and prayers are answered. People go to church. Faith matters. Let’s face it: This is not what you normally see in prime-time television.”

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