The Gospel according to the Simpsons

The Gospel According to the Simpsons

The Simpsons is one of the longest running, funniest, most irreverent, and, according to some religious leaders, the most theologically relevant show on television today. Journalist Mark Pinsky explores the religious and spiritual aspects of Bart, Homer, and the rest of cartoon’s first family–a show strongly denounced by many conservative Christians back in 1989, but now viewed favorably by fans from all across the theological spectrum.

Pinsky looks at the use of God, Jesus, heaven and hell, the Bible, prayer in the Simpson household, the evangelistic next-door neighbor Ned Flanders, and the town’s church and pastor, Rev. Lovejoy. He also discusses whether the character of Lisa is the voice of Jesus, and explores the many moral dilemmas that the characters, in particular Bart and Homer, face. Pinsky concludes with a discussion that suggests that, on the whole, The Simpsons is supportive and not subversive of faith. This is must reading for any Simpsons’ fan, and an insightful exploration of how religion and faith influences popular culture.

Articles about the Book

Published June 2007 by Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky.

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Talkback with Mark Pinsky

Once denounced for its irreverence, after it’s 400th episode, The Simpsons still grapple with many of the same religious and moral issues facing the rest of us in non-cartoon society — Gay marriage; a child’s conversion to Buddhism; socially awkward and weird Christian neighbors! The Simpsons have paved the way for other envelope pushing animated sitcoms, which also address the theme of religion, like South Park, Family Guy & King of The Hill. However, theologians from across denominations agree that The Simpsons is “the most consistent and intelligent treatment of religion on TV.” Mark joins us to chat about the real and surreal aspects of The Gospel According To The Simpsons.

D’Oh! Top Ten (Plus One) Religious Episodes on ‘The Simpsons’
By Mark I. Pinsky

Bart Simpson once asked his father about the family’s religious identity.
Homer classically replied, “You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life. Uh, Christianity.” In 18 seasons of ‘The Simpsons,’ nearly 20 episodes of the award-winning animated series have focused almost exclusively on faith, religion, and spirituality, while similar subplots, jokes, and images are scattered throughout 150 other episodes.

Is The Simpsons still subversive?
By Martin Rosenbaum
Producer, Whose side is Bart Simpson on?, BBC Radio 4

“I will not instigate revolution.” That’s what Bart has to write out repeatedly in an early episode of The Simpsons, which traditionally begins with him chalking up punishment lines on the class blackboard.

The Gospel according to the Simpsons – Curriculum Guide

“You should read this book to see that we all have a little Homer in us and that God is alive and well and living in Springfield.”
-Youthworker Journal on The Gospel According to The Simpsons(tm)

A companion to the best-selling The Gospel According to The Simpsons(tm): The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family, this 10-session study, for youth and adults, embarks on an exploration of the religious themes prevalent in the popular animated comedy series. Each session correlates to a chapter in the book and suggests an episode for viewing prior to the discussion.* Topics include prayer, morality, God, pluralism, the institutional church, hell and the devil, and the Bible.

Mark I. Pinsky is author of The Gospel According to The Simpsons(tm): The Spiritual Life of the World’s Most Animated Family and the forthcoming The Gospel According to Disney: Cartoon Faith & Values-available from Westminster John Knox Press.

Samuel “Skip” Parvin is an established writer of youth curriculum and editor and writer for Reel to Real: Making the Most of Movies With Youth. He serves as pastor at Tuskawilla United Methodist Church in Florida.

Author: Mark I. Pinsky
with Samuel Parvin
Page Count: 76
Binding: Paper
ISBN: 0-664-22590-X

*Most episodes of The Simpsons(tm) are available for rent or purchase.

BBC online