“The Simpsons” has received plenty of attention this reaching its 20th anniversary on the air as the longest running cartoon show ever. The juvenile pranks of Bart layered on top of the rest of the family’s idiosyncrasies and non-stop social commentary has produced an amazing recipe for success.
Of course the main Christian presence on the show is next-door neighbor Ned Flanders and local preacher Reverend Lovejoy. Flanders is well-established as a font of one-liners who oftentimes ends up just as confused as Homer. Lovejoy’s sermons for years have put Homer to sleep and his character has enforced many stereotypes and probably invented a few more along the way.
It would seem a given that the top dogs of church hierarchy would take a dim view of Homer’s Duff Beer swilling and donut devotion and decry Flanders’ and Lovejoy’s caricatured characters. Apparently though, the Springfield gang has fans in what otherwise would be viewed as unusual territory – the Vatican.
An article in Tuesday’s edition of the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (you’ll need a search engine translator to read it unless you’re fluent in Italian) praised “The Simpsons’” brand of theology identified by author Luke Possati as “theology simpsonia.”
Possati said the main characters’ and others’ references to God throughout the series point accurately to a general cultural oversimplification and naïveté toward faith. He added that Homer’s constant confusion over religion and how, or why, to approach it provides an accurate mirror to the majority of people.
That thoughtful analysis might even provoke a well-honed, “Excellent,” out of Mr. Burns.