Next month, in a stunning example of life imitating "The Simpsons," Westminster John Knox Press, the company that brought us "The Gospel According to Peanuts" more than a generation ago, will publish "The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family." The nonironic book, by Mark I. Pinsky, a religion writer for The Orlando Sentinel, is only the latest nod to the show's spirituality. A recent California State University study found that 70 percent of the show's episodes contain religious themes. Christian Century magazine put the family on its cover, stating that "The Simpsons" "is exceptionally aware of the significant place religion has in the American landscape." And in the magazine Prism, from Evangelicals for Social Action, "The Simpsons" was called "the most pro-family, God-preoccupied, home-based program on television."Now, I'm not certain I agree with all of these assessments, but it is an interesting suggestion.
The article goes on to discuss the pros and cons of using sitcoms as discussion starters for Bible studies (mostly Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy and the Brady's, not very modern stuff). I'm sort of torn on this issue. In the first place, it seems wrong to use this when discussing the things of God as Pastor Newton asserts, "''Such frivolity with the Word of God would never have crossed the minds of our Christian forefathers. Their regard for divine truth meant that they did not look at it for entertainment or amusement, but to have their souls laid bare and healed by the word implanted.'' On the other hand, Paul pointed to the altar to "The Unknown God" in the Athenean pantheon in order to preach the gospel (Acts 17:16-34), and while not an exact parallel, I think a comparison could be made between ancient and modern idolatry.