Friday, February 9, 2007
Lessons from the Simpsons
As a girl who grew up Lutheran, now attends a charasmatic, non-denominational church, and teaches at a Catholic school, I can say that I've been around the Christian block. And sometimes I'm astonished at how Christians treat each other because they sing from a different songbook or read from a different version of the Bible. (I prefer the New Inernational Version because that's the Bible that has my name embossed on the cover!)
Tonight as I crashed on the sofa with a couple graham crackers and some cream cheese to watch a half hour of the Simpsons, I didn't realize I'd be given fuel for a blog. But lo and behold, from the archives of Season 16 came episode 1621: Father, Son, and Holy Guest-Star. Here's a brief synopsis of the story as given by theSimpsons.com:
Enraged at being cast as the village idiot and having livestock disrupt his yard at the school's Medieval festival, Groundskeeper Willie sabotages the event and leaves Bart to take the blame. As a result, Bart's expulsion lands him in an affordable Catholic private school where Father Sean, an Eminem quoting Priest, uses graphic stories and comic books to turn Bart on to the cooler parts of Catholicism. Bart's increased interest in the religion alarms his parents and drives Homer to visit the church to put an end to the nonsense. Father Sean lures Homer to the religion over a beer and pancake dinner and closes the deal over a game of bingo. After a marathon confession session, Homer returns to a dismayed Marge who later enlists Reverend Lovejoy and Ned's aid in springing Bart from communion class. Set on bringing Bart back to Catholicism, Homer and Father Sean chase the gang to a Protestant Youth Festival where Marge and the prospect of playing paintball lure Bart back. After a heated public debate, all members agree to disagree under the banner of Christianity and Homer decides he'd rather return to the Protestant Church rather than divide the family.
At one point, Bart says to everyone at the Protestant Youth Festival, "Aren't we all Christians? Can't we forget about the small stupid differences and focus on all the huge stupid things we have in common?" Do we agree that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead 3 days later to give us new life? Do we agree that the Bible is God's word and we should do what it says? Do we agree that God loves his children and wants us to grow more like Him? Do we agree that God loves good and hates evil? This is so basic, but isn't this the HUGE stuff we have in common? Don't you think the Christian Church would get SO much more accomplished on this Earth if we could look past the tiny details about HOW we should take communion, HOW pastors/priests/reverends should dress for church, HOW MANY songs we sing for worship, and WHY we have WHAT KIND of liturgy WHERE?! I think Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, "10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" We are to be the united body of Christ. But instead we are divided, quarrelling, and prejudiced. This is why the Church is impotent, dying, and lifeless.
This is my soapbox rant for the evening. I'm just so disheartened when I hear friends from my church tsk-tsk the "horrible Mary-worship of the Catholic church" or when my Catholic co-workers talk about those "crazy Spirit people who hoop and holler and fall on the floor." We're so focused on tearing each other down that we don't realize we're partaking in the destruction of God's holy temple. Let's stop shooting ourselves in the foot and start standing as one, as a body with many different parts who all depend on each other, to go out and do the work God has called us all to do: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us. (Matthew 28:19-20)