Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Church turns to Homer to help boost attendance

Church of England clergy are to be advised to set up screens in churches to play extracts from the life of beer-guzzling cartoon character Homer Simpson, in order to lure youth back to the church.

Youth groups could be asked to think about God's love for humanity after watching Lisa Simpson give a Valentine's Day card to the most unpopular boy in her class, the thinking goes.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said in the past that he is a fan of the hit cartoon series, and was reported to have been approached to appear on the show in 2004.

The number of people under the age of 16 attending worship in the Church of England on a Sunday fell from 180,000 in 2000 to 157,000 in 2005.

Owen Smith, a 24-year-old youth worker at St Margaret's Church in Rainham, Kent, came up with the idea of using the smash hit cartoon show, and has written a book advising church organisers to screen extracts that will be distributed to churches nationwide later this month.

Smith said The Simpsons was an "unexpectedly rich" resource for exploring Christian themes and theological concepts.

"This incredibly popular animation engages with everyday issues, from gossip, fighting and sibling rivalry, through to identity issues and citizenship," he said.

Smith’s book, Mixing it up with The Simpsons, suggests activities to challenge teenagers, including putting out a plate of doughnuts with a sign saying "Do not touch" to test whether they can resist temptation.

Youngsters will be told to reflect upon Homer's comment that "inside every man is a struggle between Good and Evil, which cannot be resolved".

In other chapters, Bart's impatience to see Krusty the Clown is compared to Christians waiting for the return of Christ, and the friendship between Homer and Barney, one of the pub regulars, is used to highlight the importance of building strong relationships.

A church spokesman said: "Some of the source material might seem a little bit unusual, but the book suggests Biblical passages and group activities which we believe will help see the cartoon from the Christian perspective."

The comical cartoon show has in the past been criticised for its "subversive" content.

The former US president, George Bush, said: "We're going to strengthen the American family to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons."

But Dr Williams has said that, contrary to the popular view, the Simpsons are not a dysfunctional family but "a family with remarkable strength and remarkable mutual commitment.

For all that Homer is a slob and Bart is a brat and Lisa is a pain in the neck, you know there's real affection and loyalty."


No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

1 comment:

Dave said...

Dear Father - thank you so much for all your work on this site. It's part of my daily read. I'm a former RC priest in NYC, and I appreciate your take on things.

One suggestion - the white/red text on black background is hard on the eyes! Any chance of persuading you to reverse it? :-)

Thanks and God bless!