The Common Good

What Would Ned Flanders Do?

Some fun for your Friday: Mark Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to the Simpsons, has reviewed the newly released Flanders' Book of Faith, by series creator Matt Groening:

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

It's a slim, illustrated book, less than a hundred pages, and it presents the title character with the same mixture of affection and mockery with which Ned has been portrayed in the series for nearly two decades. What is interesting, however, is that the credited author is Matt Groening, the series creator, and the publisher is HarperCollins, a division of Fox. Together, this puts an imprimatur on the basically favorable view of believers that The Simpsons' irreverent writers have been running away from for years. That is, Ned Flanders is an exemplar of good-natured and (literally) muscular Christianity.

You can check out Pinsky's full review at Christianity Today or another longer version in today's Wall Street Journal, including this nugget:

The "Simpsons" writers have managed to navigate the tricky space between animation and caricature in portraying Ned's Christian faith. He has a dual, almost contradictory appeal. College-age evangelicals see many of their own well-intentioned foibles in him. And some secular viewers outside the Sun Belt suburbs and the heartland -- who may have yet to meet an evangelical in the flesh and may even be hostile to the rise of religious conservatives -- find him to be an accessible and even sympathetic exemplar of American evangelicalism.

But telling you that was just an excuse to plug an article I did for Sojourners magazine waaaay back in 2001, titled "Don't Have a Sacred Cow, Man," in which I compare and contrast Ned Flanders and Rev. Lovejoy as representatives of incarnational vs. institutionalized Christianity. (Update to my tagline at the end of that article: My complete Simpsons archive is still up to date, but I've made the switch from VHS to digital. And though he's gotten a little grayer, my dad still kind of looks like Ned.)

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web editor for Sojourners.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)