In the Christian blogosphere you are judged by the books you review. Academic, church growth books, and anything by Mark Driscoll or John Piper are acceptable. The latest edition of Bible Word Search Puzzles doesn’t count as serious reading. Neither does anything remotely related to The Simpsons TV series.
So it was with great fear and trepidation that I decided to write this. But it was with different motives that I decided to take the half-hour or so necessary to cover all of Flanders’ Book of Faith (HarperCollins, 2008, no specific author credit.) I wanted to see how they actually treat Christian belief.
I’ve always been aware of the fact that from Rev. Lovejoy’s sermonizing to Ned Flanders’ diploma from Oral Roberts University (not mentioned in the book) the writers have an intimate knowledge of Evangelical Christianity. They get the culture. (And if you grew up with those little Jack Chick tract/booklets, you’ll see how well they get it.)
There’s another issue at stake here. I got multiple copies of the title in a book remainder sale and decided to put them on display in our Christian bookstore. Seriously. They’re there right now.
There are episodes and themes in The Simpsons that are downright offensive to Christian sensibilities. I knew that going in. Many of you reading this do not allow the program to be viewed in your home. But I wasn’t sure that their religious references — more specifically Christian references — were part of that offense.
My multiple purchase hunch was correct. There’s nothing in particular in the book that attacks or degrades belief. They understand the issues of faith, the complexities of theology and the thorny areas of doctrine, but it’s really no different than things you might read online in blogs.
The book will stay on display. Rather than being offensive in and of itself, it’s really part of the larger issue: Some Evangelicals have a low tolerance for humor and satire. They’re offended by the infamous “Laughing Jesus” sketch print because scripture doesn’t record Jesus ever laughing or even having a sense of humor.
I beg to differ. The Christ I follow expects no less than my complete transparency, and my personal ethic is to fellowship with people who share that view, which includes the ability to laugh at our various foibles. (This issue will reappear next month when Zondervan releases Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like; bet on it.)
I can’t wait for the first complaint so I can launch into my book choice apologetic, though I won’t get the chance if the copies sell out.