A Bible lesson in Homer Simpson?
Can crude, beer-swilling Homer Simpson inspire Portland State students to ponder moral and spiritual principles advocated in the Bible?
Jayme Harris, a volunteer member of Chi Alpha Christian campus ministry organization, believes so.
She is offering the idea in one-hour programs on Thursdays in Room 236 of Smith Memorial Student Union, noon to 1 p.m. The series is titled, “Homer Simpson, the Bible and you.”
Harris said the series is not designed to convert anyone to Christianity but to raise student consciousness of some of the crucial issues of existence.
“What is really important in life?” she asked. “What does that mean for us as individuals?” Each weekly program consists of watching a half-hour segment of the popular television show followed by a half-hour discussion. Harris relates the events of the show to certain Biblical illustrations in both the old and new Testaments. The format is strictly non-confrontational.
The program last week showed the gluttonous Homer eating everything in sight at a Japanese restaurant.
He insists on eating blowfish, which supposedly can release a deadly poison if not sliced exactly right. Unfortunately, the chef is occupied making out in the parking lot, leaving the waiter to do the slicing. Alas, he does it wrong and Homer learns he will quickly die.
The student discussion following the episode is tied to Ecclesiastes 3, which begins, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.”.
The jovial doctor in the Simpsons series informs Homer it is his time to die, in just 22 hours. With his familiar chuckle, the doc assures Homer, “You’ll feel no pain at all until your heart explodes.”
Homer quickly moves through all the stages of considering imminent death, from denial to acceptance.
He writes a list of everything he wants to do in his final day, ending the list with being “intimit” with Marge, his wife.
Student viewers may ponder what they might do if they unknowingly swallowed a poisonous fish.
Homer begins rushing as quickly as possible to cross off the many items on his list. He spends a few minutes trying a man-to-man talk with a disinterested Bart. He listens briefly to Lisa play her sax. He tells off his boss, Mr. Burns, and laughs when Burns declares he’ll be fired tomorrow.
Unfortunately, as in real life, Homer finds that intruding events prevent him from getting through his list fast enough. Plus, he finds himself adding to the list.
In the following student discussion, viewers were reminded of a parable found in Luke 12. Jesus talks of a prosperous man who devotes his life to storing up worldly goods. God says to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
As night falls, Homer hasn’t nearly covered his to-do list. He decides he must make peace with God. He takes up a volume labeled “The Good Book” and finds inside an audio cassette reading of the Bible by Larry King, a Jew.
King begins reading from the book of Matthew, “Abraham begat Isaac” and on and on, through the seemingly endless lists of “begats” at the beginning of that particular book of the Bible. The begats soon put Homer to sleep. King’s reading ends with the suggestion the listener have a matzo ball, a traditional Jewish food.
Next morning, his wife finds Homer has survived, so he joyfully completes his list by becoming “intimit” with Marge.
“There is more to The Simpsons than a cartoon,” Harris said. “A lot of people in the church ridicule it, but if you want to talk to people in this society, you have to engage them.” She considers this episode an opportunity to get students to think about the uncertainties of life, about leaving a legacy, making things right, leaving behind a positive impression.
She would like the program to leave students with something to ponder. She posed the question, “Am I living my life to its fullest?” Students are encouraged to discuss their own views.
This was the third session of the series, and attendance has been slim to none. Harris hopes for more people at this Thursday’s meeting. The subject is prayer. Bart fears he is about to get an “F” and prays it ain’t so.