Many of you have received our holiday card by now, and for those not aware Homer Simpson is the patriarch of the the Simpson family, of the TV show The Simpsons. You may be a little more familiar with his son, Bart. The show has been on for more than two decades, its longevity due in no small part to a group of clever writers who, much like those behind the original Bugs Bunny cartoons, wrote the script at two levels. Kids enjoy the visual slapdash and cheap laughs, adults enjoy the witty and sometimes slightly sardonic commentary running in the background.
And so goes are holiday card. One one level it's funny, due to Homer's trademark ability to fill in what he doesn't know with wildly superfluous non-facts or personal opinion. But on another level he represents the general religious American public who know surprisingly little about their beliefs, and who often have devoted little time thinking critically about why they believe at all.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church it was often postulated that belief in god was a very worthwhile hedge--if god existed then my limited investment praising and worshipping him paid off in a big way, with eternal life. If there was no god, then I hadn't lost that much, save for the Sunday mornings spent listening to arcane sermons and my time singing with the choir, even though I am noticeably tone deaf. Homer alludes to this reasoning by saying he and his family were probably right, as if he wasn't really sure but was believing anyway as a way of self-insurance against the possibility of it actually being true.
The Simpsons are a caricature, an almost absurd magnification, of American familial dysfunction; mostly not to deride but to celebrate it, and in our case to a make passing note that something as pivotal as religious belief might warrant a little more reflection during this holiday season.
As a small footnote, there is a quote on the back of the card, which is made all the funnier if you are aware of Stewart's love of all things John Denver. But that's another story.