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The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family [Paperback]

By Mark I. Pinsky (Author)
Our Price $ 12.71  
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Item Number 53825  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   164
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.4"
Weight:   0.68 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 22, 2001
ISBN  0664224199  
EAN  9780664224196  

Availability  0 units.

Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Paperback $ 14.95 $ 12.71 53825
Paperback $ 18.00 $ 15.30 65537 In Stock
Item Description...
The Simpsons is one of the longest running, funniest, most irreverent, and, according to some religious leaders, the most theologically relevant show on television today. Journalist Mark Pinsky explores the religious and spiritual aspects of Bart, Homer, and the rest of cartoon's first family----a show strongly denounced by many conservative Christians back in 1989, but now viewed favorably by fans from all across the theological spectrum.

Pinsky looks at the use of God, Jesus, heaven and hell, the Bible, prayer in the Simpson household, the evangelistic next-door neighbor Ned Flanders, and the town's church and pastor, Rev. Lovejoy. He also discusses whether the character of Lisa is the voice of Jesus, and explores the many moral dilemmas that the characters, in particular Bart and Homer, face. Pinsky concludes with a discussion that suggests that, on the whole, The Simpsons is supportive and not subversive of faith. This is must reading for any Simpsons' fan, and an insightful exploration of how religion and faith influences popular culture.

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More About Mark I. Pinsky

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Mark I. Pinsky is the author of several popular, critically acclaimed books, including The Gospel According to The Simpsons and A Jew Among Evangelicals, and he was religion reporter for the Orlando Sentinel from 1995 to 2008. Columns by Pinsky on faith, disability, and inclusion have been featured in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and was the subject of a feature article in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin.

Mark I. Pinsky currently resides in Orlando, in the state of Florida. Mark I. Pinsky was born in 1947.

Mark I. Pinsky has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Gospel According To...

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Fantastic book ESPECIALLY for Christians.  Jan 22, 2008
I am an Orthodox Christian, and as conservative as we are, I recommend this book to ALL Christians. I've been watching the Simpsons since it started, and only after i read this book did i realise how "Christian" this cartoon really is. Some examples:

- There is a God.
- He does deal with humans directly and answers our prayers.
- He really does love us.
- Good people (e.g. Ned Flanders) are blessed and protected in their lives.
- Adultery is bad (Homer was twice tempted, never fallen).
- So is stealing, lying, hypocrisy, greed and many other things common to Christian beliefs.

And finally, the author, Pinsky, advises parents to actually use it as a tool to discuss these issues, by sitting down with your kids, watching the show with them, then talking about the major issues that came out in the episode.

Wonderful book.
Mistitled but good read  Sep 7, 2007
Who would expect such a clever critique of American religiosity from a cartoon sitcom? This is a very entertaining read that unveils how the Simpsons cartoon has more religious themes in it than we might have noticed. My one main critique of the book, is that it is mistitled. I can understand why it was named The Gospel According to the Simpsons because there are a series of these books (advertised in the back of the book) on the Gospel According to Peanuts, Harry Potter, Disney, etc. However, the author himself recognizes that the word "Gospel" is actually misapplied to the Simpsons, because for as much religious/spiritual content as there is in the show, it is not specifically Christian. That is, in terms of presenting the Christian Gospel (good news) of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. So the author even recognizes that this message is not conveyed in the Simpsons, but rather the belief system presented in the cartoon is more based on good works/good life getting you into heaven. I think the book would be more accurately titled "Faith and Morals in the Simpsons" or something like that, which probably wouldn't be as catchy.

What surprised me (and is to the credit of the author) is that though the author is a self-proclaimed Jew and member of a liberal synagogue (p. 192), he has a pretty accurate understanding of the Christian gospel. As a religion writer, he picks up very well on the ways that the Simpsons poke fun and satirize what is happening in many Christian churches in America today. Though the Simpson family is ostensibly Christian in the cartoon, each member of the family has their own twist on religion, that once again does not directly reflect the Christian faith so much as a generically moral-religious worldview. Specific chapters deal with Homer, Lisa, and Ned Flanders' "faith" as well as one on the preacher at their church, Reverend Lovejoy. The faith of other characters is discussed intermittently throughout.

The clever part of it is how well each of the different characters portrays (albeit in a parodied or somewhat exaggerated manner) many real-world views that people have about religion. And while the religious humor may startle some, most of the time the characters are just being more honest in expressing their thoughts then we are willing to be in real life. But for all the laughs, the series does not take an overly negative or mocking view of Christianity specifically, or religion in general. Part of the reason the writers try to avoid specific mention of the Christian Gospel, or use Jesus Christ as an object of joking, is to keep from offending people. Actually one of the best parts of the series is how it uses satire to critique, not the heart of the Christian message itself, but rather the oddities of American Christianity and the curious or misguided beliefs that many of its adherents hold to.

The book is a light and entertaining read, and while we don't look to a cartoon for moral guidance or how to live, the show takes a surprisingly moral outlook on life. And using humor, it engages in situations of temptation that parallel real life, and with some of the "major" temptations, the characters come out surprisingly well. Such as episodes where either Homer or Marge is tempted to cheat on one another, and all the opportunities are ripe, but they ultimately remain faithful to each other for the sake of love and family. But above all, the show teaches us to laugh at ourselves a little, which never hurts. :)
An interesting premise and lots of fun (a conservative Christian Simpson fan's review)  Aug 4, 2007
Some of the one star reviews that this book has generated tell me that some people have entirely missed the point of the book. The point of the book is NOT to tell how the Simpsons preach the Gospel. They don't.

However, not only is "The Simpsons" the best show on television, it is also a remarkably spiritual show. It is the only show in which the main characters go to church on a regular basis. No one thinks it strange that people pray. Prayers are answered. God exists and he acts. From time to time, organized religion is skewered with their wickedly clever satire. Then again, so is everything else, from rock stars to public education to family life to just about everything else. Pinsky's point is that religion is treated remarkably well on the show that has a bad reputation.

Pinsky focuses on each of the main characters (Homer, Marge, Bart & Lisa) and also on Ned (evangelical Christian), Apu (Hindu)and Krusty (Jewish) in order to show how religion and morality are treated in the show.

He also details several plotlines - two or three of them are explicitly based on a religious theme -and shows how they relate to his overall thesis. He backs it up with several interviews and quotes from the creators and writers of the show.

I saw this book's author interviewed on PBS's "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" in conjunction with the premiere of "The Simpsons Movie". I'm glad I saw it and I'm glad I picked this book up.

Note, the show has managed to put about 150 more shows out since this book was written in 2001, but this fan thinks that the premise of this book is still correct.

I give this book a grade of "A"
The Simpsons and God in the same place...Who-diddly-knew?  Dec 12, 2006
Upon first watching The Simpsons, I don't think the average viewer's initial inclination would be to call the show spiritual or religious. Viewers may say the animated TV staple is smart, satirical, and funny, or maybe innocently irreverent; those who aren't fans may call it unwholesome or immature -- but religious? Probably not. However, as author Mark Pinsky posits in the opening pages of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SIMPSONS, America's favorite cartoon is, in fact, very spiritual. It explores religious issues in more depth, Pinsky believes, than any other television show in the medium.

And I think he's right. Just go back and watch your favorite episode of The Simpsons, and you'll probably notice some reference to God, Jesus, or religion in general sometime within the 22 minutes it takes you to watch the show. Or you could just pick up THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SIMPSONS to find a pretty comprehensive discussion of the role religion plays in Springfield. THE GOSPEL explores the nature of spirituality in The Simpsons, both by analyzing a few of the more religious characters (Ned Flanders, Marge and Lisa Simpson, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Krusty the Clown, Reverend Lovejoy) and by studying specific episodes of The Simpsons to determine the role God, Jesus, Satan, Heaven and hell, and the Bible play on the show. According to Pinsky, The Simpsons supports an interpretation of faith in which eternal salvation comes from works rather than grace (a point of view which is backed up by various episodes, namely "Homer vs. Lisa and the Eight Commandment"). While THE GOSPEL offers few groundbreaking insights, it is interesting, and suprisingly legitimate. It definitely made me more aware of some of the more religious aspects of The Simpsons, and since reading it, I find myself watching syndicated re-runs with a new perspective, pointing out religious aspects to my husband while he rolls his eyes at me.

While I did find this book to be interesting reading, I would caution future readers that there's a LOT of episode summary -- so much so, in fact, that it sometimes deters from rather than supports Pinsky's points. Many seasoned Simpsons fans may find themselves impatient with the lengthy rehashing of episodes; therefore, with that in mind, I'd recommend THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SIMPSONS especially for those who aren't very familiar with the show and, because of the show's questionable reputation in its early years, are hesitant to allow their children to watch it. To those people: You may be surprised at how wholesome The Simpsons really is, how supportive it is of family values and religious tolerance.

My only other small quibble with the book was the final chapter, which profiles some of the show's most notable producers and writers. I found the chapter unnecessary and thought it was a poor way to end the book; instead of being left with the religious aspects of The Simpsons, readers are left with the perspectives of those behind the scenes. It weakend the book for me a little bit.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SIMPSONS brought up some valid points and offered a new perspective on America's beloved yellow family. It was an entertaining, well-organized book with a clear point of view. One thing's for sure: The Simpsons will be a staple in our home on Sunday evenings for as long as it airs, as sure as Marge Simpson serves pork chops every Friday night. You all should watch it, too, if you don't already.
Interesting little book  May 20, 2006
This is far from a groundbreaking work on religion, to put it mildly, but it does provide an interesting, and, for the most part, a surprisingly valid way of looking at the pop culture phenomenon that is "The Simpsons." And this book has the notable quality, compared with most takes on theology, of being a fairly funny book (not so much because Pinsky is a wildly amusing writer, but because he quotes from some quite hilarious "Simpons" episodes). One unavoidable shortcoming is that this book might feel a little outdated because there have already been a number of "Simpsons" episodes touching on religion that have aired since this book was published (a fact that does support the author's contention that religion is quite central to the show).

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