Funny Faith

Religious Scholar Thinks The Simpsons Can Teach Us Something About Prayer

By Dan Harris

©, February 15, 2004.

The Rev. Scott Miller, who admits to being dubious at first, is now an unabashed The Simpsons convert. He uses the show to turn students at Boston University on to God.

"It's something that they identify with and have fun with and it really kinda breaks down some barriers," he said.

Addressing a group of students, Miller said, "What we're going to do tonight is view an episode called 'Bart Gets an F.'"

In 'Bart Gets an F,' Bart prays for more time to study for a history test so he doesn't fail fourth grade. "I just need one more day to study, Lord," Bart said in this episode. "I need your help." His sister, Lisa, watching, replied, "Prayer: The last refuge of a scoundrel."

And somehow, it snowed the next day and school was closed for a snow day.

The Nature of Prayer

For Miller, the show is a great way to get students talking about the nature of prayer.

"He finally realized God was the only person who could help him through the situation," said one student. "And God was the only person that could make a blizzard."

"I think God answers prayers in different ways," said another student. "And in this case he answered it very specifically. But a lot of times we don't always see how God moves in our lives."

This satirical show may seem like an unlikely source of inspiration, but one study found 70 percent of The Simpsons' episodes contain a reference to religion.

"God is not mocked in this show," Miller told ABCNEWS' Dan Harris. "Sincere religious belief is not mocked in the show. And those are some of the few things that are not mocked in the show."

Religion Provides Funny Fodder

Mark Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to Simpsons says the creator of the show, Matt Groening, turned to religion because they were running out of topics — and he found religion to be a treasure trove.

The show features a Jewish clown, Krusty the Clown, a Hindu convenience store owner Apu, and a born-again Christian, Ned Flanders, who has become something of a mascot for evangelicals.

In one episode, they were all a part of the multi-faith volunteer fire brigade called to put out a fire at the Simpsons' house.

But Reverend Miller and a growing number of campus chaplains across the country say it's important to remember that God has a sense of humor.

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