Saturday, August 20, 2022

Why Does Homer go to Church?

Homer discovers the meaning of life.

 Why indeed?

I remember growing up with my dad dragging me to catholic mass, which in retrospect seemed like a weird exercise. (I don't say that to be mean, or disparaging to Catholics, who are ingrained to go to church quite a bit throughout the week.) I mean, why go when the heart isn't there? It's not like it changed his life, or sanctified him. 

But this idea, going to church for the sake of going to church is endemic in culture, so much so that even Homer Simpson goes to church. 

Who is Homer Simpson? I'm sure everyone at least kind of knows who he is. He's the distillation of the archetypal American man. He's a high-functioning alcoholic, who's bad at managing money, a single household income provider, and a negligent parent.


Lovejoy with his model trains. 

As far as I can tell, Homer is a protestant, possibly a Presbyterian, given the more traditional scaffolding at work in the ecclesiastical architecture of his church. His pastor, the Reverend Lovejoy, is a sardonic and depressed man (who's collar suggests that he could be a member of either the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Anglican traditions). And, as far as I can tell, all the advice he gives Homer and Marge, is tainted with by his own apathy and depression. The indications that he is just as lost as his flock, at least suggests that he is, in many ways, just like us.

But why does Homer go to church? 

God is invoked a lot in The Simpsons, mostly as an antagonist that enjoys the torture of his servants. When Homer encounters the Theophany of God, he is usually an old man, the upper half of his body out of frame and never revealed. Like many Americans, Homer is exposed to an idea of God that is distant, abstracted, and unfamiliar. Homer, on occasion pleads with God for favor, but only when he is in need of something material, like most Americans, to be honest. 

But why does Homer go to church? 

My best guess at why Homer goes to church is that he assumes that going to church serves as a sacrament. (Even if he lacks the spiritual vocabulary to describe it as a "sacrament.") But going to church, I would say, is less about experiencing something that benefits "you" the attendee, but something that strengthens those around you. It's counter intuitive, to go to church to help someone else, but that is what is effectively happening. When Homer goes to church, he is not there to encourage Lenny, or empathize with Chief Wiggam, or unconditionally love Moe, but to punch a card for himself. "At least in "Homer the Heretic" (Season 4, Episode 3), Homer is saved by the very people he spurns, much to his chagrin, thus emphasizing the importance of church fellowship and community (at least implicitly).

The idea, though, that someone would go to Church "just because" eludes me. 

 It sounds like a colossal waste of time. 

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