Anyways, about a week ago there was an advertisement around campus inviting people to come to the Christian group's gathering that Thursday night, because they were going to be analyzing whether Ned Flanders of the Simpsons fame was indeed a Christian. I hadn't ever attended any of their meetings, because campus is about a half-hour drive away, and I try to conserve gas when I can. However...that indeed sounded like an interesting topic into which I'd like to hear, being I've been accused of being "a Ned Flanders" myself before, so I thought I'd check it out. The guy who spoke indeed did have some nice things to say; however, his final conclusion I felt a little bit lacking. And because this is the internet and I can blab about what I want, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring to rant a little bit.
See, for those who don't know, Ned Flanders is the next-door neighbor of Homer Simpson who is a parody of the Christian stereotype. He's in essence a really big dork, and not much in the good way. "Hidey ho, neighbor-ino" and "Okely dokely" are a couple of the trademark things he says. Sure, he doesn't get as much airtime as others on the show, especially the Simpson family, but if you mention the name, people will always roll their eyes and chuckle. "Oh yeah, him."
What really disturbs me is the fact that, according to the speaker last Thursday, in a poll that was conducted, Christ is the first person that people associate with Christianity, and in second place--not Billy Graham, not C.S. Lewis, or any other big name--it's Ned Flanders. As I stated, Ned Flanders is a big dork. He's always wearing that same stuffy sweater, he's always happy, always cheerful, always raring to go, and he's a big pushover. In one episode, he was even attending some Springfield awards ceremony, where when he saw he lost for the reward for "Biggest Pushover," he got up and left in a huff.
Now I admit that Christians, according to the public eye, aren't "cool" people to hang around. I don't know what show I was watching, but I remember some guy went to the hospital, and he ended up in some room with a blatant Christian--crosses and Christianity-related posters on the wall, first thing he said to the guy is, "Hi, are you saved?" and he was later shown listening to music he deemed awesome which just repeated "Thank You, Jesus" over and over. There are plenty of other examples out there, and in most of them, Christians aren't shown as people one would want to hang around with. "They're...creepy," is the usual reponse. And some instances in reality, yes, some Christians can be...definitely different than what society would call "normal." They outlaw any and everything related to Halloween, publically declare Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying to be bad, they hold public protests against Harry Potter, they think fantasy is bad because it shows magic and "demonic creatures" (it should be noted Lord of the Rings, one of the greatest fantasy stories written, was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a born-again Christian who was actually inspired by and friends with C.S. Lewis), refuse to watch anything with swear words in it, and a lot of the time use blanket terms, i.e., "video game are bad."
Ned Flanders is the culmination of this. Now I understand that the Simpsons is a show not to be taken seriously. It's a show that is meant to be parodical of society. It was actually the winner of the award for "Show of the Milennium" in some "official" list. On there, you've got Homer Simpson, the fat, lazy, and stupid family man everyone loves; Lisa, the over-achieving militant vegetarian; Barney, the loud town drunk who had a promising future, but threw it away for alcohol; Reverend Lovejoy, the passionless priest/pastor who speaks big but could actually care less; Mr. Burns, the evil and conniving millionaire boss; and a whole host of others I'm sure everyone knows by heart (is it just me, or would accusing someone of being like one of many Simpsons characters potentially be taken offensively?). Now listen...I just want to clarify that I enjoy the Simpsons and I'm not some run-about Christian yelling "Heresy!" and "It's evil, don't watch it!!!1one-one-one." Sure, I don't like everything that comes out of that show (because of Homer, I now have to hear people talking about "Jeebus" >_< ), but that can be said about a lot of shows out there. Simpsons quotes are a staple of the geek culture, and actually my American Government professor has used various references to the show a couple times to illustrate a point or two.
There's an argument to be made against Ned Flanders existing in the first place. While it's not bad to parody things in the first place, the subject matter which Ned Flanders represents is a tad serious to make light of. There are some subjects out there you just aren't supposed to make light of. Some might say I'm being a little oversensitive about this, but I don't find it funny to make fun of Christianity. I've seen pictures out there with "Darwin vs. God, fight of the century this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday," Christians blindly using circular reasoning, and a bunch of others I can't even remember. Christianity isn't about going to church and giving money to some corrupt guy who says he's got a private phone line with God, but rather it's about a personal relationship with Jesus, and ultimately, the difference between Heaven or Hell (a quick side note, I don't want this to turn into a theological debate, so please keep your comments to my argument concerning Ned Flanders).
Ned Flanders is actually admittedly admirable in a couple ways. He's someone very charitable and family-oriented. He's announced to his family before how they were going out to help at a soup kitchen, or some such, to which Rod and Tod always reply, "Yay!!" It's all of his other qualities which bother me. For example, Ned Flanders is someone who's very uppity. He's always got something of a holier-than-thou attitude. His voice actor said, "Ned Flanders would feel perfectly at home at Promise Keepers...except, according to him, Promise Keepers is for backsliders." He seems to have this continual air about him and his family that basically goes to say, "Yeah, I'm better than you." At one point, Homer did something, Ned caught him red-handed, and Homer went, "Well doesn't it say whoever is without sin to cast the first stone?" ...a~t which point, one of Ned's kids caught Homer in the side of the head with a rock, exclaiming, "Got him, Dad!"
At times, Flanders is portrayed as someone who's almost, to a degree, a reluctant villain. He's someone who, for the most part, seems to always come out on top and things always go well for him, much to the chagrin of Homer. In the episode where Homer stopped going to church, then later his house caught fire, some of the fire caught Ned's roof, much to the delight of Homer. Suddenly clouds gathered, it rained a little on that portion, putting out the fire, then a rainbow appeared with the sun shining clearly. In the episode showing various Biblical stories, at the end when the apocalypse is apparently happening, Homer is happy to see Ned and co still on Earth while fire and brimstone are raining around everyone...but while the family is knelt praying, the clouds part, a shaft of sunlight encompasses them, and they're lifted up into the sky. It seems that at times, his character shows up merely to irk either the audience or Homer ("It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all! Nothing at all! Nothing at all!").
Also, Ned Flanders is a little too "I'm in j0r face" Christian. I mean...what kind of a guy carries around an "extra large piece of the cross" in his pocket?! o_O He's someone who basically takes the Bible and just mashes it into your face. The Lord said that people would recognize His children by their love...not by "HEY IM A CHRISTIAN LOOK AT ME!!!!!"
Also, he's too naive. I already covered the whole pushover part (how long has Homer had that tv tray?), but it kind of ties with his naivety. Actually...I don't know if naive would be the right word.... Maybe borderline "dumb." In one episode, he was shown on a cross-country train with his sons, holding a letter. "Dude, meet me in Montana," it said. "XXOO, Jesus." Ned is heard saying, "I got your letter, Jesus, and I'm coming as fast as I can!" And there are plenty other instances
And within this character, the writers are able to take jabs sometimes at Christianity. Everybody likely knows about when Homer becomes smart then comes up to Ned. "I was doing my taxes, and accidentally proved that God doesn't exist." Ned checks the math, then at finding it works, he gives a "Well, can't let anyone else know about this," and lights the paper up in flames. When Ned is the only one whose house was destroyed during the hurricane, he's later at the church praying in the middle of the night, asking God why his house was destroyed while everyone was okay. "I do everything it says to in the Bible, including the stuff that contradicts the other stuff." That's a common misconception among non-Christians, and especially those who oppose Christianity...but I'm not going to get into that.
Now I admit that there are Christian folk out there who display some, yes, if not all of the Ned's traits. The idea for Ned Flanders came from somewhere, right? And I know that he's meant for parodical purposes and isn't supposed to be taken seriously, and is there to make people laugh. He's there to sometimes rub people the wrong way (example). Yes, he's meant to be taken offensively by some out there, just like South Park, Team America, Family Guy, and other media are there purely for the intent to be funny, because there's someone out there who will be offended by the content. Also, I know that Ned Flanders is liked, if not loved by many people. "Hens love roosters, geese love ganders," etc. He's the dork people find oddly charming.
However, for this Christian, as well as many Christians out there, like Liz down in Indy, I'm still loathe to be labelled a "Ned Flanders." It's a label which honestly does bug me, as well as other Christians out there. I find his eagerness towards God and charity to be admirable; however, I know it's only done for the parodical purposes.
I'm not calling for a "call to arms" or anything like that. I just thought I'd get my thoughts out there and onto digital paper, plus so that people can read. I hope you enjoyed it...and please don't bash me for it