Vancouver church tunes in to The Simpsons for spirituality lessons — and some debate

What can The Simpsons teach people about spirituality?

Quite a bit, according to Fairview Presbyterian Church.

The Vancouver church is in the middle of a 10-week series that uses the animated TV comedy as a launching pad for wider discussions about religion and spirituality.

"There's no question that The Simpsons is one of, if not the most, religious shows on television," said minister Bradley Childs, who's leading the sessions.

"There aren't a whole lot of shows where there's a church as one of the main sets."

From that comes all kinds of discussions topics, Childs said, ranging from 'What is a soul?' to 'Where do we go after death?'

Every Wednesday, the discussion group watches an episode of the show and reflects on some of the messages.

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'Thou shall not steal'

Childs pointed to one episode where Homer Simpson, one of the main protagonists, gets an illegal cable hook-up for the family television.

His daughter Lisa learns about the Eighth Commandment — thou shall not steal — and protests against the family watching stolen television.

"It's an episode that sort of asks 'Are there big sins and little sins?' " Childs told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

In the show, Lisa goes to her priest Reverend Lovejoy with her concerns.

"In that exchange, there's a wonderful piece of advice where he says to her that he'd like for her to be an example to the family by simply not using the offending technology," Childs said.

"By having peace in the home, and showing an example, she's not breaking another commandment by challenging her father."

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The religious characters on the show aren't always depicted favourably — Childs often starts the sessions with a warning about any jokes that viewers might be uncomfortable with — but he said the sessions get to the bigger issue of engaging with the community in different ways.

"This isn't about filling the pews," he said.

"I really love the idea that people in the community, who are just as spiritual as people sitting inside the church on Sunday, would come in on a Wednesday night and have a conversation."

The sessions run until Wednesday, April 3.