On March 28th Homer Simpson and the rest of his yellow-headed family will head to Jerusalem. It’s actually not so surprising. Travels, and the lessons learned along the way, have been an important part of this cartoon family’s journey of self-discovery for years.
At the urging of their all-too-sweet, but entirely sincere Christian neighbor, Ned Flanders, the Simpsons will visit the Holy land in the hope of that it will inspire them to be better people. That alone is revolutionary.
Imagine — people visiting sites of spiritual significance not to rally around a particular flag or faith, but in order to become better human beings. For that insight alone, the show’s producers are to be congratulated. And it works, sort of.
Homer comes down with a bit of Jerusalem syndrome, an actual illness in which people become convinced they are the Messiah. Apparently Homer doesn’t get that wacky, but he does become convinced that he can unite the world’s Abrahamic faiths and can do so around the fact that they all like chicken.
But rather than see this as mocking either Jerusalem or Homer, I think the show reminds of the fact that Jerusalem, like any spiritual center, can wake up our best angels (the desire to see people united) and our worst demons (the arrogance to think that we alone know how to do it). And it’s not always clear, which is which. At a moment when Jerusalem is very much in the news and activities there are so capable of dividing even the best of friends that seems like a good thing to bear in mind.