#10: Homer the Great
Homer has trouble with a plumber and at work he begins noticing that Lenny and Carl have a lot of mysterious privileges at work. Lenny keeps giving hints that they are part of a secret. Homer follows them one night when they go to their secret meeting place. Every male in Springfield that he knows is in the place. Lenny lets it slip that they are the Stonecutters and Homer wants to be a member. He discovers that Abe is a member, which means that he can easily become a member. They initiate him with painful rituals and he is member #908. As a Stonecutter, the plumber quickly fixes the leak in his basement and he gets a new parking space at work. When they celebrate a big occasion Homer desecrates a sacred parchment. As his punishment Homer is kicked out of the club and they take his clothes. Upon stripping him, they discover a birthmark. It is shaped like their logo, which means he must be the chosen one. They begin to worship him. They let him win at card games. Soon his life becomes meaningless and too easy. Lisa recommends that he begin helping people in the community using his new authority. The Stonecutters don't like helping people, so they form a new secret society, the "No Homers". As the only Stonecutter left, he begins feeling lonely. Marge makes him realize that he is part of a more exclusive club... the Simpson family.
Why I Like It
There is so much good stuff in this episode for me. First, I have a mild but persistent interest in Freemasonry conspiracy theory (in the episode the "Stonecutters" are the stand-in for masons). Don't get me wrong- I am NOT a conspiracy buff, but I really enjoy the breadth of accusations aimed at masons (my favorite is this crazy guy). They are accused of, among many, many other things, being a Jewish front, controlling world governments, banks & businesses, world domination in general, crop circles, hiding the existence of aliens & Atlantis, September 11, and devil worship. In general, I find these theories humorous on a number of levels, but at the same time it is hard to deny that they seem to be beyond coincidentally involved in world affairs. This Simpson episode captures the spirit of these theories perfectly, as only they can, through song:
Now, we are familiar enough with this view of masonry. It is pervasive in modern literature & movies (see The DaVinci Code and National Treasure as ridiculous but enjoyable examples). Despite all the conspiracies and world domination that surely would be keeping these guys busy, it seems as though the Stonecutters are primarily a group whose soul purpose is to eat wings, drink beer, and play pool. Their sacred initiation rituals are simply endless variations on spanking the pledge with a paddle.
I love the notion that Homer could be "The Chosen One" because of an oddly shaped birthmark. It is remarkable how quickly the Stonecutters accept Homer as their new savior-figure and bestow upon him virtually unlimited power. For those of us who know and love Homer, this prospect is equally fantastic and frightening.
So, obviously the episode makes fun of freemasonry. I think if we dig a little deeper, however, we can find meaning for any "religious" organization, and in particular the Christian church. Ostensibly, we gather together as believers to worship God, grow in our faith, and build community. For the community building portion, we love to use the word "fellowship," as it sounds churchy, but is vague enough that it basically allows us to do whatever we want. I can't count how many "church" events I have been to that are essentially excuses to eat wings, drink soda, and play games. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with any of these activities, but is that what we're really about as a church?
I'll try not to belabor these points, but the church is also frequently the target of accusations that are along the lines of the conspiracy theories aimed at the masons. In some cases, the exact same accusations. Although the church as a whole is not at all the monolithic and evil monster that many believe us to be, we are also beyond coincidentally involved in world affairs. While not guilty for the problems in the world, we are also, unfortunately, not innocent either.
And finally, how quick are we to anoint a new "Chosen One" and follow him wherever we are led. Certainly, I am not suggesting that we find new saviors, but rather that we are quick to follow the hot pastor, read the hot books, listen to the hot music, and more than ever, see the hot movie. It has become exceptionally easy for the church to be about trendiness and issues and not enough about God.
I know this post has come off rather critical of the church, and that is certainly not my intention. Specifically, I am very proud of our church, our leadership and the direction we're headed. We're not perfect (or even close) but I honestly believe that what we are building is eternal as opposed to trendy. I love this episode, but I'm glad that we're not the Stonecutters!