What Homer Simpson Can and Can’t Teach Us

Friday is for Heart Songs

Found this great article from Kairos Journal and thought i would pass it along on this glorious first Friday in the life of Owen Aldrin (our first grandson).

Behaving Sensibly

1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. Titus 2:1-6 (KJV)

My Three Sons (Far different TV than Homer Simpson)

Writing about the “Doofus Dad” phenomenon, New York Times columnist John Tierney recalls a conversation in his home:1 “One evening, after watching Homer Simpson wreck the family car at a monster-truck rally and plunge on a skateboard into Springfield Gorge, my 6-year-old son asked me, ‘Why are dads on TV so dumb?’” Indeed, the boy had a point. Where once the television father was wise and admirable (as in Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver), today, he is a somewhat pathetic, incompetent fellow, who is “forever making messes that must be straightened out by Mom” (as in Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond). This may be popular television, but it is not the biblical paradigm.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Titus, the churches on the island of Crete were marked by immaturity and doctrinal confusion, torn by “empty talkers and deceivers,” (1:10), by those who trafficked in religious “myths” and ungodly standards (1:14). The congregations were in desperate need of saints who could stand firm against the current of foolishness.

In making his appeal, Paul used a form of the word sophron four times in six verses, and the King James Version translates it four different ways—as “temperate” in verse 2, “sober” in verse 4, “discrete” in verse 5, and “sober minded” in verse 6. Some versions of the Bible use the expression “self-controlled,”2 but this leaves something out of the equation. Foolish and evil people can exercise self-control in their pursuits. (For instance, the shame-ridden samurai showed extraordinary self-control in ritual suicide.) In other words, self-control is praiseworthy only in the pursuit of good and wise purposes. And that is where sophron comes in. As the NASB and HCSB aptly translate it, men and women are to be “sensible” or to behave “sensibly.”

This tracks with the Greek philosophical ideal of sophrosyne, a kind of moral sanity, whereby the person thinks and acts rightly. Sometimes it translates “prudence,” sometimes “moderation.”

Today, the words “crazy” and “wacky” can be used to praise someone, applied with a smile of appreciation. Often it is meant to highlight the subject’s daring, imagination, or humor, all of which can be good. But when the person lacks fundamental rationality and restraint, he becomes a joke himself. And as such, he is in no position to lead, either by example or by precept.

In today’s cultural context many find the “doofus” charming, and it is a role that many enjoy, because it frees them from responsibility; their spontaneity and eccentricity become ends in themselves, and no one can really rely upon them for a straight answer or a straight walk. So let the churches lead a counter-movement of appreciation for the sensible person, who even in his or her lighter moments gives evidence of mooring in the rational, the accountable, and the admirable.

Footnotes:

1

John Tierney, “The Doofus Dad,” New York Times Website, June 18, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/18/opinion/18tierney.html (accessed June 3, 2010).

2

NIV and ESV

I want to lead a movement to help males become mighty, dynamic adventurers for Christ. I want to lead a movement of men risking everything for the kingdom of God and the glory of the King. “Oh God, make men out of mere males. Amen.”


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