Ned Flanders of the Simpsons is quite simply the most interesting fictional fundamentalist Christian in the world today. Ned Flanders is also, it must be admitted, the most interesting fundamentalist Christian of any type in the world today. Despite the fact that we would be in complete opposition on any political issue you care to name, I’d far rather live next to Ned Flanders than John Hagee, Jerry Falwell’s ghost or Pat Robertson. Or his ghost. Which will hopefully be available soon. I can’t actually live next to Ned Flanders, of course, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility to live next to a member of a British religious sect that dresses up as Ned Flanders.
On the DVD commentary track for the Simpsons episode A Star is Burns, there is the discussion of a Ned Flanders cult in England that worships Flanders. Actually, the descriptive use of the word cult is misleading. It is hardly a cult like, say, Catholicism. And the members, though they do enjoy dressing up as Ned Flanders, complete with fake brushy mustache, do not actually worship Ned Flanders.
In fact, they don’t even meet regularly; the whole idea of dressing up as Ned only took place during the Greenbelt Festival, a kind of Glastonbury Festival for Christian music. To give you an idea of just how serious this “cult” is they enjoyed listening to a tribute band called Ned Zeppelin that plays such songs as “Whole Lotta Ned.” To suggest that these people are some kind of insane cultists worshipping Ned belies the very point.
Ned Flanders is worth this kind of affection between, as the organizers of the event point out, he is a Christian stereotype who is actually better than most actual people who are similar to him. Whereas people like Hagee and Robertson for intensive purposes appear to have never actually read the Bible or even have the slightest idea who Jesus Christ was and what he taught, Flanders is very much attuned to what should be the central precept of every Christian, but isn’t:
Flanders really and truly does attempt to love his neighbor. He may disagree with them, but he doesn’t judge them or curse them or blame them for natural disasters or disease like Hagee and Robertson do. Indeed, one would wish that John McCain would seek out the members of the so-called cult of Ned Flanders for advice rather than John Hagee.
If one were going to belong to a cult, or even just a religious denomination, I think most of us could do a lot worse than one that holds Ned Flanders as their ideal. For instance, that cult in Texas that makes all their women have the same hairstyle.