Guess what time it is, everyone? Time to see Lisa rail against organized religion and start going through a phase of spiritual discovery! And she didn’t even have to become a freshman in college!
The episode starts off with the hilarious Rain Delay Theater which is playing a terrible 50’s B-Movie called “The Planet From Outer Space.” It features such wonderful moments as a crew of astronauts being able to breathe when they put their Science Goggles on, them smoking in space, a door with an exit sign, and an alien that’s just a dog with a helmet on being suspended from a rope. Quality cinema right there folks.
But during a commercial Bart sees an ad for a model rocket, and he decides that he needs it. So he calls the number, recites Homer’s credit card from memory, and a couple weeks later the rocket arrives and they get building. Plus, he managed to trick Homer into helping, so that makes things go quicker. But not better, because when Homer, Bart, and Milhouse are done building the rocket it just explodes in their face. And after carefully reconstructing it, it explodes again.
However, right as they’re about to give up they notice that the Flanders have decided to build their own rocket, and have done an amazing job. So, with the best kind of fuel in the world, spite, Homer calls his old college roommates the Nerds over and they help build a legitimate rocket. And as soon as it’s built Homer kicks all the nerds out (including Milhouse) they stick the hamster pilot into the thing, and blast off.
But things aren’t going well, and the rocket starts to wildly veer off course, getting ready to crash. And the hamster astronaut doesn’t really want to go through the complicated reentry process, so he just ejects and bails, causing the pilot-less rocket to zip uncontrollably through the air, crashing into the church. Where it promptly explodes, destroying everything in the church. Uh oh!
And now that there’s a crisis, the church council has to convene to discuss the damages, and how to pay for them. Oh, and I absolutely adore that Kearney and Jasper are on the council. The little group starts spit-balling ideas on how to afford the damages, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to afford them. That is until Mr. Burns shows up and offers to pay for the damages as long as the church starts working for-profit. And since they’re left with no alternative, they agree, and with Lindsay Naegle’s help they start renovating the church and sticking a lot of ads in it.
A couple weeks later the church opens, and it’s glorious. It’s essentially a sports arena now, with advertisements plastered on every available surface, it has a giant cowboy Jesus neon sign on the roof, and has all sorts of amenities. And everyone’s pretty down with it. Except for Lisa. She’s not a fan because she’s still young enough to think that church is actually a Pius thing, and not already built for money. But this really pisses her off, enough that she finally can’t take it anymore and storms out of the church, vowing never to come back.
And, not shockingly, Marge is not a fan of this decision. She just can’t wrap her mind around Lisa trying to find a new faith, and starts to nag her into coming back to the flock. Which obviously just pushes her farther away, and gets her to head out on a voyage to find a new religion. So Lisa starts wandering the town, looking for enlightenment, and finally comes across Springfield’s Buddhist Temple. And inside she’s surprised to find Lenny, Carl, and Richard Gere, who tell her about the tenants of Buddhism and give her a pamphlet about the faith. And she loves it.
Which obviously isn’t going to fly with Marge. She starts freaking out, and starts bullying Lisa to quit Buddhism and come back to Christianity. Because everything Marge does to get Lisa to come back just pushes her farther away. She even plants a Bodhi tree to meditate under. And while Marge is dealing with this crisis we see that the church is now out of it’s fiduciary woes, and even seems to be able to get rid of the advertisements, returning to normal.
And with that project over they decide their next order of business is to fixate on Lisa’s decision to be happy. The council decides that they need to win Lisa back, and that the best way will be to use Christmas against her. So the family begins assaulting Lisa with weaponized cheer, putting a weird little angel on the Bodhi tree that barks carols, throwing Christmas cookies in the trash, and even lying to her and saying that they got her a pony for Christmas.
But Lisa stays fast in her faith, and doesn’t fall for all the Christmas garbage, and ends up running away from home on Christmas Eve to go discuss things with her fellow Buddhists. So she makes it to the Temple, and chats with Lenny, Carl, and Richard Gere, and after a conversation they teach her that it’s okay to celebrate other religious ceremonies when you’re a Buddhist, so that you can keep your family happy. So Lisa heads home, informs the family that she’ll still celebrate Christmas and pay lip service to Christianity just to make them happy. So everything’s fixed!
This is an interesting episode. I like that Lisa is broadening her horizons and finding a faith that she thinks will work with her beliefs and life-goals, but man does Marge come off an unlikeable in this one. She just comes off as so sanctimonious and naggy, and it’s the version of Marge that I don’t like at all. And yet, it’s super realistic. Because I’m sure there’s plenty of religious parents who would be furious if their children dared question their upbringing and try to find their own faith. Which is a real bummer.
Take Away: Let your kids find their own way when it comes to religion, don’t shove it down their throats and let them make their own decisions.
“She of Little Faith” was written by Bill Freiberger and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2001.