One Christian’s Stance on South Park

Being a Christian, I am often surrounded by friends and family members who abhor South Park. They often expect me to hold the same sentiments they do, and yet I must admit that I like South Park. They think that South Park is a boldfaced attack on Christianity and morality. I don’t, and I do not think that liking South Park is a contradiction of my faith or that enjoying it makes me less of a Christian.

I once got in an argument with some family members about South Park. I was told that South Park was evil and wrong because it is a cartoon aimed at children. But South Park is not aimed at children. It is aimed at adults and has a warning at the beginning of each episode saying that the film should not be viewed by anyone. I was then told that it doesn’t matter whether South Park is aimed at children or not, that because it is an animated program that it therefore falls into the “children’s programming” category, for all cartoons are aimed at children. Again, I had to disagree. After all, some of the earliest cartoons were made for adult audiences. The early Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies cartoons were played in theaters and targeted adults. As Wikipedia says, “…the early thirties cartoons never directly catered to a younger audience… By the late thirties, the series had become edgier, and was more obviously targeted to the adult moviegoers of the time.” It wasn’t until the 1970s that Looney Tunes “…began to be edited to remove scenes featuring innuendos, ethnic stereotypes and extreme violence.” The history of the animated program being targeted towards adults is very clearly established, and one must not restrict a certain type of programming to a certain type of audience.

It is true, however, that many children are naturally drawn to South Park and other animated programs like it because they enjoy cartoons. Many children are raised watching cartoons and gravitate toward animated programs. What, then, should be done? Should South Park be banned, just because some children may watch it even though it isn’t targeted towards them? I say no; if explicit documentaries about violent murders and rapes can be shown on cable television, so should South Park. South Park is already shown in the evenings, around ten o’clock my time, which is an appropriate time slot for an adult cartoon. The truth is that it is up to parents, in my humble opinion, to keep their children from watching shows that were not designed for them. It is their responsibility, not the network or the producers or creators, to regulate what their own children watch.

All of this said, South Park is a vulgar show, which I cannot deny. It is also an interesting and intelligent show (at times). While I do not speak for all Christians, it has become my conviction to not deny myself the good for the sake of avoiding the bad, and I believe that this stance is rooted in scripture. We, as Christians, are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-15). Part of being in the world, I believe, is understanding that we cannot seclude ourselves from the rest of society and make nice little “safe places” for ourselves where we will not be bombarded by the evils of the world. This cuts us off from the people of the world with whom we, as ambassadors on this earth, must associate with. If we never watch the news, never listen to music, never watch movies or television, never read secular books or go to public places, we will become alien wraiths who do not fit into the puzzle of humanity, and this is the last thing we want to be. We are told not to be stumbling blocks (2nd Corinthians 6:3) and yet what do you think we become to non-Christians who see a bunch of stuck up and uptight Christians? If one doesn’t want to watch South Park because he finds it offensive that is fine, but he must realize that there are a lot of offensive things in this world that can harbor a kernel of good, and it would be a shame to miss these things out of fear of being offended.

It is my conviction, therefore, to allow myself to enjoy the good of South Park and ignore the bad of South Park. I find the social commentaries and political allusions down right hilarious. I find some of the jokes and extreme vulgarity (like killing a Kenny look-alike by suffocating him in the “humidor” of the bus driver) unfunny and pointless. But I don’t focus or dwell on that. I find South Park funny for different reasons than others might, and that is fine with me. Now, if a Christian can’t get past the vulgarity and see the ingenuity and wit that are often there, that is fine with me too. And as a brother to them I would never talk about South Park or force them to sit down and watch it if it bothers them, for I should not exercise my freedom to watch it around them if it causes them to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9). But the same courtesy should be extended to me, and I should not be vilified for finding partial enjoyment in something that happens to be partially vulgar.

What is often brought forth as the gleaming pointed argument against South Park are some of the directly anti-Christian episodes. First, I do not consider the show to be against Christianity. I think it is often against Christians, but so am I at times. One thing modern evangelicals (of whom I consider myself a member, though in a technical sense) is that they can’t seem to separate the Christian from the faith. Just because a man claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean that he is acting like one. Just because a man claims to be representing Christianity properly doesn’t mean that he really is. Just because Christians have their own little cultural quirks doesn’t mean that those cultural quirks should be representative of Christianity. I have no problem with making fun of Christians because some Christians just need to be made fun of. For instance, the Faith +1 episode was downright funny because it pointed out some blatant truths about the Christian music subculture. There is very little Christian music, from my point of view, that is any good at all, and instead of sitting here and getting mad at Matt and Trey for making fun of Christian music, maybe we should just get better. There was also an episode that had a statue of the Virgin Mary shoot blood out of its hindquarters, and when this episode aired there was a huge uproar amongst Catholics (but mind you, there were no riots, no church, mosque, airport or clinic was bombed, and no one was killed via a suicide bomber in response). And it is true; it was a disgusting and vulgar thing to see. But it also raises an interesting point; why is this vulgar and disgusting, but when people think they see blood pouring out of the eyes of a statue it is fine, dandy and even “holy”? In truth it is just ridiculous and gross, and there is absolutely no scriptural foundation for considering blood pouring out of any orifice, let alone that of a statue or painting, to be holy or spiritual in any way. We as Christians have just attached some sort of traditional and spiritual significance to such things when we don’t need to.

And then we come to the direct “mocking” so-called of Jesus himself. South Park has depicted Jesus as a machine-gun wielding Rambo-wannabe, as a vulgar-tongued individual and even as a fool. I can’t see why Christians would be upset by this because the Jesus depicted in South Park is, well, not Jesus. There is a reason why the Old Testament tells us not to depict God with an image, and one of the reasons is that if he has no recognizable form, there is no way he can be mocked with images. But because of the iconophiles we have this idea of what Jesus looks like—a long-haired hippie in a robe—and we attach some sort of significance to this image. In truth, no one knows what he looks like, and the likelihood that a Jewish rabbi from Israel had white skin, blue eyes and long brown hair is not very good.

People have gotten upset with Matt and Trey recently because they said in an interview that it was “open-season on Jesus”. This did not offend me, however, because if you understood the context of the statement you would see that this was actually a criticism of the disparity between how Christianity and Islam are regarded by the secular world. Why is it just fine and dandy to make fun of Christianity and Jesus, but if we make fun of Muslims and Mohammad we are sure to get beheaded or otherwise assassinated? Does it say something about our culture when it is acceptable to make fun of anything Christian, but if we make fun of anything Islamic it is “insensitive”, “intolerant” or not politically correct? This is an injustice and this is not equality. Radical Muslims have a knife to the throat of the entire western world by telling us what we can and cannot do or say, on pain of death. When the Pope said some very innocent remarks the other day in a speech, he was ridiculed by the Muslim world and people were killed. The irony is that the Pope quoted an ancient source who was criticizing Islam’s propensity towards violence. This statement offended Muslims and so they reacted… with violence. It took South Park to show us how blatant this hypocrisy is with their Cartoon Wars episodes, for no one else had the guts (or the will) to highlight this disparity.

Lastly, Matt and Trey are not Christians, so we who are should not expect them to act like ones. How can we get offended and upset at them for making fun of that which they don’t understand? “The story of Jesus makes no sense to me,” said Trey in a recent interview. “God sent his only son. Why could God only have one son and why would he have to die? It’s just bad writing, really. And it’s really terrible in about the second act.” This very clearly demonstrates to me that neither Matt nor Trey understand Christianity, and they can hardly be expected to hold in reverence a faith which makes no sense to them. This was most clearly seen in their episode The Passion of the Jew, which is really one of the only episodes that bothered me, because it made irresponsible conclusions based on ignorance of Christianity.

Father Mackey, the only recurring religious figure aside from Jesus, said that the crucifixion was really a rather small part of the New Testament when in reality it holds an incredibly significant place and was important enough to be repeated in all four gospels. Everything in the gospels leads up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, the entire Old Testament leads up to these moments, for the prophets all predicted the arrival of the messiah who would die and rise again. To Matt and Trey, the Bible is just a good book filled with fantastic stories that should be taken with a grain of salt and not actually believed. How then can we expect them to understand the significance and reason behind the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ if they don’t believe that the Bible is true? Trey said that he didn’t understand why Jesus had to die; well, I will tell you why. If all men sin (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) then those who sin must pay the price of death. This is why the Israelites sacrificed animals in the Old Testament. They were transferring their sin onto the beasts and killing them to pay that price. The problem with this is that men continued to sin, even after sacrificing the animal, and so they would have to sacrifice another, and another, and what if you died before sacrificing an animal to pay for your sin? What then? This is why Jesus had to die. He came to earth and while he was on that cross he took on the penalty for the sins of all of humankind, past, present and future (1 Co 15:1-3, John 1:29, 1st Peter 3:18, 1st Peter 1:18-19). The only being who could have paid the price for all of man’s sins was God; no man could have done it. And because Jesus rose again, he defeated death, Satan and the grave and bridged the gap between man and God so that all who might seek God would find God. That is why Jesus had to die, that is why God had only one son, and that is why it gets “really terrible” around the second act—because sin and death are terrible things.

The Passion of the Christ was just a movie, but it was a good movie and a fair representation of the crucifixion, though it must be stated that the Bible has far more to it than just the crucifixion. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to condemn the Jews for the death of Christ. Jesus and all of his disciples were Jews. The members of the first churches were filled with Jews. The point is that it was man—all of man, not just the Jews—who are responsible for the crucifixion, for it was for all of man that Jesus died. Kyle was incorrect to feel guilty for the death of Christ, because the Bible does not condemn the Jews and neither does Gibson’s movie. This is really my biggest complaint with any of the episodes, because it misrepresents the movie and the Bible.

But how can I expect two men who do not understand Christianity to depict it properly? Matt and Trey said in the interview that Christianity was “superfunny” and a “ridiculous religion” story. We can’t be surprised at such talk, for this very mentality is predicted in scripture. “…but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…” (1st Corinthians 1:27). Christianity will always sound like silliness to non-Christians, though it might make perfect sense to those who are Christians. That is the way of the world and that is the way it will always be. We need not be surprised.

I like South Park because it picks at those open sores within our culture that the politically correct refuse to acknowledge. Yes, it is often a vulgar show, but I refuse to let this spoil for me that which is funny, witty and intelligent about the show. This is my decision and others need not necessarily take up the same position as me, but I encourage Christians to not “rabble, rabble” against the show when it says something they don’t like, and instead either fix those things within our subculture that are ripe for parody—or ignore it.

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Posted in Essays, Faith
12 comments on “One Christian’s Stance on South Park
  1. Anonymous says:

    This does not make sense to me. You are a Christian, and yet you believe it is alright to make fun of Christians and other religions? I am a temple of the Holy Spirit, (the term “Christian” is so loosely used in society today) and watching shows that have vulgarity or anything against God’s commandments is wrong. You cannot be a true Chrstiain and approve of such things. You can’t inherit the blessings of God, but still hold on to the temporary pleasures of sin. I hope God can show you otherwise, and that you will stop watching this show. Jesus died so that we could be free from sin, not to be free to live in it.

  2. Brandon M. Dennis says:

    The way I see it, all that is sacred is God. All we should revere is God. Man is not sacred, man should not be revered. South Park goes beyond my acceptable limit and, I believe, mocks God. I do not approve of that, and I object to any of their episodes in which they mock God. However, the majority of the South Park episodes mock man, and mock man well. All men, according to the Bible, are evil–even Christians. The difference is that God has redeemed Christians and made Christians righteous, even though we do not deserve it, and have done nothing to earn it. We are also all sinners, even Christians, and there is no man who is free from sin. Only Jesus was free from sin and that is why only Jesus can save, not politics, pop-culture, other faiths, eating habits or AA meetings–only Jesus.

    Yes, I believe it is ok to make fun of people and other faiths, because they are inherently funny. Jesus himself insulted the religious people of his day by calling them vipers, insulted non believers when he called a Samaritan woman a dog, and physically drove out with a hand-made whip those who profaned the temple of his father. Jesus called his audience evil, men of little faith, and people he was tired of enduring. Jesus–our God–did not respect man, thought men were silly and foolish, and was not afraid to offend them–in fact, that is why he was killed, because the things he said were offensive, even though they were true.

    This, of course, does not mean that Jesus doesn’t love men. He loved men in the year 30 and he loves men today. He fed men, healed men and ate and drank with men, at the same time that he was frustrated by men and thought they were all sinners, whose best works were no better than filthy rags. You can love someone and think he is silly.

    This is why I find value in much of South Park. Yes, the series is too crude for me. Yes, it occasionally mocks my God, which I do not approve of and will never accept. But the vast majority of the time, the series points out ridiculous behaviors and arguments that people hold sacred when they should not, and humiliates them, as they should be humiliated, when no other program or person will, because they are all intimidated by politically correctness. So while South Park is far from perfect and is at times offensive to me, I can respect the series at other times for its wit and the way it mocks men who think that they themselves are gods.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We are supposed to be in the world but not of it…yes. We cannot create a compound and only associate with Christians…We would never reach the lost…But that is not at all what opposing South park is. Mocking God is nothing I want to be a part of… how many people are turned away from Jesus because of the depiction of Him on this show? I’m not talking about a physical depiction but rather depiction of His character and who his is.

    I had a child (9years old) that I was talking to who had just accepted Christ…I asked him if he had told any of his friends about Jesus… he said he did ask one friend if he believed in Jesus…he said, “I don’t think so…I watch the Simpsons and they make fun of Jesus” Wow! That’s scary how Satan uses things to harden people’s hearts.

    Consider this verse in relation to the vulgar and blasphemous things said against Christ

    Psalm 101:3 (New International Version)

    3 I will set before my eyes
    no vile thing.
    The deeds of faithless men I hate;
    they will not cling to me.

    That this show blasphemes my God tears my heart up…yes it is to be expected of unbelievers (writers of the show) but for believers…we should hate these evil “deeds”…and seek to reach the writers of the show and others who view God this way.

    Here is just a paragraph from wikipedia about south Park’s Cartman.

    Cartman was also the lead singer for “Faith + 1”, a Christian band he formed with Butters and Token in the episode “Christian Rock Hard”. He creates several “Christian” songs by taking sexually suggestive love songs and substituting romantic words such as “baby” and “darling” with “Jesus”; instead of the traditional “Christian Rock” lyrics singing about spiritual love for Jesus, Cartman sings about his desire to have actual, physical sex with Jesus. A few titles of these songs include “Body of Christ” and “Get Down on my Knees and Start Pleasing Jesus”

    I can barely read that… but this is what this show is. Blasphemy of Jesus is quite common… never even could imagine such horrible things.

    Please do not be a part of this…remember we are in a spiritual battle…do not be deceived.

  4. Brandon M. Dennis says:

    Hey thanks again for another insightful post Anonymous.

    I don’t consider myself a part of South Park. I have no stock in South Park and do not write for the show. I am an objective viewer of the show, and while some of it offends and bothers me, much of it is harmless and actually interesting.

    In South Park, Jesus is a mild-mannered talk show host. The offensive part of this is that they don’t portray Christ as a divine God, but more like a prophet who is just a normal guy. This, obviously is incorrect. The majority of South Park’s mockery, however, is directed, not at Jesus or Christianity, but at people, those people sometimes being Christians. And South Park raises many good points about the ways Christians act that are silly. For instance, you, Anonymous, made reference to the Faith +1 episode. I have seen the episode, and some of the lyrics Cartman says in his own “Christian” songs are indeed offensive. The entire point of the show, however, was to highlight a glaring problem with popular Christian music today–it is just written badly. Of course, even bad music, if written to glorify God, is a holy and acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, and so I do not mean to take away from something that helps people with their walk, but in all honestly, if you listen to popular Christian music today, with the exception of a few songs it all sounds exactly the same and is, quiet honestly, boring.

    Christian music does not have to be boring. Christian music can–and has been–exciting and thrilling. The good Christian music that has stuck around for years is music that is pure genius. “Our God is an Awesome God”, “Jesus, You’re the Lover of My Soul,” “For Thou O Lord Art God,” “We Exalt Thee”–all of these are beautiful songs, surely written with inspiration from God and not only build up the Christian but are great witnesses to the non-Christian. Much Christian music today, however, is written with profit in mind, not God, and because of that its influence on Christians–and especially non-Christians–is poor. What will non-Christians think of Christians who can’t even write a good song? What kind of witness is that?

    This point is alluded to with that South Park episode. Yes, it was vulgar and crass. Yes, it was offensive. But I am not going to allow Satan to use these things to take away everything I can learn from that episode, however little it may be. God allows South Park to exist for a reason. Maybe it is to show us how depraved and callous some people can be. And maybe it is to instruct us on how the world really sees us so that we can better adapt our ministry to reach more people. I am not going to allow Satan to use South Park’s vulgarity to take away from me whatever lesson I can learn from watching non-Christians who, whether we like it or not, have influence with many, many people in this world.

    You are right. We are in a spiritual battle. So don’t focus your ire upon mere men who have a silly little cartoon that is sometimes offensive. Instead, read your Bible, hone your arguments, and use that cartoon–and whatever other part of popular culture that interests you–to understand the weapons of the real enemy better.

    It is good to have you here Anonymous. I’d love to see your name next time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with all of your arguments, but I want to use it for my Junior English class if you don’t mind. You set up your argument well by using other people’s arguments and then shooting them down. Plus your subject is something my students like to argue about. If you object to my using it, please let me know before August 28th when school starts. English teacher in Wasilla, Alaska.

  6. Brandon M. Dennis says:

    Sure, go for it :)

  7. Jamie says:

    Well, I may be posting a little after all the hype has died down, but hey!

    The article was inspirational, Brandon. I’m currently writing a 5000 word essay on Christianity and humour, and your article on South Park was an excellent summation of one of my key areas. I’m not going to plagiarise you, so have no fear, but I just wanted to express my gratitude for putting this all in words :)

  8. Paddy says:

    I love your write up so much that I had to share it with my friends. For someone who is expected to shower walls of bind faith on every skeptic one comes by, you come across as a very well-informed and a well-balanced Christian. With a gentle nudge you could walk the freethinkers line someday. Hopefully.

  9. I liked this article, and I once held your mindset to help justify my decision to watch through the first few seasons of South Park online. As it’s been a few years since the creation of this article, there’s a good chance that your opinion of watching the show has changed as mind did.

    Although I wouldn’t go so far as to call watching the show “sinful,” and I’m not going to think less of anyone who chooses to watch it, I personally would say that watching it would be unwise.

    Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

    For the health of our minds and of our souls, there are better, more “noble/pure,” avenues we can go down in order to entertain our mind with witty and humorous portrayals of human folly.

    • Brandon says:

      I agree. Now that I have a son, I wouldn’t want him watching Southpark, so that makes me question why I would want to watch it. I still think many of the arguments and analogies Southpark makes are clever, but the show is too crass. I haven’t watched an episode in years.

  10. Sharo Knox says:

    If you can watch episodes with Jesus residing in you…hmmm…

    http://southpark.cc.com/clips/103763/myrrh-album

  11. Christel says:

    “Forgive them Father, for they no not what they do.”

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