The Groenings, The Simpsons and Ukraine


    The Simpsons” is the best satire of contemporary American culture. For those interested in Mennonites involved in mass culture, it is also a case study of a family morphing from immigrant Mennonite experience to pop culture celebrity in four generations. For two decades “The Simpsons” cartoon show on the Fox network has made people laugh and groan at the antics of the most dysfunctional—but ultimately loving– family in America. Homer and Marj Simpson and their three children, Bart the brat, Lisa the child genius, and Maggie the pacifier-sucking infant along with Grandpa Abraham live in the mythical city of Springfield. The creative genius of the show, Matt Groening, has been coy about Springfield’s location—even suggesting it might be Winnipeg, Manitoba since his father was born Canadian. He has alluded to the Mennonite and Germany language origins of his family. Matt Groening has recreated his own family tree in the names of his cartoon characters. Most obviously, his real-life parents are Homer and Margaret Groening, and he does have a sister named Lisa. The show is preoccupied with religious— and some might say also sacrilegious — themes. From Reverend Lovejoy—of complex denominational identity to neighbor Ned Flanders—the born-again, Bible-believing neighbor, Groening wrestles with complex issues of faith and meaning in all his characters. When Bart’s tree house burns down, the Amish show up for a barn raising. Marj says, “Oh, those Amish are so industrious, unlike those shiftless Mennonites, and the scene shifts to “Mennonites” shooting dice and smoking cigarettes. In-jokes like this go over the heads of most viewers. Reconstructing the genealogy of Matt Groening one finds a fascinating saga. The story begins in the 1870s when Abraham Groening emigrated from Ukraine and became a leading member of the Gnadenau Krimmer Mennonite Brethren church located southwest of Hillsboro in Marion County, Kansas… This is an inter-generational saga. Abraham Groening is an immigrant from Ukraine to central Kansas and part of the larger Mennonite migration. He is a leader in the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church—a group somewhat more conservative than even the pietist Mennonite Brethren. The faith that prompted him to relocate his family a second time to Canada to avoid the drafting of his sons into the military is complex and unknown. His son Abram Abraham Groening is equally complex and worthy of more research…” (The Groenings, the Simpsons and the Mennonites). But how did the Groenings find their way to Ukraine?

    The Mennonites and Ukraine short article has the answer >



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