Original air date: 12/16/2001
Production code: DABF-02
Lisa abandons her Christian faith (after the local church sells ad space inside of it to cover the damages done by Homer and Bart's toy rocket) and opts for a new one that still allows her to be closer to God, Buddhism. When word gets around, Marge tries to win her back to Christianity, but Lisa refuses.
First episode under Al Jean's solo tenure, broadcast-wise.
Tropes of this episode:
- Abusive Parents:
- Homer proclaims that in his house, he controls what his children (well, Bart and Maggie) eat and believe in. Then he forces Bart to eat his breakfast as unhealthily as possible. When Bart protests that eating like this is making his heart hurt, Homer gives him a Death Glare.
- Marge refuses to accept Lisa not wanting to go to church anymore because they've commercialized and trying to find another faith. Once Lisa converts to Buddhism, Marge spends the entire episode trying to force her to convert back to Christianity through guilt-tripping and being all-around intolerant.
- Artistic License – Religion: In her search of a better way to be close to God, Lisa converts to Buddhism, a strange choice given that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that all but explicitly rejects the existence of a higher being like Godnote to the point that such belief is explicitly considered to be acinteyya or detrimental to enlightenment. The show itself lampshades it, even: "no creator gods, just the pursuit of enlightenment." Lisa's motives would make it much more fitting for her to adopt Hinduism, a sister religion of Buddhism, which affirms an all-pervading entity named Brahman, which is similar to the idea of God. This is not more than a little Truth in Television though, as Lisa wouldn't be the first nor the last (particularly western) Buddhist to adapt it to their own personal views of religion and spirituality.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment:
Dolph: I'll tell you someone who cares. He's got long hair, works as a carpenter, has a lot of crazy ideas about love and brotherhood.Jimbo: His name's Gunnar and he's dating my mom. Sometimes he buys us beer.
- There's a scene where it seems Homer is berating Lisa for becoming a Buddhist. He's actually berating Bart for not buttering up his bacon. He does it again when he tells Bart to bacon up a sausage.
- The bullies' response when Bart asks who cares about Lisa dumping Christianity. It's never explained why Gunnar cares about Lisa's faith.
- Blasphemous Boast: Not that boastful, but extremely blasphemous, is the money changer saying that you can change money in the house of God; this is a reference to the Bible where Jesus's Berserk Button was pushed when he found out they made his Father's house a house of commerce and kicked out the money changers.
- Bowdlerization: A scene where Lenny and Carl say they're spending Christmas with Moe to ensure he doesn't attempt suicide is cut on UK television.
- Call-Back: Benjamin, Doug and Gary from the episodes "Homer Goes to College" and "Faith Off" have a cameo.
- Christmas Episode: The episode doesn't make clear whether or not it's actually December, but the final part of the episode involves Marge making the whole family celebrate Christmas anyway in an attempt at making Lisa stop being a Buddhist (when Lisa asks about presents, Marge answers that since Buddhists don't celebrate Christmas, she doesn't gets any).
- Crisis of Faith: The plot of the episode is Lisa trying to find a better temple after the church decides to take adverstisment.
- Graceful Loser: Burns tries to disappear in a smoke bomb with the benefit the church made plus his initial gain. When he fails reaching the door in time he just throws all the money at the church committee. No one even tried stopping him he was just disgusted his escape failed.
- Jerkass Ball: Marge gets very militant about Lisa renouncing Christianity and becoming a Buddhist, with the implication that she will kick Lisa out of the house if she doesn't change and in the final part of the episode celebrating Christmas and explicitly saying that if Lisa isn't part of the family's religion, she can't get presents. She also throws freshly baked cookies away as part of a manipulation for Lisa, and ignores that Bart wants them.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Kearney, a known bully and petty thug, is on the church council and points out what has to be done about the church, making it a priority.
- Burns also fits this trope after all he did help rebuild the church, even if the advertisements inside were in bad taste. Subverted in that he actually wanted to make a run for it with the profit the church made, but when he failed, he still ended up being a Graceful Loser.
- Kid Has a Point: Lisa does explain to Bart she's not going for a new way to worship just because it sounds cool, she rather find one that brings her peace while reminding God that she still respects Him.
- Kick the Dog: Homer forces Bart to place a bacon around his sausage with a Death Glare despite his son starting to complain about his health.
- No More for Me: Upon seeing the Simpsons' rocket in the sky, a bum in a gutter decides to stop drinking and throws away his bottle. A businessman subsequently catches it and promptly sits in the gutter and tosses his briefcase away to drink it.
- Noodle Incident: When thinking up ideas to fix the church, Marge suggests they "write to David Bowie again".Rev. Lovejoy: No, he's done enough for this church.
- Nutritional Nightmare: Homer makes Bart put butter on his bacon, then wrap the buttered bacon around his sausage.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Lovejoy doesn't like the changes any more than Lisa but Burns paid the reconstruction on those conditions. The church is reverted back to its old looks not just because Status Quo Is God but because they paid off the debt.
- Open-Minded Parent: Homer doesn't care one bit that Lisa doesn't want to go to church or that she converted to Buddhism. He only goes along with trying to convert her back because Marge is making him do it.
- Out-of-Character Moment:
- Marge is very intolerant of Lisa leaving Christianity and joining Buddhism, while Homer isn't particularly bothered by it.
- Lisa herself also acts out of character here. In Homer the Heretic Homer felt going to church was a waste of time, but raised some thought-provoking points about it, and despite that, Lisa shunned him for doing so. In this episode, meanwhile, Lisa is the one having good reasons to leave the increasingly commercialized Church of Springfield and not wanting to go to church anymore.
- Product Placement: The episode's Chalkboard Gag had Bart writing, "I do not have a cereal named after me." When this episode aired, he did—Bart Simpson Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch.
- Rage Against the Heavens: After Burns convinces the Church council that the Lord will happily go for the deal he's offering to rebuild the church, a crucifix on the church roof breaks off and whacks Burns on the head. He angrily looks skywards and shakes a fist, muttering "Oh you'll get yours!"
- Recognition Failure: Despite being a Buddhist, Lenny astonishingly has no idea who the Dalai Lama is, nor Buddha himself.
- Rule of Funny: Kearney is somehow a teenager and the parent of a teenager.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Nibbles the Hamster decides to eject himself from the rocket rather than to follow Homer's correction instructions.
- Special Guest: Richard Gere as himself.
- Two Men, One Dress: When Lisa becomes a Buddhist, the rest of the Simpson family tries to lure her back into Christianity by having her celebrate Christmas with them. They do so by wrapping up what looks like a pony, knowing that Lisa has always wanted a pony for Christmas. When Lisa doesn't fall for it, the pony is revealed to be a disguised Ralph and Milhouse, with the former being the front and the latter being the rear.
- Vocal Dissonance: After Lisa plants her very own sacred fig tree to meditate, Homer, under Marge's orders to sway Lisa back to Christianity, puts a little, feminine-looking singing Christmas angel on top of the tree. Said angel barks out "Jingle Bells" in Homer's own recorded voice.