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Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Lessons from Barney Rubble
Book Review of Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Lessons from Barney Rubble

Published in Catholic Review, 2003

Yabba dabba’ do act like a Christian

By Christopher Gaul

Review associate editor

Barney Rubble is a fine example of someone who lived in the fruit of the Spirit as described by St. Paul.

What? Say that again. Are we talking about Barney, as in "The Flintstones"?

Yes, indeed, insists Kevin Fontaine, Johns Hopkins psychologist and parishioner of St. Clare, Essex. Gentle, generous, modest, honest Barney is a model of true Christian living, Dr. Fontaine says, and if you don’t believe him you can read his book: "Living the Fruit of the Spirit: Lessons from Barney Rubble," hot off the press but not yet on the New York Times best-seller list.

Using a cartoon character to offer Christian life lessons may seem a trifle bizarre, but once you hear Dr. Fontaine’s reasons, it begins to make sense and very good sense at that.

The 38-year-old assistant professor in Hopkins’ rheumatology division much preferred "The Flintstones" to "Mister Rogers" or "Captain Kangaroo" when he was a youngster. There was just something about the cartoon that "got" him.

"I just loved Barney," Dr. Fontaine said. "I didn’t know why at the time but something about him made me feel comfortable, warm, and happy."

When he reflected on it later he realized that he saw Barney as a "good person," someone who seemed to have a certain something, a sort of inner joy at being alive that always eluded the egotistical, gruff and boisterous Fred.

"Barney had a pure heart and a clean honest character," Dr. Fontaine explained. "Despite being manipulated and mistreated by Fred in virtually every episode, Barney maintained his integrity and possessed an inner strength that saw him through all kinds of messes, most of which were created by Fred."

Years later, after earning his doctorate in psychology and reclaiming his lapsed Catholic faith, Dr. Fontaine found himself being drawn to St. Paul and how he talked to people about the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. The more he thought about it the more he remembered his affection for Barney and how the character could be a role model, "a fine example of how to think, feel, and act to live a happy, healthy and joy-filled life."

He was becoming increasingly disturbed by what he sees as modern psychology’s dangerous descent into moral relativism, being convinced as he is that there are moral absolutes, that there are such things as good and evil.

So he sat down at his laptop and began to write about the importance of the Holy Spirit, about love and joy and peace, of patience and goodness, of kindness and self-control and how Barney’s character was such a good fit for these traits.

Take love, for example. Dr. Fontaine wrote that although Barney never talked about God and there is no evidence that he, or indeed any of the Flintstone characters worshiped God, Barney "displayed the selfless agape style of love on a regular basis."

"He was selfless; always helping out Fred, always looking to do something to help somebody," insisted the psychologist-author.

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