Friday, 20 August 2010
By Justin at Faith and Geekery
He was on the air for forty years and remained free of scandal, you can still find reruns in the early morning hours, and he even had a theme song (which will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day).
[A] YouTube clip shows Rogers’s guiding philosophy for his show as he talks about what a powerful medium television is, and wondered “why wouldn’t we use this medium to broadcast grace?” It was then that the scales fell from my eyes and I felt as if I saw this dear man correctly for the first time. Far from the bland, weak, pushover I had earlier dismissed, I now saw an intentional and innovative champion of the gospel whose brilliance was outmatched only by his capacity for kindness.
Mister Rogers is one of the few people of whom it can be said he was very much the same on screen as he was off. He was a disarming person, someone whose strength was his compassion and honesty. Jason gives a perfect example of his empathy by quoting an Esquire story about a visit Rogers paid to a boy with a severe physical disability:
At first the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that he … got mad and began hating and biting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room to talk to him. Mister Rogers didn’t leave though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, ‘I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?’ On his computer the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said: ‘I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?’ And now the boy didn’t know how to respond. He was thunderstruck … Because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn’t know if he could do it, he said he would … and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn’t talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean that God likes him too.
I recommend reading the whole article. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, and he saw doing his show as a form of ministry to children. As some of the quotes here suggest, God was on the mind of Mister Rogers quite often, and it was his faith that motivated both the show and his philosophy regarding how to teach children.
In some parts of Christianity, there’s something of a movement to “reclaim” manhood, and some have held up Mister Rogers as the antithesis. In my opinion, this is an extremely unwise and shortsighted view of masculinity. When you read about him, you find that he was a determined perfectionist who was very assertive about his show and his beliefs. His strength and integrity were apparent in all that he did, even if he didn’t look or act like Chuck Norris. Both men are manly, and as Mister Rogers might have said, “your body is fancy, and so is mine.”
Oh, and Chuck Norris facts? Cliched. Try Mister Rogers facts instead. He made thieves return his car, helped legalize VCR recording, and had an indirect hand at taming Koko the Gorilla. Really.
Then again, some of the Mister Rogers facts veer into legend but still make good folklore. For example — Mister Rogers’s friendship with a certain member of the X-Men named Storm allowed him to ensure that every day was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.