We Need More Mr. Rogers Christians

We Need More Mr. Rogers Christians July 22, 2018

He was a man of deep Christian faith, an ordained Presbyterian minister, and a Republican. Yet, he angered the Christian Right with his message.

He must have been doing something right.

As I watched the new documentary about Fred Rogers yesterday, I was greatly moved, sometimes to tears, by this sweet, gentle man who was such a big part of my childhood. I was moved by his assertion that love, or the lack of it, is at the core of everything that happens to us. I was moved by the way he looked deeply into the eyes of children and made them understand that they were loved just exactly the way they were–unconditional love. It’s a beautiful thing to witness from a fellow human being–a neighbor–and when I saw it coming from Fred Rogers, I realized just how rare it is in our world. Love your neighbor as your self. It shouldn’t be rare at all.

Unconditional love should be as common as Christianity.

Let me say that again and put it in bold and italic font…

Unconditional love should be as common as Christianity.

So why is it so rare?

It’s rare because somewhere along the line, politics became the strange bedfellow of too many Christians. The world of politics in a society based upon capitalism places a high premium on success. It creates a meritocracy. The concept of a meritocracy should fly in the face of Christianity. Christians should recognize this instantly. Every church I’ve ever been associated with does a good job of selling unconditional love. They told me that there is nothing I could ever do to earn my way to heaven because I could never be “good enough” to deserve God’s grace. They told me that there was nothing I could ever do to make God love me any more or less–that God loves me unconditionally. That is one of the cornerstone tenets of the faith. Yet, as I watched the documentary about Fred Rogers, I saw him being persecuted on Fox News because he was preaching this very message to kids. Rogers told kids that they had great value and were loved just the way they are–just for being them. Right wing Christians didn’t like hearing that coming from Rogers. They took to the airwaves and blamed Rogers for all of society’s ills because he had mollycoddled a generation of children into believing that they were fine the way they were. In fact, the Westboro Baptist Church was protesting right across the street from Fred Rogers’ funeral. When asked why, they responded that it was because Rogers was “tolerant of fags.”

Fred Rogers was a registered Republican, but sitting there watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but think that, were he still with us, he’d distance himself from the current version of that party. I can’t imagine Fred Rogers suffering the things coming from the White House in 2018.

So far as I can see, unconditional love is hard to come by these days. The message coming from the Christian Right is a confused one. From the pulpits, Christ’s message of unconditional love is still preached, but in the streets it’s too often nowhere to be found.

We need more Mr. Rogers Christians.

 

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