The end of the new Mr. Rogers documentary – Won’t You Be My Neighbor – caught me off guard. People criticized him. Criticizing Mr. Rogers? Isn’t that like sinning against the Holy Spirit, vandalizing a Mother Teresa picture, and not listening to your mother all rolled into one?
The criticism essentially was this – everyone is not special. By claiming everyone is you are setting them up on a pedestal which they have not earned. A child with a false sense of accomplishment is set up for a harder fall and we are better to be honest with our children from the outset.
Here is where I lament how shallow America is. Ugh.
Our country is like one massive swimming pool with nothing but a shallow end. Our movies are simple, our media is simple, our food chains taste the same, and when it comes to religious thinking we dumb it down to the point where we equate financial blessing with divine favor….a blog for another day.
Rev. Fred Rogers got it right, and if the film about him makes a mistake it is to not emphasize his Christianity enough. We are special. We are made in the image of God according to Christian thought, and to tell a child they are special and loved are essentials every child must know.
As we grow into adults – a pilgrimage we must make – we discover, though, we are not perfect. We are flawed. And this is where Mr. Rogers could get into trouble – one of his central lines to children is ‘I like you just they way you are.’ As an adult when I become aware of my shortcomings I listen to that statement and say ‘I hope not’. Love me enough to make me new, make me better.
This is where redemption is helpful. To be redeemed is to be claimed, exchanged, or to clear a debt. In Christianity, Jesus offers us an exchange, where he takes our sin and brokenness as his own and offers us a chance to become new. Jesus is the way we move through our imperfection and become more like Him.
Jesus also would insist, though, that redemption is completely based in love. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you just the way you are. Jesus also loves you enough to make you better. Redemption is simply another step in God’s love story with us all.
Regardless of your generation, I encourage you to see the movie. It is always amazing how a ‘children’s show’ can bring us to the deepest of thoughts. Perhaps that is why Jesus liked being around them – kids have a knack for the profound.
As for Mr. Rogers, I am still a fan. It was true then and is now, I always wanted to have a neighbor just like him.