Thursday, February 27, 2014

Remembering Mister Rogers

"All that kind of superficial complicated stuff does is to make people feel worse about themselves." 

By Wendy Murray

Mister (Fred) Rogers died on this day 11 years ago. The more time that passes since he left this world the more I wish he was still here, still inviting us to the Neighborhood. The cover story I wrote for Christianity Today was the last major article written about him when he was still alive. I know it was the only major piece that highlighted his "theology of the Neighborhood." He was thrilled to see it. He repeatedly contacted me requesting more copies.

Fred was known to become close to those journalists who interviewed him. How could he not? When you were with him he gently hijacked the interview and asked you the questions. He loved us "just the way we are," even as journalists. He changed our lives.

Upon this anniversary I  include highlights from my time with him in which he discusses the power of the media. He was ordained in the Presbyterian church to minister to children and families through television so he was vested in the proper appropriation:

The space between that television screen and the person who is watching and listening, that space is holy ground. What you present can be translated through that space to meet the need if the person who is listening and watching. The Holy Spirit translates our best efforts into what needs to be communicated to that person. The longer I live the more I know that that's true.

Television is a fabulous media. I would not have devoted all of my professional life to it if I hadn't believed that. 
I wish I knew how every media outlet could take an assignment--and I'm talking about television and radio and computers and magazines -- to do our best to make goodness attractive. We're so caught up in glorifying the opposite, giving it space. I think the Accuser [Satan] would have us be so despairing that we wouldn't do anything. But you know the effect in great darkness of one little candlelight. That sounds very simplistic, but it is true.
What is deep and simple is what is eternal, not what is shallow and complicated. Sometimes evil is almost palpable and we see it trying to make people sad and mad and distrustful.
But I refuse to give up hope because I have seen in my life too many indications of what is wonderful about human beings. 

(Wendy Murray's upcoming book on Fred Rogers will be out next year.)

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