Wednesday, July 11, 2018

In Theaters Now: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
There is no shortage of silly things said online, but the other day I noticed someone referring to Fred Rogers as a “secular saint.” It seems quite bizarre to me that a man who was an ordained Presbyterian minister would be called “secular.”

The star of a children’s television show is in the public conversation again, fifteen years after his death, because of the documentary about him that's in theaters now.

Movie Churches was created to examine the presentation of churches and clergy in the world of fictional films, but every once in a while it's okay to stray from our mission statements. Occasionally, we’ve posted about television, and on occasion, we’ve featured documentaries, especially when we want to recommend one. That's the case here.

There are some who may say that Rogers left the ministry for public television. Others would say, Fred Rogers made public television his ministry. He couldn’t talk about the love of Jesus on the government sponsored public air, but he could show the love of Jesus. He let preschoolers know that they were special and that people cared about them, that he cared about them. He exemplified the alledged quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”

This film frankly downplays the faith of Fred Rogers. Not much is said about his love of theology and study of great Christian intellectuals. But mention is made about Rogers concern in his last days that he would be numbered among the “sheep” in a reference to Jesus’ parable of the last judgement from Matthew 25. I think it’s safe to say, Fred Rogers loved Jesus, loved his neighbor, and is listed with those who say “Baa.” If we could give our steeple ratings to real people, not just fictional characters and churches, Fred Rogers -- and Mr. Rogers -- would rate Four Steeples.

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