Seeing the Fred Rogers doc really took me back. I grew up enthusiastically on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I learned to tie my shoes by tenaciously trying at the start of every show when he swapped shoes and sweater.
In retrospect, the original pool-soaking episode with Officer Clemmons was so profound, a White Presbyterian minister sharing a pool and sharing a towel with a Black man on national television, at a time when Coloreds were being kicked out of swimming pools by White managers. As a kid, seeing it in syndication much later (I’m not that old LoL), I had no such context. It was what it was, diversity as a normal everyday thing. What’s so profound about it now, is realizing that Clemmons was not just Black, but gay, and while Mister Rogers never commented on either label, Reverend Rogers knew, and still shared the pool with him anyway. A simple-yet-profound reminder of just how Christian Christ actually was (if you get the Biblical reference of the moment).
The show really was mission tool for spreading the Gospel teachings, without ever once mentioning (or even hinting at) God, Jesus, or even Fred’s own ordainment. But I think that was the ultimate point. That a good Christian is a good person, but you don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person. If you look at how religion is taught today (and how it has always been taught), that is a pretty radical departure, just as radical as Jesus’ own teachings were from the established Judaic church of his time. So radical, that they had him executed for it.
If you look at television programming, past present and future, I don’t think there ever was, or ever will be, anyone as courageous as Fred Rogers. That also means that no one else ever was, or ever will be, as protective of our children’s minds and hearts as he was.
Just a reminder that we were all Daniel Tiger at some point. And still are.
I think the one lesson most Christians miss about our religion is that kindness takes courage. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for walking the talk for us, every day, for generations.