Who here remembers watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a child? From 1968 through 2001, Fred Rogers changed children’s lives through an educational program on several different channels throughout the US and Canada. Did you have any idea that he was more than just a TV personality? Mister Rogers was in fact, a minister as well. Rogers attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963. His show did more than educate children; it helped spread the word of God in a non-threatening way.
Who is Mister Rogers?
Fred Rogers was widely known as a television personality, the star of a children’s educational show. He was not only the creator, but producer, composer, head writer, puppeteer, and showrunner of the preschool program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was very well known for its slow cadence and peaceful, relaxing vibes. Throughout his career, Rogers showed a real passion and love for educating children, not only on the surface but mentally and psychologically as well. His program helped children understand and navigate complicated feelings and situations, including death, sibling rivalry, tolerance, sharing, and self-worth. In 1963 Rogers graduated from The Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and then went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development. Over his lifetime, he has received over 40 honorary degrees, and awards including The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Lifetime Achievement Emmy. At the age of 74, Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer, but his legacy lives on.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
It’s only fitting that we pay homage to the late Fred Rogers as we await the release of biopic. The film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. Interestingly enough, this film does touch upon his faith and how much it impacted the person he was and the footprint he left behind. It shows scenes of him kneeling by his bedside, reading a bible, clearly showing audiences the level of faith he displayed and how important it was to his entire being. Rogers’ whole life is his gospel. The movie stars Tom Hanks, playing the iconic Mister Rogers, and carries us through the friendship between him and journalist Tom Junod. The film is set to be released in November 2019.
The Child is Closer to God than the Adult
New York Times columnist Tom Brooks sums it up best. Fred Rogers was a man who did not preach but spoke the word of God through his television show without using bible verses. He taught virtue, patience, kindness, understanding, tolerance, and so much more…all pillars that are taught in Christianity. He delivered these virtues to youth in a secular, all-inclusive way that would impact lives in a way that we never would think twice about. His faith was so prominent in his life, and Rogers managed to spread it without broadcasting and pushing his beliefs onto others.
Am I a Sheep?
In the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, another biopic about Fred Rogers, we see his widow recount his final moments. She mentions some of his final words to her, “Am I a sheep?”. For those not familiar with the Holy Bible or Theology, this may not mean very much, but this simple question says so very much about the man that was Fred Rogers.
Matthew 25:31-33 reads, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”
On his deathbed, he is asking his wife, and maybe even asking himself, whether he was a good enough man and whether he was worthy enough to stand in God’s good graces. The truth is, no one will ever be good enough to earn a spot alongside God himself. However, Rogers seemed to have understood that many would claim themselves good; God would reject that.
Mister Rogers was very publicly known to be one of the nicest people you would ever meet, from those who knew him personally to those that met him in passing. However, here, the nicest man some may ever have met, leaves this world with the understanding that he still may not have done enough. It is this devotion to his faith, this deep understanding of God, that is truly inspirational about Rogers.
A True Inspiration
Mister Rogers may be gone, but he certainly has not been forgotten. What is most impactful about his life is the way that he lived it so calmly and peacefully, never forcing his beliefs on others. Even though Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is not an inherently Christian program, it indirectly teaches youth Christian values, kindness, compassion, and caring. He was a man of the people and led by example.
Producers of the show noted that Rogers always read all of his letters sent in by fans. Not a single one would get neglected. For those of you that have watched the show, you may notice that there is a segment where he feeds his goldfish. Have you ever noticed that he verbalizes the fact that he is feeding the fish? He once received a letter from a young blind girl who was concerned that his fish were going hungry. In her letter, the young Katie said that she could not see if he was feeding the fish and asked if he could please say when he was. Ever since reading that letter, just so she would know they were being fed, on each episode, he would do precisely that, just for her.
Mister Rogers played a huge role in children’s television. He wanted to effect a change when he saw a severe lack of educational programming for children, and he created something truly beautiful that will never fade away.