Mister Rogers is all over the news right now, some of it about being a Christian, and it makes me so happy.
Kanye West is all over the news too, most of it about being a Christian, and it’s got me so confused.
Interviews like this one or this interview with Joanne Rogers, Mister Rogers’ widow, tell such a thoughtful, tender story of a man who believed in God, and desired to do good work in the world, among children, without ever needing to share his beliefs or proselytize to the people.
In the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? watching Mister Rogers interact with children enchanted me. He waited patiently, quietly encouraging, while a child explained her drawing. Each time he walked into a classroom or preschool room, he smiled gently, warmly, at the room filled with awe-struck children. His widow laughed so jubilantly telling the story of the child wondering how Mister Rogers got out of the television. Mister Rogers walked this child through the workings of the television, and when he finished the kiddo just wanted to know how he was going to get back inside the box.
Another person that had my attention was a crew member from the Mister Rogers show. This man chortled about hijinks of the crew, and his own shenanigans, taking pictures of his naked backside with the show’s camera. Mister Rogers stumbled across one of these photos, blew it up into a large print, and gave it to him as a Christmas gift. How do you not love this cardigan-and-sneakers-wearing ordained minister more when you hear a story like that?
Probably this crewman, who looked to be a bit of a hippie, a bit anti-establishment even now in his older years, wouldn’t have looked twice at someone like Fred Rogers crossing the street. Or he would have disdained him, his conservative clothes, his short hair, his friendly smile. Yet hearing this man interviewed, he admired Mister Rogers, that much was evident. More than that, he liked him.
Throughout this documentary, and what I’ve read, and heard in the media blitz around this upcoming Tom Hanks’ film, friends, co-workers, fans, and family exalt Mister Rogers for his work in the world. Mister Rogers taught kindness, manners, sharing, and self-worth to children and adults over decades of tv-time. All of this he did as a non-practicing, ordained Presbyterian minister, and without ever standing at a pulpit or referencing God.
In other news, Kanye West is now also a believer. A podcast clued me into his coming to faith, and, from there, I watched some of his talk with Joel Osteen, at Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Kanye’s speaking to his own conversion, the sin in the world, and his personal intentions for doing God’s work in the world. And – I don’t know what to say.
I mean, of course I have things I want to say. Watching any person, in reference to himself, say “the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for Him” – that’s a lot to process. By process, I mean, I want to roll my eyes so hard, they make a full and complete circle in their sockets.
Am I cynical? Yep. Do I wonder if this a marketing ploy? A calculated attempt to garner more fans from a new sector of the population? The beginning of an image rebrand for the – LORD FORBID – 2024 presidential race? Yep, yep, yep.
Do I believe that God can use all things for His good? Yep.
Do I know God can find The Least Likely to Follow Him, and make a laughingstock of that superlative? You better believe I do.
So watching these two men take their place in the history of Christians has got me thinking. How do those of us who believe the Gospel share with those who don’t? I wrestle this question constantly. My people were not Abraham’s people prior to this life-shaking life-change for me.
However, these people, my people? They are some good people. Thoughtful, considerate, kind-hearted. Good parents, good spouses, hard-working individuals. And they’re most definitely still my people.
Here’s Kanye, calling out Christians who could have preached the Gospel to him, and didn’t. He’s proclaiming his love of Jesus, and, God’s powers, while also reaffirming his own place, in his own eyes, of importance. He’s reaching thousands of people who might never otherwise cross the threshold of a church. He’s publicly committing his future work to the Lord, and the Lord’s work. He’s asking for complete silence, so he can let the Lord flow through him. Hmm.
And here was Mister Rogers, showing up for a public television program, 5 days of the week, many days of the year, to talk with children through the media of tv. He sang songs, like
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
So here’s my prayer for these two different men.
Thank You, God, for the Mister Rogers of the world. Thank You for their sweet smiles, their patience, their desire to do Your work without drawing attention to themselves, or causing division in Your name. Thank You for their cardigans, knitted by their mothers, and the tenderness they carry for Your people. Every. Single. Person.
And, Lord, please look after the Kanye Wests of the world. People with great power, and great influence, who are new, and stumbling, and kind of dummies. Help these folks set their own egos aside, and do Your work instead, Lord. To use their power and influence to show others the goodness of Who You Are, for Your sake and Your sake alone.
This world is rich with dummies, Lord. I know that; I’m one of them. Thank goodness we have a God who
is before all things, and in him all things hold together.Colossians 1:17, ESV
So probably I don’t need to worry too much about Kanye, and what he may or may not do. Probably my time would be put to better use keeping my eyes on the Mister Rogers of the world, and working through how to show up more like him.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Romans 12:13, ESV
So there’s my prayer for people like myself, of little influence or power of the world, but with a big, squishy heart for Jesus. Please, Lord, help me contribute to the Saints, like St. Paul, and (prayerfully, one day) Saint Fred Rogers, and to show all Your people hospitality. Even the Kanyes of the world. Every single person.
Because every. single. person. belongs to You.