Friday, May 22, 2015

Remembering Mister Rogers

"War isn't nice," said Mister Rogers. ;He went on to explain his feelings about war and peace as he talked with the children in his Neighborhood of Make Believe on television. There is a new book, Peaceful Neighbor, Discovering the CounterCultural Mister Rogers, by Michael G. Long,who is associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College, and author of several books on civil rights, religion, politics, and peacemaking. This book is published by WestminsterJohnKnox,

Many of our children grew up watching Mister Rogers on tv, listening to his opinions and stories, content in his Neighborhood of Make Believe, I wonder what those children who were watching remember and how it affected them as they grew up facing problems of their own day. One of those who remembers told me that her dad, as he was leaving for work, asked her to be sure to watch Mister Rogers and they would talk about it when he came back. So she did, and she remembers they sat down and talked about what Mister Rogers, with his puppets and friends, had been talking about that day.

"Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister....who believed in a God who accepts us as we are and loves us without condition, who is present to each person and all of creation, and who desires a world marked by peace and wholeness," writes Long, as he takes Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood seriously. "And why not? For more than three decades, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a national powerhouse that reached more than 3.5 million viewers weekly." 

Author Long has been digging through Rogers' papers at the Fred Rogers Archive at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Penn; reading his speeches at the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Archive at the University of Pittsburgh; studying numerous episodes of the tv run of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968--2001), listening to many interviews Rogers gave, and talking with people he knew well. Long calls him "a powerful, storytelling peacemaker, who taught us to practice deep listening, deep thinking, and deep understanding," antidotes to violence in any form,

Long says Mister Rogers "was a radical Christian pacifist, fervently committed to the end of violence and the presence of social justice in its full glory. The time has come to pull him out of the shadows so we can celebrate him just as he was---a fierce peacemaker."

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Psalms as Hymns of the Church

"The book of Psalms is not a theological textbook," writes Tremper Longman III in his author's preface for his new book  Psalms, which is volume 15 and 16 of the new version in Tyndale's Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) now available from IVPress. But rather, Longman writes: it is "the libretto of the most vibrant worship imaginable." He claims that the Psalms "not only want to inform our intellect, but to stimulate our imagination, arouse our emotions and stir us on to holy thoughts and actions." Is he right? Could 150 poetic hymns and songs, with laments firmly imbedded in their contents, do that for us? I wonder.......

Longman, who is Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, quickly tells us that "even though the laments outnumber the hymns, the predominant note is praise." O.K., that caught my attention and he goes on to explain that each one has a title, Many of the titles include the name of the author, but some titles refer to historical events or liturgy or tunes, or for teaching. The 150 are offered as 5 books, each book having its title and purpose. Longman refers to Psalms 1 and 2 as the beginning or introduction with the closing 5 of the 150 in a doxology. He thinks that stepping back and looking at the way it begins with laments but ends with the last 5 poems in praise may bring us to think that God is "turning our wailing into dancing."

Longman studies each Psalm under the headings of Context, Comment, and Meaning. Readers may follow him through their favorite, maybe Ps. 117, the shortest; or the longest, Ps. 119; or perhaps Ps. 22 with its special application to the death of Christ, often remembered during Lent. Choose a favorite and you will soon be caught up in the lure, mystery, and love of God for his people.....

Tremper does believe there is theology in the Psalms but, as poetry they "arouse the readers' emotions, stimulate their imagination, and appeal to their will. For these purposes, poetry is most effective." He reminds us that as early as the fourth century, Athanasius was saying. 'the Psalms are an epitome of the whole Scriptures,'" And "Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, noted that 'the Psalms are a compendium of all theology.'" Some of today's theologians are following in the way.

A point that I like is that Longman thinks the "prominent mention of tora in Psalm 1 signals that the Psalter is to be read as tora [the 5 books of Moses]." In other words, David's tora is to be read "alongside the tora of Moses" and "this prompts the reader to expect tora in the rest of the Psalter and to be guided by it." Perhaps one could or should mentally fast-forward and think about possibilities for someday.....when Christians and Jewish believers  may be worshiping God together.

---Lois Sibley,