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