Friday, July 20, 2018
Won't You Be My Neighbor? -- a review
There may be other teachings more central to the Christian gospel--I don't care to fight or argue. But I can't help thinking that no tenet is so radical, so "out there," so impossible, as this one: every last human being, not some but all, even the villains and most vile, have somewhere within them an authentic fragment of the the Most High, the likeness, the very image, of God. We are all image-bearers. All. Every last one.
Its corollary is equally unreasonable: because we carry that image, we deserve respect, even love. All of us. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"; "love your neighbor as yourself."
Really? Get serious.
I spent time in front of the TV when our kids were little. In the morning I watched my share of Sesame Street because they did. It was the eighties, and every afternoon Fred Rogers would walk into his cheap, utilitarian set, take his jacket off his shoulders, pull on a cardigan, feed the fish, and sing some silly ditty. Our kids were mesmerized.
And I giggled because Fred Rogers' TV presence was totally absurd. He should not have had millions of viewers. Nothing happened in his blessed neighborhood. No fireworks. No pratfalls. None. No conflict. No Oscar the Grouch. Just a few neighbors who dropped by and a couple of hand puppets leaning out from the same old holes in the wall.
I never gave him mind really, but I often sat there in astonishment at my kids' astonishment. By any measure at all Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood shouldn't have even been on the tube. Fred Rogers had to have been the only person in TV land who believed that helping kids understand themselves and the world around them meant quiet reassurance in the repetition of ordinary things accomplished in love and tolerance. He should not have had so many viewers. My kids wouldn't miss it.
Right now, it's difficult to imagine a more worthy contemporary beatitude than Won't You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary film on the life of Mr. Fred Rogers. It's a wonderful testimony, as beautiful and moving a sermon as Michael Curry's remarkable address recently at the royal wedding, a shocking reminder, seriously, that the Truth of the Gospel is as stunning as it ever was.
The Christian world would do itself and its Lord a favor next Sunday to simply forget worship for a week and gather instead to watch this movie because Won't You Be My Neighbor? delivers the goods in a fashion that preaches a gospel beyond words.
Fred Rogers was as human as any of us; Won't You Be My Neighbor doesn't skimp on his weaknesses. But it directs us all toward the central value of his life and work, the doctrine of Jesus that insists we are all image-bearers, all of us, even the least of us.
Behold, I have a dream--that all of God's children, evangelicals and Catholics, Mormons and Pentecostals, Trumps and No-Trumps, evolutionists and creationists, black and white and red and every hue between, gather in churches some Sunday morning soon and, all together, watch a movie about a strange guy who tried to live the gospel truth. Forget liturgy and music and performance. Every believer from every tribe and nation simply watch, together, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
Oh, happy day.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:27 AM