Those eyes. Haunting. Intense. Focused. He had an unusual ability to share a space found in the other person. The space where deep questions and emotions dwell. Mr. Rogers. Many did not understand him. But you can tell a lot by his eyes.
People who have suffered abuse and have forgiven and healed have a look that cannot be attained any other way. Mr. Rogers had the look. His mission was clear but came with strange opposition from the very ones who should have also held his view. Sadly, many Christians do not understand the two-hands of mercy and righteousness that must be balanced without trying to figure out beforehand just how it must be given as part of a whole package. I think Mr. Rogers accepted this as a simple philosophy: Everyone has dignity.
If we really believed that about everyone we meet, would we say, “Wait a minute. Let me see if I need to judge you first, then I’ll see if you have value.”? It’s a struggle we all face, if we are honest. We like to compare our sins and say we are not as bad as the other.
Mr. Rogers was very concerned about children not being able to express those deep thoughts and fears. He was also very concerned about how children’s television shows that elevated bullying and devaluing of others. Let’s face it, we laugh at those cartoons. The actions of cartoon characters tell how we would really like to treat the other person if we just did what we were secretly wishing we could! But all in fun, right? After we beat the crap out of someone. And destroy their dignity.
But, what about those who are bullies first? Or choose a lifestyle that is against righteousness? Mr. Rogers got a lot of flack about his “tolerance”. Fact is, he simply extended his belief toward adults too: Everyone has dignity. Nowhere do we find that he approved of sin. He simply loved the sinner.
The end of this documentary type movie showed short bits if his memorial. Then, sadly, they showed some very unhappy Christians standing across the street from the venue, protesting his legacy by showing banners and great displeasure about Mr. Roger’s life message. I hate to think that I would have been in their camp years ago. I doubt I would have gone as far as they did, but I may have sided with them.
What changed my own heart in these matters? A breakdown. And an amazing healing from the Lord. Why the breakdown? Buried pain from childhood was surfacing to the point of no longer being able to be contained. I find camaraderie with Mr. Rogers in that way. Abuse, bullying, and being de-valued. But, Praise the Lord, healing too. And a new view of compassion. Not perfect. But, definitely different.
As far as his concern about the current tv shows, showing bullying, I am sure he would hate the games children spend hours playing. I know the arguments. Yes, I played cowboys and indians and shot plenty of indians. And, as an adult, I love native Americans. The difference is that I did not play that stuff to obsession. If I was a parent today, knowing what I know now, I would at least balance the games with real live chunks of time teaching and doing compassion. Children must learn to serve rather than always having to be the winner.
I think many adult Christians need to learn the same lesson. But then, that is something that only the Lord can change in our hearts. We must ask Him to do the changing. And then be willing to teach others.
Psalm 51:10-13: Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
What is our part in all this? I believe Mr. Rogers had the simple answer. Everyone has dignity. Live like you mean it.
Lots of love,
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