Was Mr. Rogers Evil?

I had a hard time sleeping early one morning, so I turned on the TV to flip through the channels. I saw that Mr. Rogers was about to come on. I haven’t watched Mr. Rogers that often. For some reason, my family did not have public television when I was growing up, so I missed out on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I decided to see what I had missed.

I really enjoyed the show! Mr. Rogers had a soothing, friendly personality. I probably won’t get up early on a regular basis just to watch him (I love to sleep), but I think that his program is good therapy. He’s the type of person who can provide me with the solace I need before I go out into the jungle. Well, Mr. Rogers plus extra prayer.

As I read about him on the Internet, I came across a Fox News story entitled, “You’re Not Special and Mr. Rogers Was an Evil Man.” I never thought of putting “Mr. Rogers” and “evil” in the same sentence, so I checked the story out. The anchors argued that Mr. Rogers gave an entire generation of kids a sense of entitlement. By telling them they were special just the way they are, Mr. Rogers implied that they did not have to work to become special. As a result, there are people who expect good things (e.g., grades, money, recognition, etc.) without working for them. The ultimate result is disappointment, since the world doesn’t give people goodies that they don’t deserve.

The Fox News story is probably accurate in its characterization of many young people—or so teachers have told me. But was Mr. Rogers evil? The program that I watched emphasized self-discipline. Mr. Rogers said that he once tried to learn the clarinet, but he did not practice. He thought that he could become a master clarinet player through osmosis, but he found that the world doesn’t work that way. That convicted me somewhat. I hope to get a flat stomach, but I don’t want to do the daily sit-ups that can bring me to my goal. I want to ace my comps, but I will not do so if I do not study. Like many people, I seek short-cuts that do not exist. Mr. Rogers definitely taught kids (and me) that if they want something, they have to work for it.

But our value does not depend on our accomplishments. That’s what Mr. Rogers meant when he told kids they are special just the way they are. What bothers me about the Fox News story is that it links people’s value with how hard they work and what they achieve. But our value is intrinsic. God made each of us in his image. None of us is unnecessary or superfluous in this world. We all have a purpose and a unique contribution that we can make.

The problem is that the world does not see things that way. We judge people according to the impression that they make on us. To make our mark on the world, we have to impress people. In that, the Fox News story is right. But, fortunately, God is not the world. God loves us even though we do not impress him. His love is unconditional.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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