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More Than Just a “Friendly Neighbor”, Mr. Rodgers Was a Counter-Cultural Christian Icon

What may come as a bit of a surprise to many, one author has discovered that Mr. Rodgers was far from just a friendly television personality

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The cheerful sounds of “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood” were a staple part of the childhood of millions of Americans, who grew up learning simple lessons on kindness, neighborliness, and just how vast a collection of sweater-vests one can own.

Fred Rodgers, the man behind the classic children’s show, has long been a symbol of everything wholesome and good, and his legacy has been given new light in the wake of a recently-released documentary on his life, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

What may come as a bit of a surprise to many, one author has discovered that Mr. Rodgers was far from just a friendly television personality, he was also a deeply ideological Christian pacifist, who used his platform to speak out against the variety armed global conflicts that went on during the time his show ran.

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Michael G. Long, associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College, chronicles Rodgers’ quest to promote faith-based pacifism in the book Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers.

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The Christian Post has the story:

In comments given to The Christian Post, Long explained that he was drawn to write the book because, like so many others, he “watched the viral videos of Fred Rogers speaking to children and adults in light of horrific violence — clips in which he speaks of the need to care for another and to keep one another safe.”

“Partly because of my interest in peace studies, these videos led me to wonder about his vision of a peaceful society. And so I began digging through the Fred Rogers archives at St Vincent College in Latrobe,” said Long.

“I discovered that Fred Rogers was not only the gentle soul we all imagined him to be, but also a fierce peacemaker intent on creating other peacemakers who would help establish God’s peaceable reign right here on Earth.”

During his research, Long explained to CP that he analyzed the letters, sermons, prayers, essays, books, and television programs of Mr. Rogers, who was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

“Rogers broadcast antiwar programs during the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, and he broadcast programs opposing the nuclear arms race in the 1980s,” explained Long.

“Rogers always advanced the idea that there is a better way to solve conflicts, and to deal with our anger, than going to war or fighting.”

You may not agree with his theology, but it is always admirable to see any Christian have such a large impact on the world with a simple message of kindness, love, and decency.

Lord knows we need more of that today.

 

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