The Time Mr. Rogers Slapped Me Upside the Head
Every time I’ve sat down to write a post in the last month, I’ve come up dry. I was thinking it must be writer’s block, but now I’m not so sure. There’s a quiet revolution happening in my heart and I’m only now beginning to see it for what is.
Waging war to promote peace
Evangelicalism’s been going through some changes. And frankly, it needs to. The social texture that birthed it has changed, and it can’t maintain a 1950’s posture towards a culture that has evolved. It’s becoming irrelevant.
Now, before you hit the “comment” button and start spitting venom, I’m not talking about the need to change “truth” per se. I am just talking about its posture towards truth—a posture I have touched on in posts like What Would It Take to Admit You’re Wrong? and Christianity and the Spiral of Silence.
It’s important to note that evangelicalism is my mother. I’ve been a member of many different denominations, but they’ve all existed under evangelicalism’s banner. But within that American Christian framework where I’ve come to know Jesus, superfluous litmus tests have become the norm.
It’s not easy to fit comfortably under American evangelicalism’s tent and not be nationalistic, right wing, or an NRA supporter. To conflate these ideologies and Christ’s gospel is getting more and more difficult for me (again, hold off on the comments until we reach the end).
That said, I’ve found a certain niche blogging success among some amazing upstart writers who are also frustrated with Christian culture. A lot of these writers are amazing people who I am honored to be mentioned among. But lately I have had the words of Proverbs 20:29 reverberating in my head: “The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
Some of the discussion in this tribe can be a bit vitriolic and the posture somewhat aggressive. Fighting a war (even a culture war) is a young person’s game. If I was in the exact same place twenty years ago, I would have been a lot more vocal, a lot more confrontational, and probably a lot more successful.
Inspiration from an unlikely source
I became “friends” with Amy Hollingsworth recently through some witty banter on a Facebook page. The day we became friends, I bought a copy of her book, The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers.
I read it quickly and immediately read it again. It was a revelation to me—or at least a recalibration. There was something magical in Hollingsworth’s enumerations of his virtues.
Mr. Rogers was one of whom Christ would have said, like he did of Nathanael, “in him there is no guile.” Being reminded of this kindhearted and sincere man spoke to something deep within me.
We find what we’re looking for
I tend toward critical thinking. I see this as a profound strength . . . unless I allow it to make me critical.
It’s a subtle step from thinking critically about the church to constantly looking at it through a critical lens. It’s not that I fear that my critical nature is going to hurt church (she’s existed through many terrible manifestations and more profound critics than I); it’s because I fear it’s hurting me.
I’m a real wise ass. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but I work in sarcasm like William Blake worked in watercolors. When coupled with my tendency towards hyper-critical thinking, I can easily succumb to behavior that is less Christlike than I aspire to.
The longer I look at the world (and the church) through a lens of deficiency, the less I am going to see what is true, noble, and right. I need to indulge and strengthen my ability to see and celebrate goodness.
Similar to Dostoevsky’s The Idiot or the Winston Groom’s Forest Gump, being reintroduced to Mr. Rogers challenged me. Not because I see Mr. Rogers as stupid, mind you, but because I see in him the same sort of purity that the rest of the world sees as simple. Fred Rogers was so busy trying to be the good that the world lacked that he didn’t have time to be publicly critical of her flaws. He simply was the change that children needed to see.
I can be clever and I can be critical. These things come naturally to me—they’re not fruits that I need to nurture. It’s time I turned my attention toward areas where I’m not so strong.
I’m inviting you to join me
I have written some pieces on this blog that I am particularly proud of. If you have read and enjoyed them, thank you.
As we move forward, I expect the tone to change. I hope you’ll stick around for that too. I believe world and the church are struggling, but also believe that Christ has overcome the world and is powerfully at work in the church.
I want to turn my attention there.
A couple disclaimers:
1. This post is about me. I have many friends and blogging colleagues who are fighting some difficult and entrenched dragons. I don’t want my personal conviction to be read as any sort of condemnation against them or anyone else. We’re all doing the best we can.
2. I reserve the right to write the occasional critical piece, so please don’t point at this post in the future when I do.