Listen to the episode Won’t You Be My Neighbor:
Kenny Dickson and Mike Hatch discuss the cinematic and faith elements reflected in the Fred Rogers Documentary Film Won’t You Be My Neighbor, available for streaming rental or purchase on YouTube, Amazon Prime and other streaming services.
Although not categorized as a “faith film,” Won’t You Be My Neighbor communicates elements of faith and what it is to employ faith by serving God as a disciple of Jesus. In showing the how Fred Rogers cared for and taught children, families, and other adults, the film allows viewers to witness truly effective proclamation of the Gospel and reflection of the person and teaching of Jesus.
Faith Elements Spotted:
Incarnation, God With Us: Fred’s willingness and courage to be present with people, through television, in the midst of challenging, difficult times as well as good or ordinary seasons. Reflects God’s desire to be with us as one of us. John1:1,14-18 (The Word Dwelt Among Us,) John 3:31-36 (The One Who Comes From Heaven,) John 8:12-20, (Jesus the Light of the World,) John 11:28-35 (Jesus Weeps,) Matthew 18:19-20
Jesus Honors and Welcomes Children: Fred respected children enough to include them and talk to them as people even in the midst of unpleasant or tragic situations. Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-15, Luke 18:15-17
Holy Space and Moments, Worship: Fred’s “Holy Ground was the space between the TV and the children watching his program. Wherever two or three are gathered. Jesus’s ministry was itinerate and primarily conducted in towns, countryside, Samaria, and the homes of sinners. It was not restricted to Jerusalem or the Temple.
Allowing faith to determine moral beliefs rather than moral beliefs and opinions determine elements of our faith. Fred uses his faith, Scripture and other education and experiences to determine his moral beliefs and the subjects he addressed. Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus ministers outside towns and cities) Matthew 4:23-5:2 (Sermon on the Mount) , John 4:1-42, (Jesus with the woman from Samaria.)
In all things and times, God works for Good. Fred’s health challenges as a child allowed him to experience the importance and need for imagination and stories. Romans 8:26-28
Calling: Having the faith to follow even when one does not know where or is unfamiliar with the ministry God is calling one to. Fred was not familiar with television when he sought to make it the setting of his ministry. Call of Abram) Genesis 12, (Jesus Calls Disciples) Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, (Levi) Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-29, (First Disciples, Philip and Nathanael) John 1:35-51 (Would Be Followers) Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 9:57-62 (Rich Young Man) Mark 10:17-31
Living in and by the Ways of the Kingdom of God vs ways and values of the world. Following the example of Christ, whenever Fred saw injustice or other societal needs or failures, he had the courage to address them, even or especially when they were difficult. This opened him to receiving criticism and attacks. All children of God, are special and unique because they are created and loved by God. (Sermon on the Mount) Matthew 5-7 (Servant Leadership in Kingdom) Mark 10:41-45.
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