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Mister Rogers . . . a Radical Faith

When Fred Rogers died of cancer in 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to honor “his dedication to spreading kindness through example.” (Variety) Tyler Huckabee at the Washington Post observed, “Rogers was a man defined by his Christian faith, and the message that he taught every day on his beloved children’s show was shaped by it.”

Now, as Tom Hanks is slated to portray Fred Rogers in a coming biopic, there is renewed interest—and nostalgia—about Mister Rogers and his perspective on a gentler, kinder way to endure life’s storms . . .

“Mister Rogers” even showed up at the Sundance Film Festival this year in a documentary titled Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Variety notes: “[Director Morgan] Neville’s fantastic archival footage reveals . . . his philosophies, if not the childhood memories that gave Rogers the ability to understand a four-year-old’s brain, almost as if he still carried his in his cardigan pocket. He knew what kids needed to know.”

Huckabee opined, “[Mister Rogers’] show debuted . . . after the Cuban missile crisis, and the world remained on tenterhooks. [His] message upended a few apple carts in his own time, and remains countercultural today. He said, ‘When we look for what’s best in the person . . . we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.’ Mister Rogers’ theology was radical in 1962 . . . and it remains radical today.”

Chaos, Panic . . . and a Positive Message

When three young Americans foiled a terrorist attack in France on the 15:17 train to Paris on August 21, 2015, they had no idea they were part of a bigger plan. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler had grown up together and attended a Christian school in California. As Christians, all three are convinced that their actions that day were part of God’s plan.

Their stunning heroism was chronicled in the autobiography titled The 15:17 to Paris which was recently adapted for the big screen, spreading their message of hope through film. As reported in The Guardian, “Acclaimed actor-director Clint Eastwood asked the trio to play themselves in the movie, along with others involved in the incident. As well as focusing on the onboard action, the film tells the backstories of the childhood friends who were hailed as heroes.”

A remarkable part of this story is that in the midst of the chaos, panic and terror, there is a positive message . . .

“Everyone is capable of the extraordinary, and God has a plan for each of us. I think it’s our responsibility to take that message and be responsible with it and spread it as much as we can so we don’t waste the opportunity that [God] gave us,” said Sadler.

 

The #hashtag effect

by Dan Rupple

Over the past few awards seasons, the “voice” that overshadowed “And the winner is . . .” was the collective voice of an industry crying out about harassment, offenses, or injustices. You may or may not agree with the ideologies behind one or two of these voices, but it’s hard to deny the pain in the hearts they come from.

Heartbreaking accounts of sexual leveraging or the infamous “casting couch” have long been emanating from the private sanctum of the media industry. Throughout the decades, with an increase seen in the 90’s, numerous individual voices made public allegations of abuse. But why did these previous voices stay individualized? How, suddenly, do today’s voices get amplified? Why are they only now sparking the media industry and cultural change?

All too often, fear of exposure or shame will lead a person to believe the deadly lie that they are alone in their struggles, that no one else cares, that they  are stuck in their affliction with no possible relief or rescue in sight.

Then they hear a voice. A singular, courageous voice standing up, saying, “This is my experience . . . .” And the hearer cries, “That’s my experience too! I am not alone in this battle, this struggle; I am not alone in this journey!”

And a discovery is made. By standing in solidarity with others who have been hurt as they have, a solitary voice can become a collective voice. And with the assistance of a #hashtag, this “voice of the voiceless” can spread throughout varied social media platforms, increasing in volume. When that occurs, what began as a “still, small voice” can suddenly spark a movement . . . a movement for cultural change, as “private pain made public” gives the world a sense of the magnitude of the problem!

This is what we are seeing within the media industry. The collective voices of innumerable victims are being heard, and the media world is responding. It has been termed “empowerment through empathy” with a proactive focus on determining the best ways to hold perpetrators responsible and to stop the cycle.

I can’t help but think of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 9). Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector in Jericho, despised and vilified by the Jewish community. Shunned by society, he suffered alone. Until one day when a huge crowd gathers to see Jesus. Zacchaeus, a man short in stature, climbs high up into a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of this man of peace. Zacchaeus’ life is changed, because not only did he see Jesus, but far more important . . . Jesus saw him!

Zacchaeus realized he wasn’t alone. Someone saw him. Someone acknowledged his pain, his isolation, and his loneliness. And then Jesus did the incomprehensible—He asked to come into Zacchaeus’ home and dine with him.

If social media had been around when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, He might have used #IAMwithU. The Beatitudes were a voice to the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the poor in spirit, the mournful. Jesus was, and still is, telling people the liberating truth that they aren’t alone in their hurt . . . an all-loving God sees us in our pain and walks with us on our journey to healing.

In this unprecedented time of upheaval and despair in the entertainment industry, may God use these digital megaphones and our relational connections to further Mastermedia’s “voice of faith” and spread His dynamic life-changing love, grace, and truth to those who are lonely and isolated.