The following is a guest post by a friend who wants to remain anonymous. He is a Christian apologist who works in the software industry.
The marketing machine for the latest Tom Hanks movie portrayal of Mister Rogers is in full swing. And they’re trying hard to sell the movie to the Christian community. A recent Christian Post article claims:
‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was Fred Rogers’ mission field, wife Joanne says
“One of the most important things we accept and know is that Fred was first and foremost a minister in the Presbyterian Church,” Joanne Rogers told The Christian Post.
The trouble with this is that if the show was Fred Roger’s mission field, he failed because people know him more for being nice than for preaching Jesus.
It’s telling that one of the most common “surprising facts” shared about Mr Rogers is that he was a Presbyterian minister. If we hadn’t been told this, we wouldn’t know it based on his work and legacy.
A commenter on Facebook writes:
His job was to do a kids show not to proselytize. Did Jesus go around preaching when He was called to be a carpenter? No He did His job.
I’m sure people asked Mr. Rogers what his motivation was and there’s nothing wrong with having private conversations about it and not using the television to preach. People don’t watch kids shows to be preached at. That would be a misuse of his platform! 😒
Is that true? Let’s take the case of Fred Rogers’s longtime friend and frequent show guest, Francois Clemmons. In addition to being a talented broadway actor, Francois Clemmons is proudly gay. And there’s no indication that Fred Rogers pressed Francois Clemmons to repent and turn to Jesus.
“He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.
Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”
“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”
“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.””
Which is even more sad when you consider that Fred Rogers took a brave stand against racism.
He found racism to be an important enough subject to import the foot washing example of Jesus but there’s no indication that he called Francois Clemmons to repent for his sinful lifestyle choice.
“But did Mr. Rogers ever condemn you?
No. He said, “Sometimes people do get married and they settle down, they live a different life. You can’t go to the those [gay] clubs. . .That may not be the answer for you, Franc; you have to consider something else. What, I’m not sure. But that may not be the route for you.””
I don’t expect, nor would I advocate for, Fred Rogers to do nothing but condemn Francois Clemmons. But it’s pretty telling that in all of their years working together, with Fred knowing Francois’s sexual orientation, that Fred never saw fit to tell him where his sinful lifestyle would eventually lead according to Scripture and plead with him to repent.
Fred Rogers is being lionized by popular media. You have to ask yourself why. Especially in a culture that still condemns Chick-fil-A for what its founder’s son said nearly a decade ago. The reason is not because Fred Rogers looked like Jesus. Quite the contrary. It’s because Fred Rogers was soft and effeminate. Fred Rogers is what the world wants Christians to look and act like so they can more easily push around and otherwise mold Christians.
Again, our commenter on Facebook responds:
A children’s show on a public network is no place to be preaching the gospel. Should a flight attendant spend all their time preaching and trying to convert people!? They have a job to do. If the Holy Spirit moves them to say something then fine but you’re going to turn people off if you’re acting like a salesperson and not doing your actual job! I am dead serious. The workplace is to be professional and do your job. If you want to preach be a preacher. Otherwise be careful how and when you bring it up. You have a whole private personal life on your time off to get involved in that kind of stuff!
Do we expect Christians to be sharing their faith all the time they are at work? No. Like every other profession the flight attendant has certain required duties to perform. But we are told to work as if for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23). At the very least that means that there is a mode of working that marks us as Christians. Part of that is the joy and peace that Fred Rogers displayed, yes, but that inevitably leads to others wondering about the source of that joy and peace (1 Peter 3:15). And that’s when an opportunity arises to explain to nonbelievers who Jesus is and why we should _want_ to pay the greatest price (Matthew 13:45-46) of giving up our own lives, characterized by sin (2 Timothy 2:25), to follow him.
If Francois Clemmons never felt judged by Fred Rogers then that is a serious condemnation on the ministry of Fred Rogers. It means, at the very least, that Fred Rogers was not doing his job in calling Francois to repentance so that he could come to a knowledge of the truth. The only truth that has any hope in saving anyone.