Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Measure of a Man

Okay, I'll admit to having forgotten (fortunately) who said the following statement and on what online venue, but I read it and my blood almost boiled:

"Mister Rogers isn't the kind of man I want my son to grow up to be."

I was dumbfounded. Really? What kind of man doesn't want his son to grow up to be godly, educated, compassionate, creative, healthy, and simply good?

Well, first of all, let's remember that Fred Rogers isn't walking about in an earthly body anymore anyway, so Sonny (yes, it was a man who posted that remark), you're speaking ill of the dead, and I'm disappointed your mama and daddy didn't bring you up any better than that. I'm certain it's not because you simply don't know jack about what you're saying and are a selfish so-and-so who has no clue what a real man is all about. *

Secondly, and this is the point I want to make, I'd like to look at just what kind of man Dr. Fred Rogers was, and see if I can figure out how an immature blowhard could possibly conclude the late Dr. Rogers wasn't "man enough" to suit said blowhard:

1. Fred Rogers was ordained a Presbyterian clergyman in 1962. Oh, yeah. All that study and talk about God is WAY too girly. (Should he have remained ignorant and talked hell instead, I wonder?)

2. Fred Rogers took care of himself, swimming every day for exercise, never smoking or drinking, and following a vegetarian diet. I guess we all know that "real men" are expected to grow beer guts and fight over whether it's going to be hamburgers, dogs, or steaks on the grill. Pass the butts, please. Oh, strike the "please." Too sissy. Just grab one and light up, and keep the brews coming, woman.

3. Fred Rogers focused the majority of his career on a ministry to children, through "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." He respected children as genuine human beings. He helped them better understand our world. He spoke to them as equals and gave them the gift of his time. Everybody knows that "real men" hang with other real men and leave all the kid stuff to the women. Everybody knows that "real men" consider only other "real men" their equals.

4. Fred Rogers was a musician. He wrote operas for his television show, he played piano, he sang songs that he wrote himself. In fact, his undergraduate degree was in musical composition. Some of the "real men" might be surprised to know that despite this, he was a happily married man, to one woman, until his death. They had two sons together. Imagine artistic man. Yes, Vern, there is such a thing.

5. Fred Rogers was humble. When presented with awards, his habit was to instruct his audience to take ten seconds, in silence, to think of those people who had helped them become the people they were. In doing this, the infamous, unmanly, traitorous Dr. Rogers made grown men (and women) cry. How dare he? "Real men" focus on self, not on others. They're self-made. They're proud. They wouldn't feminize themselves by thinking of others.

6. Fred Rogers wore sport coats, and even sweaters. Yes, sweaters. Sweaters his mother knitted for him. Mr. Rogers was fussy; he changed from street shoes to house shoes on television, fercryinoutloud. He didn't like violence, and we all know that "real men" are pro-gun and pro-fighting and all that other good manly stuff. But Dr. Rogers had the nerve to file a federal lawsuit against a Texas novelty store chain when they used his photograph, superimposed with a gun and saying "Welcome to my 'hood," on t-shirts. Dr. Rogers demanded that the shirts not only not be sold, but also be destroyed. What a wuss! How feminized can you get? He should have been PROUD of all the free publicity, and he ought to have been out there himself, teaching real boys how to love and respect guns, instead of how to love and respect themselves and other people.

Yes, I'm sorry to say, Mister Rogers was hardly the "manhood" kind of man that so many Christians--yes, it was a Christian man who made the comment!--claim that men need to be, in order to be masculine and Christian. But I simply can't shake the notion that Mister Rogers was a whole lot closer to the kind of man Jesus was, than his critic must be.

Mister Rogers' offical PBS website is here.

For a "Brilliant Careers" profile on Dr. Rogers, follow this link.

* I freely admit that I'm caricaturizing some of the "Christian manhood" movement's beliefs. I really don't know what could have prompted a Christian man to say he doesn't think Mister Rogers was man enough to be a role model for his son. But given the kind of man Dr. Fred Rogers was, I'm sorry that this father is so misinformed about the true nature of Christian manhood. May he mature past this world's lies about masculinity and femininity and come to accept the Christ-conforming humanity to which we're all called.


P.S. (an after-thought) said...

You post is one of those that provokes a sort of stiffled laugh and a tear at the same time. Re: #2, have you noticed that a number of the TV ads seem to glorify younger men who eat too much, etc. Like it is something to be stived for?

Re: the issue of men who may have "feminine" traits: I was reading a conservative blog by a woman who linked feminization of men with letting women in leadership positions in the church. Huh?? I suppose that made her a masculine female for having a prominent place in her world (Christian broadcasting and web writing.)

Another blog I recently ran into, via a link from LC, said that classical music made men become more feminine.

I guess some people just can't accept how God made people.

St. Casserole said...

I love Mr. Rogers and his impact on our children.

He helped my children learn that they wouldn't go down the drain when the stopper lifted in the bathtub.

He explained the inside/outside fancyness of gender parts.

He was gentle, kind and thoughtful.

I'm glad he was here on the planet during my life.

Psalmist said...

Thanks for the good comments, P.S. I think it all boils down to WAY too many people making God so small that God could not possibly create anyone who isn't nearly identical to themselves.

I've been a musician most of my life, and I've known plenty of masculine musicians. Essentially all the male musicins were masculine. Likewise, all the female musicins I've known have been feminine. That's not exactly rocket science. The effect music has on one one with ears to hear, is to connect that one more closely to the creative power of God and other human beings, to make that one more awestruck at the precious gift of God that strikes the souls of those who create and recreate music. If that is "feminized," then so is God. And frankly, I think God is a whole lot more "feminized" than many Christian men are mature enough (I almost said "man enough") to be able to handle. Whether they like it or not, human beings--male AND female--have from the very beginning borne the image of God. Deal with it, dude!

I'm with you about being thankful for the wonderful influence for good that Mist Rogers was for all children, St. C. God gifted us mightily with him.

SingingOwl said...

WOW! Great post...but I am astounded...just astounded at any Christian man who would denigrate a man like Fred Rogers. I suppose quiet and rather slight men are automatically not real men?


I loved Mr. R. and both Of my "grown" children called to tell me he had died. What does that say?

God, help us!

Gordon Hackman said...

God help us, indeed. Let me ring in with a male perspective that also finds that insulting comment about Mr. Rogers distressing.

I have never been the kind of guy that fits the macho man stereotype and have never wanted to be either. As a kid growing up going to public schools, I suffered a lot for that, too. When I left high school, however, I pretty much left all that behind and began to find my place in the world.

I had been mostly unaware, until about six months ago, of the kind of macho-jerk nonsense that was/is being promoted in so much of the evangelical community as "true manhood." (I knew about Wild at Heart, and found it disturbing, but hadn't really paid that much attention to it.) At that time, I encountered an individual on another blog who apparently considered himself a Christian, but who treated me with incredible, infantile rudeness. When I objected to this kind of treatment and mentioned it on another blog, the individual tracked me down there and I was told to "stop acting like a girl." Since then, I have seen in numerous places on the blogosphere, where this kind of talk is apparently being promoted as part of the ideal of Christian manhood, even by certain church leaders. I even saw one anonymous blogger who, when called out for calling another blogger an idiot, appealed to Jesus cleansing the temple to justify his bad behavior. (I understand that this is something that plays an important role in John Eldredge's book.)

So we now have ostensibly Christian men who are acting like completely unregenerate jerks and then appealing to the Bible to justify their behavior. You can imagine my distress at finding that the high school views of manhood that I left behind half my life ago are now being promoted as the ideal for Christian manhood. This, to me, is a sign of just how deeply messed up the evangelical world is in general. I really wonder about this obsessive need we seem to have to continually be defining gender stereotypes in the narrowest possible terms. I agree with what was said about how a lot of it comes off like an inability to accept that not everyone is like me and that that's okay. It's craziness.