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 that...an 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 Salon.com "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.