Remembering Fred Rogers

A full length trailer has just been released for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the biopic of Fred Rogers due out in November. It’s uncanny how much a good makeup artist and a cardigan sweater can make Tom Hanks look like Mr. Rogers. While Hanks is practically a national treasure in his own right the real Fred Rogers was almost too good to be true. Below is a reprint of a post I published back in 2010. (I apologize for the double space after each period. That’s how we were taught to type back in the day.)


Screenshot 2019-07-22 at 5.14.47 PMA couple of weeks ago, I had a discussion with a student about Fred Rogers.  His claim was that Mr. Rogers wore long sleeve sweaters to cover multiple tattoos on both arms.  I already knew that Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and it turns out this student knew that as well.  He contended that before seminary and his career in television, Mr. Rogers had a violent and sordid past.  So on a whim, I did some Internet fact checking.  Wow.

Mr. Rogers is everybody’s favorite neighbor.  I read Wikipedia.  I checked  I searched the web for Fred Rogers images.  The man was too good to be true.  He graduated with a degree in music in 1951, and after seeing television for the first time that same year, quickly decided he hated it.  That’s why he got a job at NBC in New York; he wanted to make it better.  After 3 years at NBC, which was funded by selling commercial airtime, he quit.  Moving back to Pittsburgh, he went to work producing children’s programing on the very first education television station in the country.  It took a few years working on various shows, and a stint in Toronto on Canadian public television, before his signature show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would debut in 1968.  Many of the characters and voices were developed on earlier programs that he did voices and puppetry for.  He composed over 200 songs during his career, including every song he performed on Neighborhood.  But this is just the technical stuff.

Going straight to college out of high school, and then straight into t.v. after graduation, obviously he never had time for a military career.  Rogers was never in any branch of the military, nor was he in Vietnam.  He was born in 1928, and was too old for military service by the time of that war.  Here is a short list of the qualities that practically qualify him for sainthood:

During his off-time from the show, he studied at the Presbyterian seminary and earned a degree.  After being ordained, he was charged to continue his work in children’s television and never became a preacher.

Each of the cardigan sweaters he wore on set were handmade – by his mother.

Many of the characters on the show were named after people in his family, such as his grandfather (McFeely) and his wife (Sara, as in Queen Sara).

When the Nixon administration was about to cut federal funding for PBS, Rogers made a 6 minute speech before Congress about the positive power of television to improve young people’s lives.  The funding was raised from $9 million to $22 million.  In 1979, his testimony before the Supreme Court was instrumental in their decision that VCR recordings did not violate copyright laws.  Yes, Mr. Rogers saved both PBS and the home video industry.

When his car was stolen, local t.v. and newspapers carried the story.  It was not only returned to the spot it was taken from, the thieves left a note of apology, saying that they would never have taken it if they had known it was his.

Rogers received a long list of awards and honorary degrees, from doctorates in humanities to the Presidential Freedom Award.  I’ve only listed a few of the highlights.  I set out to prove he never got a tattoo; I didn’t know what a huge fan I would again turn into.  The man got up at 5 and went swimming every day.  For the last 30 years of his life he weighed exactly 143 pounds.  Who has that kind of discipline?  Do yourself a favor and do a little research for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

Originally published as Remember Mr. Rogers? at

Click here to watch the movie trailer. 



News of Note

Two items have caught my attention in the past couple of days:

1. The State of California has rewritten some language in an education bill that threatened to greatly infringe on religious liberty in that state. Had the bill passed unchanged, the only students that could receive any type of religious education would have been those training for a career in ministry. It would have effectively outlawed Christian colleges and universities, reserving religious studies to seminary students only. More here.

2. Target is about to spend $2 million on individual use bathroom stalls in all of their stores. Many stores already have such facilities, in addition to men’s and women’s restrooms, and soon all loctions will. Target denies the changes have anything to do with the boycotts and petitions generated by their bathroom policy announcement. I saw this headline in the Washington Post of all places.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Sermon…

Screenshot 2016-07-28 at 6.27.46 AMAfter the 9/11 attacks on New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke at a live taping of Saturday Night Live. The show has always been distinctly New York and he spoke very frankly with the cast, audience and show creator Lorne Michaels. He wanted the show the go on and encouraged them to do it. Michaels asked “Can we be funny?” And with a straight face Giuliani wryly replied “Why start now?” Continue reading

Meanwhile in California…

Screenshot 2016-07-01 at 11.29.59 AMEarlier this week, The Christian Index hosted a discussion of sorts about America being a “Christian nation.” Christians who responded were split over whether America used to be a Christian nation and no longer is vs. those who felt America never was a Christian nation to begin with. Very few argued that it still is today.

Meanwhile, California is about to become the first state to do away with religious/ faith-based education at the college level. If passed as is, SB 1146 would limit religious education to seminaries. Church affiliated schools, or colleges and universities that apply Christian principles to all areas of life, would be restricted from doing so with all students except those preparing for vocational ministry.

Please read this article by Ed Stetzer and Marty Duren via Christianity Today. This is one of those issues that could drag on through the court system for years to come, but we currently have an aging Supreme Court that’s already short one member and a presidential election coming up that could dramatically alter its balance of power. Who knows what the long term implications of this state legislation could be?

Two Sermons and an Editorial

Screenshot 2016-02-11 at 9.39.22 AMFor those of you looking at the website, you know that lots of stuff hangs out in the sidebars. Some of that content is updated daily. I don’t post as often to the blog as I used to because much of what I write is on my church website. The Unity Baptist RSS feed shows links to recent posts at the top of the left-hand sidebar. You see those links if you visit The Master’s Table. I also realize many followers subscribe using feed readers or through email. Those folks will never see any content that is not posted.

So this is kind of like a Read & Share File for my own stuff. These links are to the two most recent Sunday sermons and a newspaper editorial from about a week and a half ago. If you have read them already or follow both blogs, great. If not, just FYI.

The Heart of Man, Feb. 7th sermon 

The Heart of God, Feb. 14th sermon

God’s Great Love, newspaper article, Feb. 6th 

SCOTUS, Where the Rubber Meets the… Playground


Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 9.33.33 AM

Baptist Press reports that the Supreme Court will hear an argument in March or April that may set precedents for future church/state decisions. From the article:

Missouri nonprofits can apply to the state for scrap tires to use for rubber playground surfaces. Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., which has a daycare called the Learning Center, applied to receive the ground-up tires for its playground. The state ranked the church’s application highly, but refused the grant based on a state constitutional provision that forbids state money going to support churches. About 35 states have similar provisions in their state constitutions.

The implications of the high court’s decision will go far beyond playground equipment. Continue reading Church-state case goes to Supreme Court via