The God With Us Podcast

Is Jesus Nicer Than Mr. Rogers? (Bonus Episode)

November 30, 2019 Geoff Holsclaw
The God With Us Podcast
Is Jesus Nicer Than Mr. Rogers? (Bonus Episode)
Chapters
The God With Us Podcast
Is Jesus Nicer Than Mr. Rogers? (Bonus Episode)
Nov 30, 2019
Geoff Holsclaw

What does it mean to be a neighbor? What if it just meant learning to slow down, ask questions, really listen to the answers, and be honest with our emotions?  This is what it means to be attuned to someone, and how God attunes to us.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend Cyd and Geoff watched "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" with their two teenage boys.  In this bonus episode, all four sit down and talk about how Fred Rogers models God's transformative presence, the power of slowing down.  And they end by asking with Jesus was really this "nice" with people, and with "attuning" and "empathy" is really all that nice in the first place.

Please join the God With Us Podcast Community(on Slack), where you'll get updates, resources, and be able to continue the conversation, and even help us plan future episodes.

Show Notes Transcript

What does it mean to be a neighbor? What if it just meant learning to slow down, ask questions, really listen to the answers, and be honest with our emotions?  This is what it means to be attuned to someone, and how God attunes to us.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend Cyd and Geoff watched "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" with their two teenage boys.  In this bonus episode, all four sit down and talk about how Fred Rogers models God's transformative presence, the power of slowing down.  And they end by asking with Jesus was really this "nice" with people, and with "attuning" and "empathy" is really all that nice in the first place.

Please join the God With Us Podcast Community(on Slack), where you'll get updates, resources, and be able to continue the conversation, and even help us plan future episodes.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the God with us podcast. This is Sid and Jeff Holsclaw. We're here exploring the intersection of God's presence and purpose in our everyday life. If you have trouble imagining how you can connect with God and your ordinary moments, then please join the conversation.

Speaker 2:

We're glad to have you.

Speaker 3:

And this morning we actually have our two sons joining the conversation with us. We all as a family saw the movie a beautiful day in the neighborhood, the one that's about Mr. Rogers and the reporter from Esquire magazine that interviewed him and we all enjoyed it a lot and we found a lot of themes that seem to connect with our God with us podcast . So we thought we would ask our boys to join us on the show today. So I'm going to give them a chance to introduce themselves. So Soren, you want to go first?

Speaker 2:

Sure. Um, my name is Soren. Um, I am their oldest son. I'm 16. I'm currently, you know, at home being a student, being a high school student. And yeah, I saw the movie and I really liked it. I thought there was a lot that we could learn from it.

Speaker 4:

And Tennyson, hi, I'm Tennyson. I'm 15. I'm the youngest son and um , I enjoy painting and drawing and this movie was just really cool to see, even though I didn't really grow up with Mr. Rogers.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So that was actually an interesting part of this is that Jeff and I, well mostly me, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers almost every day, if I can remember. Right. And after Jeff and I saw the movie, we immediately thought, Oh, we should have raised our kids on Mr. Rogers . We didn't even realize Mr. Rogers was running when our kids were born. So these guys were born in 2003 and 2004. And Mr. Rogers was actually still running new episodes. So I'm just curious. I was, I mean, these guys are exceptional teenagers as it is, but I was really struck by when the movie was over. Both of you said like, this is in like my new top five. So what was it that made this movie so amazing to you?

Speaker 2:

Um, well, I just felt like they did a brilliant job setting up the emotional drama of the main, you could argue Mr. Rogers was the main character, but this guy, his name was Lloyd Vogel, he's , um, um , married dad , um, and he has a lot of troubles with his father and he is the, he's a reporter who gets assigned to do a , um , an article on Mr. Rogers and I think that the film did a brilliant job setting up the emotional, internal struggles in his head and how Mr. Rogers came alongside him to really help him out. And I think it was just a really beautiful picture of relational connections.

Speaker 4:

Awesome. Yeah. Tennyson , what stood out to you? I just really liked the way , um, how connected Mr. Rogers was with all the people in the story. Like the one scene where he was calling Lloyd Vogel on the phone and he said that the most important thing in the world right now was that phone call. And I thought that was really cool. How like important everyone is to him at any time . He's not thinking about what's happening afterwards.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And that's why actually that's why I thought that this belonged on the God with us podcast is because Mr. Rogers was incredibly present to whoever was in front of him at the moment. And I'm wondering if you guys remember any other scenes where you could like feel how present Mr. Rogers was with the person he was with or how important he was.

Speaker 4:

Well, there's this scene where he was in the restaurant or coffee shop with Lloyd and he asked him to take a minute of silence and the entire, like the entire set of the movie just went into complete silence and Mr. Rogers just stared into the camera and I thought that was like really cool because after that scene Lloyd was like in tears.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, no, that was great because he asked mr [inaudible] actually this refers to something that we've talked about on previous episodes was the idea of gratitude and how gratitude changes us. And he asked Lloyd to take that minute of silence with him, to remember all of the people that have helped him become who he is. And they actually silenced the entire movie for a full minute. Okay, go ahead. Sorry . I was just saying that. Yeah. Because they saw us for an entire minute, not in Mr. Rogers had a section where he kind of breaks the fourth wall and stares at the cameras . He's not only giving Lloyd this moment of silence, he's actually giving everyone watching the movie a moment of silence and he's letting them have a minute

Speaker 1:

think about their life. I was actually thinking that , uh , for all the people in this theater, when was the last time they had taken a minute in silence just to contemplate their life. Like the invitation was to contemplate all the people that brought them into being and not just their mom and dad, but all the people, their teachers or ministers or siblings that kind of helped them become the person that they are. And it was, it was powerful.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And then at the end of the minute, Mr. Rogers said, thank you. I feel much better now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. That was one of the things. Wow. Okay. I want us to talk, but did you have other questions or, I have lots of time . That was one of the things that , uh , I was, that was striking about the movie , um, and the portrayal of Fred Rogers was that he , um, and , and we can talk about attunements and what it means to really be present with people, but he never made , um, a wise crack joke to lessen the tension of an emotional moment . Like a lot of times we're trained that when you get into like an emotionally intense situation, either accidentally or just because you know, you're in a hospital or some serious, like you kind of make a wisecrack to kind of lessen the emotional impact. And in Fred Rogers never did that. He would just let the moment be as long as it would be. And so even after that, like he didn't say after the moment in the cafe, he didn't say , um, do you feel better now or that wasn't so hard? Or like he didn't, you know, he didn't say anything like that. He just said, thank you for doing that. Me. And

Speaker 3:

it was just like, wow.

Speaker 4:

Especially the scene. Um, when he said the thing about death, when Lloyd vocals, dad was , uh , made that comment about him still being there for the family vacation and how he didn't, no one in the room tried to lighten the tension by making any sort of witty comment or anything. He just said that , uh, like death is human. Anything humanist mentionable anything mentionable is manageable.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Which is such a great thing . Yeah . Did you, were there a lot of kids in the theater when we were watching it? Yeah . Yeah. I felt like there was someone on Facebook said this wasn't like a kid appropriate movie. And I was like, I would say kids might not realize how impactful it was, but I would say they could still enjoy it. Maybe somebody asked me on Facebook, they're like, I'm confused. People said not to bring your kids to watch this. And I was like, well, they, they take death pretty seriously. So it's like, well , yeah. Do you remember on the subway when they were on the subway and Lloyd Vogel said to Fred Rogers, some of the stuff you cover on your show is really hard. Like you talk about war, you talk about death, you talk about divorce and Fred Rogers just kind of looked at him and he didn't make a response, but I think that, I think I've heard him say in other interviews before that Fred Rogers said that like, well kids are dealing with that stuff anyway. Like you can't hide it from them and so you know you might as well be able to talk about it openly with them rather than having them try to figure it out on their own. Actually one of my professors, of course I was talking about this about how especially small children, they don't understand death when they first talked about it and so when parents use things like going to sleep or passing away, kids aren't going to understand that and so it's actually better to just tell them the truth because it's going to end up causing more confusion later. Creating more euphemisms for death for small children is actually, you know, very confusing. Well , and that's one of the things that I appreciated about Mr. Rogers growing up and watching episodes now as an adult, where like he really did hit things head on where he really did say like, even just that, remember that the times when he was talking about dealing with being mad, right? He was talking to Lloyd Vogel about, there's lots of different ways you can deal with being angry. You can bang all of the low notes all at the same time and then, yeah , on the piano or you can talk about it or you can, I don't remember what really fast, fast. You can swim as fast as you can. Like all the jump up and down and smash the leaves. And I just loved the way that he explicitly was saying like talking about your feelings is how you learn how to process your feelings. And most adults don't talk about their feelings and aren't teaching kids actively how to talk about their feelings. Yeah . Yeah. And his whole show was teaching kids how to deal with their phones .

Speaker 4:

Feelings like that was his whole thing. And I feel like he does that really well. Well enough that like adults these days could benefit even watching

Speaker 3:

kids. You'll like Mr. Rogers. Well and you could see throughout the movie the story is Lloyd Vogel learns to deal with his feelings because he's hanging out with Mr. Rogers

Speaker 2:

and this is the theme and maybe we could touch on later, but I really loved how all of the movie was actually an invitation. I love how Mr. Rogers was never forcing anyone into anything. He was always inviting them into things. And I would say the whole movie was like, you know, you can take something away from this movie if you want to or you don't. You don't have to. I would say, you know, God does very similar things. Maybe we can talk about that later, but I thought, yeah , I loved how Mr. Rogers was always inviting people and there were multiple times explicitly, especially the show. The movie had different parts of , they were showing it in, you know, not widescreen and they were showing like actual footage was meant to be look like footage from an actual episode. Mr. Rogers, there were multiple times when he said, I now would like you to do this, but you don't have to if you don't want to. And I think that that was really special. How he's not trying to coerce people into things. He was always saying, I was , you can do this if you want to, but you don't have to. Yeah. It's a very inviting space. Creates a lot of freedom for people.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I think , um, even just watching that movie I think is just such an awareness of the sense of, of how, how significant presence really is. I mean, all the times when you're sitting in the movie theater and you just have this overwhelming sense of Fred Rogers cares about me, right? And it's actually Tom Hakes and he's actually playing Mr. Rogers and you're only watching a movie. But there was so many moments where I felt like I am seen, I am special. Like, he cares about me. And it was only an actor on a screen playing someone else. But it just makes you so impressed with just what it must've felt like to be in Mr. Rogers presence. And Soren , I love what you said about how it's always invitational and how he really did. He really did reflect he's, he's talked about reflecting and imaging God.

Speaker 2:

Yes. He really is so real. So if he is ,

Speaker 1:

um , Fred Rogers is in a sense kind of showing us how God's presence works in our lives and as attuned to us. What about, I'd like to get this from , uh , the teenagers in the room. What about the pacing of the film? Little slow . So Selma , tell me , tell me more about that. It was crazy how much, like just silence. There was like the minute of silence and just when Lloyd and Fred Rogers were talking, there was so much silence just like looking at each other. Like it was quite strange actually, but, and that was part of his show also when they were doing the bits from the set. Like that's how he pays his show.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would say yeah, the silence was , um , there was a lot of silence, but I would say it was all done very beautifully. Like , um, like all the silence usually revolved where the camera was pointed at a face and showing the face and let your imagination think it's really beautiful. And movies can really access the wad , the viewer's imagination, cause it movie usually can't do that the same way a book can. But it felt like sometimes movies can kind of capture that imaginative spirit and just getting to look into a face and just

Speaker 1:

wonder about what's going on inside their head and they can move . He did that really well. And that actually goes back to , uh , one of our previous episodes all about , um , the face of God, the joy in the face of God and how I'm seeing it . So I think the movie really shows how you can slow down and look at peoples in the face. Um, and I actually heard an interview with Tom Hanks who played Fred Rogers and then Matthew Reese who played , uh, Lloyd Vogel. And while they were doing the shots, they were, they were just talking about how it was so excruciating to do all the silence. Usually they're as professional actors, they're paid to say things and to do things and to be exciting and now they're getting paid not to do anything. And they're just sitting and looking at each other or they're sitting on a bench waiting for someone else to respond. It was really hard for them as actors to get into that space. I think that's true for a lot of us, right? To slow down, to make ourselves present to God's present presence. Cause he's making time. God's making time for us. Are we making time for God?

Speaker 2:

And that's what I think Mr. Rogers reflected or that's what was reflected so well in this movie is that Mr. Rogers was taking time for every person that he was with. There was nothing else that was more important. He was never in a hurry. And he was always expressing that glad to be with you. Joy and his presence. Everyone was actually, and parts of the movie slowing him down. And , um, uh, knowing the people around him, his producers, his workers. I think that's kind of, I don't know , maybe a little stretch, but you could say that like, you know, sometimes , um, us as Christian slowing down and doing things could sometimes cause the people around us to be a little frustrated too. Sometimes. Speed .

Speaker 1:

Interesting . Well I get frustrated slowing down. I like, I'm very productive oriented. I have a to do list. It's hard to slow down. Like that's definitely my work in my life.

Speaker 2:

Maybe it's even saying that when God asks us to slow down, sometimes we can get annoyed by absolutely like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well, so being annoyed by the slow process. So I was reading just this morning a review about how the um, the Christianity or the God that's kind of portrayed it in this movie, although they don't talk about faith that much is kind of like, well, Mr. Rogers is just so nice. Like are we really called to be nice as Christianity all about being nice. Was Jesus nice? And there was a kind of the sense that like , um, that like the, if , if were to see Fred Rogers as this kind of like Jesus figure that is kind of the wrong Christianity because it's so nice. So what would you three say to that? Is that true or are they missing something ? They're missing a part , a part of what's being portrayed. They're missing something. I think you could say, well, first riders is human,

Speaker 2:

so obviously he's not going to be able to perfectly embodied the spirit of God. Um, but I would say that Mr. Rogers is niceness. It's not that he was just comforting. It's not that it was like a prosperity gospel or it's just letting them live and like what they're doing. He was still calling people into deeper emotional. It was like , um, who is high grace, wellbeing, high truth. Most of the time there was never a time where he was allowing the characters to still do these , um , self destructive habits. Like he was still calling them out just in a very nice way. At the same time.

Speaker 1:

So as we talk about sometimes at our church he was calling people in and sometimes that's not necessarily nice because he, Frank, not Frank. Um , Lloyd Vogel actually didn't want to deal with his emotions about his dad for, you know, he was trying to avoid them and Mr. Rogers was just sitting there, Oh you're , you got into a fight with your dad though. Something that must've been hard, you know, and he, and he's like, I don't want to talk about that. I'm interviewing you, I'm interviewing you. Stop asking me questions . I was actually thinking is that sometimes how we are with God. Like we want to ask God questions and then God's just trying to change the topic. God changes the topic on us cause we deal with, we're dealing with not trying to ask him to these four things, God that you need to fix. Oh tell me about your dad. I don't want to talk about my dad. I want to talk about my finances or my like how we noticed Jesus. Even doing that. People would ask Jesus questions in the Bible and Jesus wouldn't give him answers. He'd turn the topic, he'd tell a parable instead. I think Mr. Rogers would do that sometimes. Like Lloyd asks him how he carries this burden of all of the children's problems that he hears, and then Mr. Rogers just changes the subject on him and tries to tell a different story. Not necessarily avoiding the question, but realizing that like, that's not the most important thing for Lloyd to hear. Right?

Speaker 3:

Hmm . Yeah. I think people that say that Jesus that missed that Mr. Rogers is just being nice and that , that you know that as Christians, that's not our calling . If you look at the way that, that he was actually engaging Lloyd on a human level, like deep in his spirit. I mean, he's not letting Lloyd, he's not just being nice. He's like Soren said, calling them into a deeper life, calling him into relationship, calling him into community. He's not allowing him to isolate himself and the work that he's doing by just being invitational and being present, I think is very much the work that God does in. I think that is how God navigates in the world. He's present, he's attuned, he's invitational, and he's constantly calling us into community, into relationship and he into deeper self awareness and deeper engagement in our relationships in the world around us.

Speaker 1:

So say, could you say just a couple more things about attunements and what that is then, how you feel like that was a strong theme in this movie?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean, attunement. We've talked about it two minutes. I see you, I hear, I understand what this means for you and I'm glad to be with you and I'm for you. And I think Mr. Rogers just oozed that throughout the movie. But I think one time in particular , um , was just when he was in, when he was sitting with Lloyd in his apartment in New York city. And as they were talking with each other, I think the camera kept focusing in on Lloyd's face. We, as the audience had, does really see Lloyd and we had to really hear him. And because of the long shots of his face, I think the camera was making us try to understand what Lloyd was dealing with. And then the camera would pan back to Mr. Rogers face and you would see how glad Mr. Rogers was to be with Lloyd in the midst of his pain and in the midst of his confusion. And you, I mean, you very much got the sense through the whole movie that Mr. Rogers was for Lloyd, right . He would call him, he walked off the movie set to say hello to him. He tracked him down like when Lloyd left early and he tracked him down and said, Hey, we , you left without saying goodbye. Just that sense that

Speaker 1:

his uh, expos before ,

Speaker 3:

right? Yeah , yeah, he was, he still wanted to interview him. Yeah. He was very much for Lloyd when the rest of the world seemed to have decided Lloyd was already a certain type of person that needed to be managed in a certain kind of way. And Mr. Rogers said, no, I'm, I'm for Lloyd's healing for his growth, for his becoming. And because of that, his entire like being in mindset was changed because the article that he wrote about Mr. Rogers was like the best he's ever written. And it was all nice and like, well it wasn't like all nice, but it was like a really good and passionate article. Whereas his other articles were rather rude and inconsiderate. And I think that that almost testifies to in helping show how Mr. Rogers was so different from other people is because of the , the person who wrote the nice article about him was the same guy who normally writes the ruthless awful articles about people. And I think that's so interesting that it's not like, cause if someone who always writes nice articles about, someone wrote a nice article about Mr. Rogers, it wouldn't be as sincere. But if the guy who writes the ruthless awful articles about the politicians and the people couldn't find anything against Mr. Rogers, I think that speaks a lot more than that .

Speaker 1:

Well, I think , um, and you guys can tell me what you think. I think a lot of us approach, God, the way , uh , Lloyd Vogel does is they hear nice stories, but they're , they're convinced that there's another part of God that's like deeply twisted or just putting on a show or he's really a fake or you know, this whole God thing isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And you know, throughout most of the movie he's just like frustrated. It's like, you're not really this nice or you're not really this interested in me. Like you're working an angle. Like this is just a character. Like you're just putting on a show for me. And when you go home you're somebody totally different. And I think possibly be this, this, and I think a lot of us approach God that way of like, no, God doesn't really love us like that. Like, yeah, we know God loves us. It's like, you know, the book that we've written, you know, God loves us, but does he really like me? Um , and I think a lot of us struggle with that and God has , like you said, sovereign God is constantly inviting us into something else. He's trying to be present to our full humanity and our whole emotions. And he's willing to accept us as we come to him. And a lot of times we're just like, yeah, but nobody's really like that. Like I need to clean myself up first before I come to God or I need to , um, you know, I don't know what else.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And when , uh, yeah, just the, just the , the presence, the way that the presence of Mr. Rogers transformed Lloyd's approach to him and after being with him and having Mr. Rogers be so glad to be with him and so present to him so many times and so attuned to his emotions, that's what transformed Lloyd. Right. And that I think is what is so transformational about God's presence in our lives. And I loved that scene on the subway when those two little girls started singing the beautiful day in the neighborhood song. And then by the end of the song, everyone in the subway car is singing it together and shows you how connected everyone is through Mr. Rogers. Yeah . Yeah. I think that's a very interesting,

Speaker 2:

well a portrayal, interesting perspective in the movie is how , um, they were trying to set up this parallel of almost how in the movie , um , Mr. Rogers is almost seen as like kind of the God character, but they still were able to set up that I'm like, you know, he's not perfect. He's not the way it is. And if it gets interesting how, cause I was going to say earlier when dad was talking about how , um, how we often want to approach God the same way Lord wanted to approach Mr. Rogers like, you can't be this good. And I was going to say, wow , that's because we like to, our instinct is to think of God like we think of another person and we think that people aren't perfect. People always are trying to work a different angle. And I was saying, well wait a minute, but Mr. Rogers was just a person. So how did that work in the movie and then versus how that works with us with God. I think that was a very interesting comparison. How, you know, Mr. Rogers wasn't perfect. And , um, and yet he was still able to be so nice and so kind. And how , um, there's a beautiful scene when he was talking to , um, mr writer's wife and was saying, so how is it being married to a Saint? And then she said, Oh, don't say that because that makes it sound like what he, what he, what he does is unattainable. And he's saying he's just a normal person like everyone else. And so it's possible to be like Mr. Rogers. It's possible to be kind if you can find positive emotional outlets for your anger and your

Speaker 3:

right. Yeah. And in that same scene when she says, don't call him a Saint, he works very hard at being who he is. And she talked about how he swims every day. He writes hundreds of letters to people. He prays for people by name, by name, and talking about like the work that he does to be the, the represent , you know, to be who he is. It doesn't just come naturally.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And that's not really the main point of the movie, but I think that's something that's important for all of us is it takes work to follow Jesus. It takes like these specific disciplines, spiritual disciplines as possible , you know, often been called, but it takes work, you know, to love people

Speaker 4:

and he doesn't do it to save face or anything. He does it because he genuinely likes and loves everyone that he meets. And he wants to be like

Speaker 3:

Mr. Rogers. Yeah. Yeah. It's out of that genuine care. I think he shares God's heart for his people, which is, and then , uh, there's a quote that goes around Facebook sometimes where there's a picture of Mr. Rogers and it says like, to be present to some, I'm not going to get it right, but to be present to someone as a sacred activity because I think it's what God does. And that , like you saw that all throughout the movie.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well, any last comments about the mu , the movie?

Speaker 5:

I just, I loved it. I think it was wonderfully done movie. They didn't put, like I said, everything was an invitation. Um , and nothing was too in your face. Nothing was too pushed upon you. Um, and I just, yeah, I really like

Speaker 1:

two thumbs up. Oh, I'd give it throws up in my toes up two thumbs and toes. Tennyson , what about you?

Speaker 4:

Uh, it was just an expertly made movie. It was wonderful. I loved all of the, the emotions that were shared through a simple movie and actors who weren't even the real people, like Tom Hanks being , uh , Mr. Rogers. I just thought it was a really good movie and I definitely do recommend it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I feel like if we all watched that movie every day , the world would change. I'm serious.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And I definitely love the movie and it's just for everybody. It's less a movie about Mr. Rogers that the movies really about his show and how it's supposed to impact people. And I think that that's what you see in , uh , in , uh , Lloyd Vogel's life. Uh, so thank you for listening to the God with us podcast. Special shout out to Tennyson and Soren for joining us. And maybe we'll , uh, if people like this, maybe we'll , uh , uh, do it more often. So please give us feedback on Facebook, on our Slack channel. Um, let us know how you thought this episode went. Having our kids on about our select channel. We do have , uh , God with this podcast community, so you'll see a link to that in the show notes. You can sign up and get an invitation to the select channel. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes. We have reviews on iTunes. We'd love some more. That would really help spread the word. And we will see you all next time.