Mr. Rogers, Count Vronsky, and Classical Education

Since writing my article ‘Fred Rogers vs. Oprah Winfrey,’ I got a chance to see Tom Hanks’ new film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I thought it was a beautiful, moving film, and I came away wanting to be a better person. Interestingly, I went with a group of friends who were divided between those who loved the movie and those who hated it.

One of the people in the group who didn’t like the movie texted me the next day, saying he thought the film was opposed to the values of classical education.

Tertullian (155-220) once famously questioned what commonality there was between Athens and Jerusalem, indicating his suspicion of attempts among his contemporaries to synthesize Christianity with Greek philosophy. My friend asked a similar question, “What hath Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to do with classical education?” His answer was just as emphatic as Tertullian: NOTHING.

Well, that got me started, and for the rest of the day my poor friend was inundated with a series of text messages explaining why I thought the Mr Rogers’ movie was congruent with the values of classical education. (For me, any type of communication is serious discourse, even text messaging.) Below I will copy and paste my side of the conversation because it gets to the heart of something that is of profound interest to many of my readers, namely the relationship between classical education and emotional wellness. To respect my friend’s privacy, I will not be sharing his side of the conversation, although my replies do make reference to his objections.

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A Valentine’s Day Meditation on Marriage and Love

At Christmas, Christian thinkers generally do a good job of encouraging us to see past the veneer of commercialism and hedonism to reflect deeply on the theological meaning of the holiday. Similarly, on Valentine’s Day, we would do well to look past the shallow sentimentalism and bad quality candy, to spend some time reflecting deeply on the theological significance of this holiday.

Properly understood, Valentine’s Day is the ultimate counter-cultural expression. As a 3rd century priest in the Roman empire, St. Valentine performed church weddings against an edict of Emperor Claudias, who had forbidden marriages on the assumption that unmarried soldiers made better fights. St. Valentine was ultimately martyred for disrupting the culture’s idolatry with the gospel.

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