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October 2017
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With the August holiday over, and with thanks to Michael Iafrate, Dave Nantais, and Mary McDonough for keeping us going during a slow month at R&T, we’re about to take the plunge with studied abandon into a new month of explorations in rock and theology.

I’m intending to write soon about Ace Frehley (of KISS) and the 16th century Christian mystic Ignatius of Loyola, but for the moment, I’ll let Tenacious D set the stage with their rendition of “The Metal,” which reminds us that rock and roll is always theologically saturated, even (and especially?) when ironized by the D. “The metal!” Jack Black declaims. “It comes from hell!”

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Way, way, way back in the mix, you can hear the theologically significant virtue of wonder being exercised. Fordham theologian Jeannine Hill-Fletcher, in an article titled “As Long as We Wonder” (Theological Studies 68:3 (2007), pp. 531-554), has defended wonder as an underappreciated element of theological life; the cultivation of the experience of wonder is a school for contact with divine incomprehensibility.

In the confrontation with “The Metal,” the members of Tenacious D invite us to ask the wonder-rich question that Rush raises in their myth of the discovery of the electric guitar: “What can this thing be that I’ve found?”

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Rock and roll, like religion, has invited both awe and fear. What is the common vein tapped within their shared adherents?

Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson

As a parent, I am witness daily to the mysteries of my daughter’s growing-up and find myself rehearsing memories of my own childhood. This is an experience that many parents have. Noticing the substantial theological influences from books, cartoons and games in my daughter’s life has made me reflect on the ones from my boyhood.

I always found public television’s “Mister Rogers” an inviting and endearing presence. I grew up on his show, alongside Sesame Street and Electric Company. And when I was a young adult, I read a profile of Fred Rogers in a magazine and related to him in a new way. I learned about a man who went to seminary, continued to read and think about theology, and was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Of course, as a child I had no idea about the grown-up spiritual questions he lived with behind the scenes, but learning even a little more about his “private” theological life, that he still read and thought about the great questions that theology constantly puts before us, allowed me a small vantage into the nobility of a great teacher who had found the magic of living in two registers at once: the experiential worlds of childhood and adulthood, and of the fantasies and realities whose intertwining make each experiential world a journey worth inhabiting with as much consent and appreciation as one can muster.

Recently, some clips of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” were remixed into an auto-tuned song, “Garden of Your Mind,” by John D. Boswell for PBS, apparently to help carry Fred Rogers (who died in 2003) and his message to a new generation, and to help spread the word about supporting PBS. I think this quality remix gives a good taste of the show, and more deeply, of the revelatory power of falling in love with the world that Rogers advocated. The song also provides a taste of the gentle psychedelia, a bidding strange and welcome, present in the show. This uncanny element — a way of entering into the depth of things ruminatively — occurs throughout the song: “scary things,” “cat’s eyes,” the mysterious delivery of whistles and Rogers’ brief rococo solo, and the recurring reference to “the garden of your mind.”

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Feeling directly addressed by Mister Rogers is an example of what every child deserves from their childhood teachers, and is one way that the education of children should inform the education of adults. (Here is a reflection from Rogers’ friend and co-worker Rev. Eliot Daley on the God of Fred Rogers evident in his approach to educating children.)

I think about this especially when I teach my undergraduates, mostly 18-22 year olds who are in the midst of