Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith RIP

Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor
The legendary Andy Griffith died today. Known mostly for his role as "Andy Taylor" on the series, "The Andy Griffith Show" (in the olden times, actors would use their real names on the title of shows but play a character totally different), Griffith brought to America's living rooms a glimpse into small town Southern living. The fictional town of Mayberry was populated with such characters as Otis the drunk, Floyd the barber, Goober and Gomer, the Pyle cousins and so on and so forth.

In recent times, the horse-sense Andy Taylor has become somewhat of a cult figure. Almost literally. I was visiting our local Methodist church and saw this on a table:

I flipped through it briefly and realized that it was one of those homespun attempts to equate Christianity with "simple times" back when deputies didn't carry bullets, a kiss on the jaw meant a marriage commitment and loyalty to one's butcher was important.  A website describing a course based on the book reads:

Joey Fann and Brad Grasham developed a Bible class, "Finding the Way Back to Mayberry," using 12 episodes from The Andy Griffith Show as parables; referring to Matthew 13:34 as the key to the lesson series' purpose and success:  "All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable."  The first class debuted in June of 1998 at the Twickenham Church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama and was facilitated by Fann and Grasham.(1)

You can ever get a course in Christianity called "The Gospel According to Andy Griffith".

The Milford church is in the midst of its seven-week sermon series, “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Andy Griffith.” It's a long way from shiny black-patent shoes and polite piano riffs of traditional Christian services. And that's what the Rev. Brown intends.“I grew up with Andy Griffith, and I liked it when I was a kid,” said Bev Holden, 46, of Goshen. “Now that I'm an adult, I still like it. You can watch Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee sit there on the front porch and think, "Oh, I wish I could live in Mayberry because life is simple.'

And then from the Ridgecrest Christian Conference center, there's this:

The program advertisement states:
Sadly, we can’t live in a fictional town. But we sophisticated residents of 2012 can learn a thing or two from our 1960’s-black-and-white-sitcom friends. Because when we fast-forward 52 years, we see that human nature hasn’t changed. We still deal with some of the same daily challenges. We still struggle with personal shortcomings. We still have imperfect relationships. We still want our faith to be stronger.

For three days, we’ll take you back to Mayberry. Yes, we’ll laugh and sing and enjoy sweet fellowship. But the genius of The Andy Griffith Show is that the essential life lessons it offers us are amazingly tied to God’s Word. Come discover practical biblical truths that can help us better become the people God wants us to be.

Yes, we'll laugh and sing and enjoy sweet fellowship. While singing and fellowship and laughter may be of value to Protestants, that's foreign to Catholics. As a matter of fact, I'm not too sure if there was a Catholic Church in Mayberry. Or a black congregation. Or a synagogue. Or a mosque.
Although the Gospel may be told by "our 1960's-black-and-white-sitcom friends", there's more white than black in Mayberry.

The Mayberry Chrisitianity is also a "sold-out" production in some Protestant churches. A play based on one episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" travels the country around Christmas in order to teach, wait for it, "the real meaning of Christmas".

Reality check. Mayberry never existed. It was a fiction. And during that time, America wasn't really that ok. People may have kept their doors open at night but lots of black folks hung on trees as well.

From a religious standpoint, there is that Protestant aspect of being blessed enough to help others that is seen in Mayberry. However, there is also a sense that "blessed" means white, over 21 and free.

I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but Mayberry and Andy Taylor were fictions. In reality, Griffith was not Andy Taylor by any expanse of the imagination. As I type this, a talk radio host known for being conservative is lauding the values of Griffith as a "real American". Because he's thinking this:

 But he may not remember this advertisement where Griffith supported the less-than-conservative Obamacare bill:
Ron Howard, who played Griffith's son "Opie" on the show, also produced a video including "Andy Taylor" in support of the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The video seems to have disappeared but it happened.

Far from simple Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith was his own man. Like all of us, he was complex and contrary. He was married three times, divorced twice. Far from perfect, he was very human. In other words, he lived in living color and not in black-and-white.