I Don’t Miss Mayberry. . . And Neither Should You!

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Mettitt

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Mettitt

I’m old enough that I can remember watching The Andy Griffith show air regularly as reruns on television. I also remember watching the shows Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. It was good wholesome family oriented television that parents could watch with their children without having to worry about what those little ears and eyes might encounter.

Of course, The Andy Griffith Show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry. It was a small town, an all American kind of town. Neighbors knew each other, there weren’t any video games to keep children from playing outdoors, and the most serious crime was when Barney, the Deputy Sheriff would take Otis the drunkard to jail to sleep it off. That certainly seems like the ideal kind of place to live and make a life for ourselves. Heck, even though I didn’t grow up in a single parent home, it certainly would’ve been nice to have an Aunt Bee around always having a fresh-baked apple pie hot off the stove. If only we could return to way back when, right?

Wrong!

As the title suggests, I don’t miss Mayberry and what it represents and neither should you. As wholesome and pleasant as Mayberry may seem, I’m sure not a single Black person would enjoy going back to America’s Mayberry era. Not when being black meant being forced to ride at the back of the bus, not having the right to vote, and even being lynched. In fact, there’s more than a few groups of people that would not enjoy going back in time. That was a time when many still believed a woman’s place was nowhere else but in the home (not that there is anything wrong with women choosing to be homemakers) and sometimes that was a home where women were abused by their husbands while the law did little to nothing since it was a “domestic problem.” Let’s not forget the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped, and many other groups who were marginalized and mistreated.

So no, I don’t want to go way back when and I don’t know why any other Christian would either. In fact, I don’t know why Christians would long for any idyllic American culture, be it the traditional culture that Mayberry represents or the more progressive culture that America has seemingly become.

Growing up, we would sing the spiritual This World Is Not My Home during church services. Some churches still sing it. But do we really mean it? Because whether it’s the down-home traditional America or the more progressive America, many American Christians seem baptize the American ideal as the best thing since sliced bread.

Can We Recover Our Hope?

Christianity in America really needs to recover a sense of eschatological hope. That is, the church needs to learn once again what it is to live with hope. . . to be in the present what it awaits for and what it already is in the fullness of time. The Apostle Paul writes Philippians 3:20-21,

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Only when Jesus returns will everything in life, including our own bodies, become what it is meant to be. Right now we live with a promise which is hope to us in Christ because we know what our future is. So if this is what we are to eagerly await, why dream and politic for good ole’ Mayberry or it’s American antithesis? Christians belong to neither and await neither!

However, let me push this a bit farther. Within the context of Philippians 3:20-21, Paul is contrasting the Christian disposition of being set toward to the second-coming of the Lord with people who have their minds set on “earthly things (v. 19). While Paul is directly talking about people driven by hedonistic values where their own stomach becomes their god, it isn’t a stretch at all to say that Christians who for an idyllic American life also have their minds set on earthly things.

This is not to say that everything about America then and now is bad, as that would be a gross mischaracterization. There were and are many good things about America. Yet no matter how good we think America was or is, it will not be when Jesus comes again. One day when Jesus return, everything will be brought under his reign. Until then, the only way for the world to know now that Jesus is Lord is for us, the church of Jesus Christ, to live in hope of that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confesses. We can’t do that when we’re preaching sermons in the sanctuary, on Facebook, or else that says “I Miss Mayberry.”

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12 responses to “I Don’t Miss Mayberry. . . And Neither Should You!

  1. faith hall of fame:
    Hebrews 11:13-16 (MSG)
    13-16 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

  2. I’ve long thought the same thing. We also need to be cautious not to accept the myth of progress. Our hope is not in the past nor in human progress, but in God becoming “all in all.”

    • That’s right, our call is to neither baptize the idyllic world of Mayberry nor that of the progressive world but instead hope for that day when everything and everyone will submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

      Grave and Peace,

      Rex

  3. I do miss Maybury, Maybe not the time, or the ideal, but at very least the show. My wife and I went to see Captain Phillips last night. We were encouraged because reports said there was zero sexuality. But as we watched the previews there were countless shots of nearly naked women. It was a reminder that you can’t escape the over sexulized nature of what our culture has become. I am raising two daughters. I long (and pray) for a resurgence in wholesome media in hopes that my daughter’s future husbands wont be so over exposed to sexuality that they end up hurting my daughters.

    I also have hope. Hope in a promised land, but also hope in redemption. I hope and pray that God will redeem this fallen world, and at least begin to do so before I die. Just as I have been redeemed long before my death, I pray the world will be too. I pray my wife and I can go on a date and not be plagued by a sexually fallen world. Do we have to die to realize this?

    • I understand and stand with you in wishing that the saturation of sexuality within American culture would be diminished.

      I too hope that God is redeeming this fallen world as we speak. “Do we have to die to realize this.” Yes! We must die to ourselves and follow Christ as we join God as participants in his mission of redeeming what has fallen. May we do that with a bold and courageous faith!

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  4. Good post Rex. It would seem there is some historical naivite which drives this kind of thinking, like you infer. Mayberry is a fictional world that represents an escape from the reality & problems in which we live, while sometimes offering selective commentary on our reality through the comedy of Barney or the sage advice of Andy. But the problem is that Mayberry has never existed, for as you rightly point out, there were dark sins and pains in the mid-20th century which the world of Mayberry has the luxury of avoiding.

    And I think this is where the longing comes from to “return” to Mayberry, as naive as that sounds. For this longing itself illustrates a sort of skewed eschatological hope, pointing to those worldview impulses in us all which long for a better world, free of pain, where the norm for society is “doing the right thing.” I say skewed though because the fictional world of Mayberry also furthers unrealistic (and harmful?) stereotypes of a “good” society being defined by things like homogeneity, conservatism, and other motifs which, ironically, inhibit our growth and development as individuals & as a society (by the way, note how the characters in Mayberry never really develop or change. They are static from episode to episode, not being allowed to transform and mature. Homogeneity will do that.)

    I think the practical bridge here in dialoguing with those who long for Mayberry is to recognize these deeper longings for a better world but to point to the all-sufficiency of eschatological hope in the kingdom of God, which, unlike Mayberry, addresses the injustices and sins which we face in our own lives and in the world. For the kingdom doesn’t just offer a convenient escape into a homogenous world of like mindedness, but rather offers the power to transform us “from glory to glory”.

    • Boom! You are on to something in your observation that the longing for Mayberry is a longing for a world free from all of the brokenness and pain. So your “practical bridge” is right on target. The task of the church is to redirect the skewed eschatological hope that longs for a return to Mayberry by living as an eschatological proclamation of the true redemptive source.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  5. It is a dream world created by the writers of the show. For those of us who remember Home Improvement and wished family got along like that, it was the image of a perfect world that did not exist anywhere but on the screen. Every decade had its problems, be it fearing invasion by the Huns, occupation by the Romans, or ongoing war. We might wish for a return to an idyllic world but it isn’t real. I thought as Christians we were supposed to do what we could for the world we live in and “play the hand we are dealt.”

  6. Jesus says to seek for the kingdom of God; look for the coming of Jesus Christ; and to keep ourselves, pure, holy, righteous and free from sin all the while, Watching for Jesus to come back for His people and to mete out judgment on that day! Love not the things of this world. Conform not to this world. We can’t focus on God/Jesus and seek those things from above if we are still focusing on things of this world. All praise and glory to God our Father and to our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ!

  7. Pingback: Beyond Innocence and Ignorance: Practitioners of Reconciliation in an Age of Racism | Kingdom Seeking

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