The Andy Griffith Show and The Bible
Written by Eric Shindelbower, with
excerpts by Joey Fann.
You might be wondering why there would be a page devoted to The Andy Griffith Show in a web site about The Cross? I do not recall an episode in which a person refers to Christ, but the underlying theme of the series, in which characters love each other and the importance church is to the citizens of Mayberry, must have it's basis in Christianity.
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)
Joey Fann wrote why the show makes sense for a Bible class: Although there are few direct references to the Bible, I believe the show is filled with the basic morals and principles taught by the Scriptures. Each show tended to have a good moral theme that was brought out by the story line. Basic values, such as character, personal responsibility, honesty, and integrity were routinely exemplified by the show. I believe these characteristics to be uncommon for most television shows past or present.(2)
To learn more about, "Finding the
Way Back to Mayberry,"
When George Lindsay, who played Goober in the series, was asked what he thought of the idea using the series for a Bible class, he replied, "One of the incredible things about every single episode is that Andy insisted each show have a moral point, something good, lofty and moral. It's a shame current shows on TV don't adopt that high road."(3)
Show writer Bill Idelson once shared his opinion of why the series enjoyed success: "You know what the secret of the show is? You know why everybody loves it? It's about man's humanity to man rather than man's inhumanity to man. He's a sheriff, the police - the symbol of oppression, brutality, and ignorance throughout the world - and here's a guy who treats his neighbors and the people on the street as if they are human beings. I think people hunger for that so much that it transcends all of culture."(4)
A show highlighting man's humanity to man. A deep statement to describe a half hour comedy, but a valid statement. I believe success of The Andy Griffith Show was a result of a commitment to excellence by the writers, directors, and actors. The series produced several powerful episodes that highlighted and projected good, moral themes. Themes that have withstood the test of time.(5)
The Andy Griffith Show had 249 episodes and ran for 8 years, from October 3, 1960 ("The New Housekeeper") to April 1, 1968 ("Mayberry, R.F.D."); it can still be seen today in syndication.
It is during the very first episode, "The New Housekeeper," broadcast on October 3, 1960, that we find out that Opie has been taught to believe in God. The scene shows Opie saying his prayers before going to bed, while Aunt Bee eavesdrops from the hallway. This is what Opie said in his prayer: "God Bless my Pa, my bird Dickey and my dog Gulliver and my lizard, also wherever it is he ran away to, and Barney Fife and my white mouse and Jerry, Tommy and Billy and my snake. Amen. I forgot somebody very important. God Bless Rose, even though she ran off and got married."
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:22.
One of my favorite episodes, "Man in
Wally, the filling station owner in Mayberry, prefers to sit on his porch and read the Sunday paper than be bothered by an out-of-town businessman with car problems. He assures Mr. Tucker that he will repair his car first thing in the morning. This doesn't satisfy Mr. Tucker, so he returns to Gomer Pyle for help. When Gomer proves to be no help at all, Mr. Tucker explodes and steals Gomer's truck. Andy catches him but, under the conditions, refuses to press charges. Instead, Andy takes Mr. Tucker home with him for Sunday dinner.(7) Goober eventually fixes Mr. Tucker's car and then Gomer drives it to the Taylor's home. Mr. Tucker tries to leave, but after reflection, comes up with an excuse to stay the night in Mayberry.
Cross Symbolism or Seeing Too Much Into It?
"I couldn't do it, we're closed on Sunday." Wally, the mechanic
This is a still frame from the scene, in which Mr. Tucker walks off frustrated after hearing that Wally will not fix his car on Sunday. Notice in the center of this image is a cross shape in the door. A friend of mine, who is a professional video producer, stated that given the time constraints to film a weekly series, he found it hard to believe that this could be planned symbolism.
I believe that the director planned the cross shape to be in-between Andy and Wally to symbolize Christ. Wally will not fix Mr. Tucker's car on Sunday, when it would have only taken him an hour to repair it. Notice how Wally is seated in a rocking chair under the cross, while Andy stands pointing at the foot of the cross, as if to say - In Mayberry, Sunday is a day for rest and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Given the talented professionals involved in making this series, I feel that this symbolism is plausible.
If you are able to view this episode, watch how Andy holds his hand in this pointing position, as it seems to be unnaturally long to be a coincidence. Further, if you follow the dialogue of this scene, Andy really has no reason to be pointing to Wally? Next, how many people put a rocking chair near the front door? It would make more sense to place the rocking chair further down on the porch to be out of the way. Is this just a door in the middle of the scene or a cross-shaped symbol to represent Christ? Also, notice the cross shape in the window that can be seen to the left of Mr. Tucker.
My favorite scene of the, "Man in a Hurry" episode.
Most of the scenes in the last half of this episode take place on the front porch of the Taylor's home. I especially like the scene in which Andy, Barney and Mr. Tucker sing, "The Church in the Wildwood"; it is filmed in one take and is approximately two minutes long.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6.
In this still from the one shot take, we
Andy strumming his guitar in a rocking chair,
while Barney is almost asleep on the lounge
Mr. Tucker has come out on the porch to smoke a cigar. Andy and Barney are harmonizing while singing, "The Church in the Wildwood." I find their soft, whispering rendition of this song to be very moving.
Mr. Tucker has taken a few puffs from his cigar and is starting to unwind a little. Andy and Barney continue to sing.
Mr. Tucker can't help but join in the singing with Andy and Barney; they both look at each other and smile as Mr. Tucker starts to sing - it's subtle, but very effective.
Mr. Tucker is singing the verses alone now, while Andy and Barney are humming in the background. You can actually see a smile on Mr. Tucker's face as he is totally caught up in the mood and relaxed for the first time of his stay in Mayberry.
Mr. Tucker has just completed singing a verse from, "The Church in the Wildwood." Notice the expression of contentment and relaxation on his face; he has totally forgotten about the fact that his car needs fixing. I can imagine him recalling a time in his childhood, when things were much simpler. We all want peace of mind - and for this brief moment, Mr. Tucker has found his.
I find it interesting that it was music that finally calms Mr. Tucker down.
Music hath charm to soothe thy savage breast. William Shakespeare.
Isn't it amazing how music can invoke a
memory? How many times have you heard a song that made you recall
a pleasant memory that happened a long time ago? To learn about
the song, "The Church in the Wildwood," by Dr. William S.
Pitts and/or the actual Little Brown Church in the Vale - http://www.littlebrownchurch.org/
Other favorite scenes from the "Man in a Hurry" episode.
Gives Mr. Tucker A Lucky Penny.
you are Mr. Tucker."
Even high-strung Mr. Tucker is touched by Opie's kindness. You remember that after Mr. Tucker receives the lucky penny, he reflects and appreciates the kindness he has received in Mayberry. He then comes up with an excuse to stay the night.
What I find heart warming about the "Man in a Hurry" episode is the kindness and willingness of Mayberry citizens to help a stranger in need. If my car ever brakes down, I hope that it will be two miles from a town like Mayberry.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4.
Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13.
This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes. Ecclesiastes 7:29 (NIV).
"Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!" Psalms 46:10.
"When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you will begin in shame to take the lowest place. But when your invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:8-11.
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4.
Thanks goes to my co-worker, Tom Wright, for his assistance on the development of this page.
Excerpt (1) from,
"Classic series provides parables for adult Bible study," in
The Christian Chronicle.
Scriptures from The
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. Published by ©1962 The
World Publishing Co.