The Way Back to Mayberry: Lessons from a Simpler Time
Broadman & Holman, 182 pages, $10.99
Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee—they're all here again. Joey Fann made headlines last year when Thomas Nelson Publishers released his homespun Andy Griffith Show Bible study, which he had been teaching in his Alabama church. Now Fann brings us more Christian kitsch inspired by the hit show.
The Way Back to Mayberry departs slightly from the Bible-study format with this episode guide/devotional for Christian fans of the show. As in the Bible study, though, Fann draws moral lessons from several of his favorite Andy Griffith episodes, which he sees as gentle parables. He presents the material in a folksy, conversational tone reminiscent of Andy Taylor himself. Fann sprinkles his reflections on the episodes with poignant stories from his own life: his dad's battle with cancer, a bungled attempt to impress his new neighbors, loving memories of his late grandfather's large hands. Christian vehicles such as this can be moving, but they invariably lure us into romanticizing the past. Sure, life was once simpler, but did places like Mayberry ever exist? The Andy Griffith Show was filmed during the 1960s but did not allude to that era's assassinations, war protests, and civil-rights marches (the black community must have been down the road a piece).
Still, it's hard to dislike Andy. That these realities never found their way into Mayberry's alternate universe was part of the point. Mayberry was a place to learn central values—friendship, family, faith. There would be plenty of time to test the mettle of those values beyond the town limits.1