RELIGION

'Andy Griffith' draws crowds
to Bible class


By Leon Alligood / Tennessean Staff Writer

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. -- Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee
and Opie are packing them in at Bel-Aire Church of
Christ.

Since early December, the church has offered a
weekly Bible study class based on life in Mayberry,
N.C., which served as the fictional home for the
1960s television show, The Andy Griffith Show,
featuring Sheriff Andy Taylor and his bumbling
deputy, Barney Fife. Decades after the show's run
ended, it thrives in syndication.

Response to the class has been surprising, with
attendance growing from about 50 in the early weeks
to nearly 80 since mid-January.

"It's not the gospel according to Mayberry," Pat
Allison, minister of the church, says before the start of
last Wednesday's session.

"It just so happens that this particular program
provides a vehicle for discussion on a lot of topics --
honesty, truthfulness, prejudice -- that are as relevant
today as they were 30 or more years ago when these
episodes were made."

On this night, the next-to-last session of the series,
about 75 people sit in folding chairs at tables in the
church's fellowship hall. The lights are dimmed, and all
eyes focus on the black-and-white television image at
front and center.

Tonight's episode centers on Barney's plan to become
a real estate hot shot. He devises a convoluted
scheme where Andy sells his home -- to buyers
Barney provides -- and moves to a larger place down
the street -- which Barney is all too happy to show
them.

But Opie foils Barney's plan by letting it slip that the
Taylor house has a leaky roof, noisy water pipes and
a crack in the kitchen ceiling.

When father confronts son and asks why he pointed
out the flaws to the prospective buyers, Opie
responds he was applying the same rule of full
disclosure to selling the house that Andy enforced
when Opie wanted to sell his used bike.

Although he tries to rationalize a difference between
selling a house and a bike, Sheriff Taylor realizes he is
being hypocritical. When Barney arranges a second
meeting with the buyers, Andy acknowledges the
home's faults, much to the chagrin of his bug-eyed
and bewildered deputy.

When the lights come back on, Allison stands before
his congregation. "What'd we learn tonight?" he asks.

Someone says the tried-and-true phrase he wants to
hear: "Honesty is always the best policy."

The minister launches into a 20-minute homily on
being truthful, using no less than a dozen references to
verses in Matthew, Luke, John, I Peter and
Colossians. Members turn to the Scriptures in their
own Bibles.

"Have we bought a bill of goods, have we
conditioned ourselves to buy and buy and buy, to
have things, to keep up with the Joneses? Have we
forgotten to be content with what we have, like Andy
learned?" Allison asks.

Seeing Mayberry through a Bible teacher's eyes has
made the course memorable, church members say.

"It's been a wonderful experience to have Mayberry
brought into a biblical context. I grew up watching
Andy Griffith, but I guess I never really thought
about it much," says Emily Rutherford, who has
attended nearly all of the sessions.

"It's been uplifting."

Dave Tibbals, another church member, notes he
enjoys the series because "the message is not
overbearing. It's been a fun way to address some
serious issues."

Published by
The Tennessean
Sunday, 2/28/99

Copyright 1999 The Tennessean
A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper