“Little House on the Prairie,” the beloved television series based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, has continuously captured the hearts of many people, especially Christians, throughout the years. We love watching the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the second oldest daughter of the Ingalls family, come to life on the screen where the series shows the adventures of the Ingalls family as they navigate life on the American frontier. The themes that are portrayed throughout the various episodes strongly resonate with Christian values and beliefs.
One of my favorite episodes was when Laura ran away from home to search for a mountain where she could climb up to speak to God in heaven. As a child she blamed herself for the death of her little brother, and after speaking with the Reverend Alden believed that her prayers to bring her brother back from the dead could only be answered if she was closer to God. Laura meets an elderly gentleman, Jonathan, who she befriends during her stay on the mountaintop, and he helps Laura to realize that God always answers our prayers, just not always the way we imagine. The episode ends with Laura wanting to say good-bye to the man, but he seems to have vanished, and it leaves the viewer wondering, “Could the man have been an angel?”
The television series remains popular today because of its strong emphasis on family values and the importance of faith, which is hard to come by these days in present day shows. God has for the most part been removed from television except for the sole reason of mocking the Christian faith and attacking Christian values, such as marriage only being valid between a man and a woman, and the sanctity of every human person from conception to natural death.
The Ingalls family encounters much hardship throughout the series, such as losing their crops multiple times to storms, Charles, the patriarch, having to be away for long periods of time to find work, Mary, the eldest daughter going blind, and Caroline, the matriarch, Mary and even Laura in the spin-off series, all losing their sons. They are portrayed as a tight-knit family with a strong bond that cannot be broken, despite the many challenges they face together. The family unit is held together because of their Christian faith and their confidence and trust in God, which still touches the hearts of the many Christians who continue to watch the show because it teaches us the value of the family with mother, father, and children when so many families are broken or even disordered today. We also can be reminded of the importance of complete and total reliance on God no matter the difficulty of the circumstance.
“Little House on the Prairie” also models for us how we as Christians should interact with others. The Ingalls family is shown as being compassionate, respectful, and loving to those who during that time period were treated unjustly in society. The series addresses the racial and ethnic divide that existed during that time period, and portrayed the Ingalls family, especially Charles, as being accepting and showing that all human beings share equality in dignity. I recall one episode where one of the farmers, Joe Kagan who was African American, wanted to become a part of their church, and at the council meeting Mrs. Olsen kept voting down the proposal. Charles did not give up, and kept fighting for Kagan’s right to be able to worship in the same church as them since he was a Christian too. Eventually, he was accepted into their church by the majority vote.
The series brings us back to a much simpler time giving us a sense of nostalgia. For many Christians we long for a return to traditional values, which unfortunately seems to be a thing of the past in our post-Christian culture of the modern world. This is why so many Catholics are attending more traditional parishes because there is a desire for that which we no longer can find around us. “Little House on the Prairie” depicts a time where hard work, faith, and family are the bulwarks of society, which is appealing to the Christians of today who are constantly swimming against the tide of our chaotic culture, and feel disillusioned by it.
Perhaps one day there will be another series that captivates us in the same way that Michael Landon’s “Little House on the Prairie” did and still does today. But for now we still have the reruns that are available to us, and the show will continue to touch the hearts of many people, especially Christians, hopefully even into the future.