Friday, January 23, 2015

Albert Mohler: Downton Abbey — What Are Americans Really Watching?

Highclere Castle - july 2012
January 23, 2015

Viewers should note the almost complete absence of Christianity from the storyline. The village vicar is an occasional presence, and church ceremonies have briefly been portrayed. But Christianity as a belief system and a living faith is absent—as is the institutional presence of the Church of England.

Political life is also largely absent, addressed mainly as it directly affects the Crawleys and their estate. This amounts to a second great omission. The epoch in which Downton Abbey is set was a time of tremendous political strife and upheaval in Britain. The Earl of Grantham would likely have been quite distressed by the rise of the Liberal Party’s David Lloyd George as Prime Minister. The right of women to vote was a recent development, and the political waters were roiled by high unemployment and a faltering British economy. The signs of the Empire’s disappearance were there for all to see, even if most among the elites did their best to deny the evidence. The great landed estates were draining their lordly title holders of precious capital, and the economic arrangements that allowed the nobility to live off of their estates would never return. That is why so many English lords looked for rich American women to marry. Some of these developments are addressed in the series, but not with the depth of concern that shook the British noble houses into crisis.

A great moral revolution was also in full sway. Birth control was increasingly available and openly discussed. In 1930, the Church of England would become the first major Christian church to endorse the use of contraceptives. Sexual morality was changing with a lessening of sanctions on premarital sex and adultery. Calls for liberalized divorce laws became more frequent. Many argued that the working class should have the same access to sexual liberty that the nobility seemed to allow themselves.

And yet, the secularization of the society was underneath it all. Christie Davies, author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain, gets right to the point: “Behind the strange death of moral Britain lies the strange death of Christian Britain. Even in 1900 the leaders of Christian Britain feared that such a decline might take place.”  the rest image


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