Inexplicably, Albert Mohler gets something right.
Discussing the television series Downton Abbey, he acknowledges that much of our civil, religion-based turmoil is grounded in a backward-looking rejection of modernity.
And yet, most viewers are likely unaware of what they are actually seeing. They are not merely watching an historical drama, they are witnessing the passing of a world. And that larger story, inadequately portrayed within Downton Abbey, is a story that should not be missed. That story is part of our own story as well. It is the story of the modern age arriving with revolutionary force, and with effects that continue to shape our own world.
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The stable hierarchies of Downton Abbey grew increasingly unstable. Britain, which had been overwhelmingly a rural nation until the last decade of the nineteenth century, became increasingly urban. A transformation in morals changed the very character of the nation, and underlying it all was a great surge of secularization that set the stage for the emergence of the radically secular nation that Britain has become.
He even quotes the exact same passage from Dover Beach that I quoted yesterday in connection with the Baptist Press complaint about inerrancy ‘drift’ in Christian academia.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Mohler has lately written a great deal about the wickedness of contraception, too, and Upton Sinclair had this to say about that at just about the time in which Downton Abbey is set:
Birth control is one of the great fundamental achievements of the human reason, as important to the life of mankind as the discovery of fire or the invention of printing. Birth control is the deliverance of womankind, and therefore of mankind also, from the blind and insane fecundity of nature, which created us animals, and would keep us animals forever if we did not rebel.
That’s striking, don’t you think? Mohler characterizes contraception as one of the world’s great evils, and Sinclair characterizes it as a great achievement of human reason.
The battle for modernity could hardly be set out with more starkness.
Pay attention, Albert: The genii isn’t going back in the bottle. Humankind isn’t going to unlearn contraception, unlearn firearms or nuclear physics, unlearn what it knows about epigenetic markers and sexual orientation, unlearn grow-your-own replacement organs using stem cells, unlearn instantaneous global communication; technology has left your tribal, now cult-ish, worldview and ethical teachings behind.
And ethical teachings that aren’t grounded in the lived reality of the world as it is … well, as Reverend Johnson so famously prayed in Blazing Saddles, “O Lord, do we have the strength to carry off this mighty task in one night? Or are we just jerking off?”