Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


Downton Abbey, Mind Control, and Your Christian Life

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Downton Abbey is set in a quieter, simpler time, one we can still seek today. Dandelions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Because we do not subscribe to any television, cable, or satellite service, our family waits awhile to see the very, very few contemporary shows that are worth watching, and one of the events we have waited a year to experience is the third season of Downton Abbey.

Those of you with media service knew about poor Matthew a long time ago (actually, we already knew — we may live in the country but our house isn’t under a rock), but we’re patient, we can wait, we prefer to spend our money elsewhere, and we think a major contributor to the general brainwashing of our populace (including our Christian populace) is regular, unfettered time with corporate media: the newspapers; the evening news; the major news stations (including Fox, conservative friends); the movies short on plot, big on special effects, and subtle with adjusting how we think; and hours and hours of mind-numbingly atrocious TV fare.

Reclaim Your Mind

Dear, Christian brothers and sisters — turn off the box and go live your life. Limit the time you spend, eyes glazed in front of a screen, and reserve it for something thoughtfully made, like Downton Abbey.

To reclaim our minds, we need to spend time using them — meditating, praying, thinking. She Danced by the Light of the Moon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

For the uninitiated, Downton Abbey is a well camouflaged soap opera set in 1920s Britain, following the lives of the privileged elite upstairs concurrently with the drama of the servants’ quarters downstairs. Its writer, Julian Fellowes, takes great care to bring dimension to each and every person on the show, and while a bad person may be bad indeed, she or he is not Batman’s Joker — bad through and through with no humanity left inside at all.

Neither are the good people perfect — none of the characters is Jesus. At some point during the three-season experience, you find yourself irritated with someone you’ve always liked before — like Hugh Bonneville’s Lord Grantham, who is generally so kind and thoughtful but lapses into arrogance, pride, and an unwillingness to listen — as do any of us.

Conversely, the nasty under butler, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) earned more than a few minutes of my pity when he is so hoisted by his own petard that he faces a life of ruin, deprivation, and despair. He reminds me of a woman I knew, who was just about as nasty, but when really bad times hit, I had enough grace within me not to gloat.

Life Isn’t Simple, and It Isn’t a Movie

Life is a real place, and we walk on real roads. Highland Road, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition art print at Light in the Box.

Most shows and movies simplify life to the point of irreality: Dad is a buffoon, the butt of all jokes; Mom is svelte and skinny and smart; the girls are confused; the boys are sullen; Christians are stupid; people from the Far East — all Buddhists — are wise. It’s easy to make judgments about people and events based upon very little information, and what judgments we make are cleverly directed by the writers and the directors behind the scenes.

As it is with Downton Abbey, so it is with any media we choose to follow — but unless and until we realize this, our very thoughts, our very beliefs, are at danger of being directed by others. Precious little media fare is thoughtfully written with the idea of simply telling a good story, like Downton Abbey. There is always a story, this is true, but frequently this story masks behind telling the truth — as in the corporate-financed, highly subjective news we passively absorb, without asking any questions at all.

“Oh. The president says that we must buy health insurance. This must be right.”

“The news says that these people are our enemies. This must be true.” 

“These people are at fault for the economic crisis. It said so on the news.”

People Lie. Seek out Truth

If there is nothing more that we learn from Downton Abbey, it is this: people lie.

Predominantly good people lie when they are pushed into a corner, or threatened, or hurt. Predominantly bad people lie because they can make more money by doing so. But all people have their faults, and trusting intrinsically in another human being, any human being, is not a good idea. And when that human being, or organization, stands to make money, or secure power, based upon the sacrifices of others, then say to yourself, “Thomas, the under-butler. True, he’s human, and I should not hate. But neither do I need to trust him.”

The only one deserving of our full and complete trust is God, and yet He is the one we frequently blame for everything. Let us get to know Him better.

Thank you for joining me. As Christians, we must be thinkers, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts guides us to seek wisdom, tempered with humility. At Commonsense Christianity I invite you into my life of meditation, and encourage you to walk deeply in yours.

There is not much encouragement within the contemporary Christian culture to think deeply and ask questions, and we must change this, one by one. If you like what you read, I ask that you 1) subscribe to Commonsense Christianity (top right on the menu bar) and/or 2) pass me on to your friends and family. I am not a famous name, and for that reason, do not have power and money at my disposal; but I have a message, and it is a worthy one. If you do neither 1 or 2, please definitely do 3: meditate, deeply, and draw close to God. Speak as He gives you the words to say.

Posts similar to this one are the following:

Put Your Money Where Your Beliefs Are

Make a Difference, Every Day, as a Christian

Sham Christians: Don’t Be Fooled by Them

Should Christians Think?

People Call Us Stupid, You Know



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  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, AC. As you say, the writer is human, and although he writes well and sensitively, he will stray now and then from absolute truth. But so then do all people and writers, and we draw what truth we can from where we can, using wisdom and discernment.

    (Too often, Christians only read “Christian” literature or watch “Christian” shows, and not accepting that these are written by fallible humans as well, they fall into a trap of believing everything that is written in that venue — so the same caveat applies.)

    Jesus’ use of parables and stories to convey truths enables us to think about doing the same. As a person who does this all the time, and learns best from this method, I recognize its fallacies, because no allegory is 100 percent perfect!

  • AC

    Your article was thoughtful and indeed uses a spiritual sense that I love and admire. Even though I watch the show, I did not particularly like your advocating it the way you did. Yes and yes it is much better than what is normally passed as entertainment and relaxation in American TV, but the writer and creator of Downton Abbey is also human and as far as I know, not a Jesus or Christianity Advocate so he has his own message too he is trying to get across. Nevertheless, Christians ought always to think and weigh the world around through the word of God as that is the only way to develop a sound mind that is calm and well-balanced. God bless.

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