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Stories in 'Downton Abbey' offer relief, and inspiration page 2
Linda White's op-ed column on "Downton Abbey"

 The popularity of PBS series 'Downton Abbey' reflects our longing for a world of order, beauty, love, and family ties.
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Date published: 1/6/2013

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As we watch "Downton Abbey" or "The Hobbit" in this new year, our real stories are playing in the background. We are living in the shadow of a contentious election, ruled by a dysfunctional government, threatened by fiscal calamities, and, most heart-wrenching of all, torn by episodes of terrible violence: the Newtown school shooting with 20 innocent children lost, the ambush of firefighters in upstate New York, and more. We hear the drumming of the hoof beats of the Nazgul, Tolkien's Black Riders: Evil is in the land. What are we to make of it?

Ravi Zacharias, a philosopher born in India, a descendant of high-caste Hindu priests, now an American and a widely respected speaker who argues for the Christian faith on platforms all over the world, wrote sensitively and convincingly after the Newtown tragedy (you can read his entire piece at rzim.org/rzim-news/tragedy-at-newtown): "Hate is the opposite of love, and while one breathes death, the other breathes life The seeds of hate sooner or later bear fruit in murder and destruction. We are living in a society that nurtures hate on many sides with the result that lawlessness triumphs." Warning that "the fiscal cliff is tame by comparison to the moral devastation ahead," Zacharias goes on to cite "political leaders and media elite" who "take the most sacred privilege of democracy and transform it into the language of aggression." He decries the entertainment world "calling for gun control and then entertaining the masses with bloodshed."

Ironically, "God is evicted from our culture and then He is blamed for our carnages," writes Zacharias. But without Him, "America is lost on the high seas of time without chart or compass. The storms that await us will sink this nation beyond recognition if we do not awaken to the rapid repudiation of the values that shaped this nation. The handwriting is on the wall. Freedom is not just destroyed by its retraction. It is destroyed even more painfully by its abuse."

Tonight, we will tune in to "Downton Abbey." We will root for Mary and Matthew's marriage, cringe at the duplicity of Thomas, hope for justice for Mr. Bates and his new wife, sweet Anna, wonder at the beauty and grandeur of the house.

We will take comfort, I believe, in proper behavior: the gentle courtesy conveyed, the respect given to others, the etiquette observed. Even Sybil's "rebellion" (her pursuit of a career and then marriage to the former chauffeur) is undertaken with class.

We love "Downton Abbey" in part because we long for a world of order and beauty, love and family ties. But behind those desires is an even greater theme: We long for connection with God, the one who created order and beauty, the one whose very essence is Love. In a chaotic world, he is the keel we are missing.

Linda J. White is an editorial writer for The Free Lance-Star.


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