Only in America
In Britain God’s absence from Downton Abbey has not been a big issue but in ‘God’s own country’ this is a question of some interest. “Why, when the scriptwriter Julian Fellowes is a Catholic, is there so little in Downton about God?” Americans want to know. Writing in Christianity Today, Todd Dorman described God as a ‘peripheral presence at best’. Ian Markham, an Englishman who is President of Virginia Theological Seminary, has gone native to extent of worr ying that ‘faith is relatively invisible’. It has been left to a British commentator, Michael Walsh, to point out that high church Anglicans like the Crawleys don’t do religion in public. He argues that if people in England in the years after the Great War became devout they tended to turn to Catholicism.
Historian Callum Brown reminded Americans that Downton Abbey covers a period when it became fashionable for people to lose their faith. But journalist David Gibson gets it right when he says that in a drama about tradition and change, family religion is a marker of class and status and is concerned more with doing what is right and proper than with holding correct beliefs. Upper class anti-Catholicism may have been an eye-opener to American viewers. Lord Grantham was not pleased that his first grandchild was to be baptised a Catholic. But, as Gibson points out, a fourth series is planned so there is still time for Fellowes to channel Evelyn Waugh.