U.S. viewers who love Downton Abbey might be surprised to learn that another BBC series, Call the Midwife, eclipsed it last spring in the U.K. and is now on PBS. The series is based on the memoir of a professed Christian, Jenny Lee Worth (played by Jessica Raine), who served as a midwife among Londoners of the East End during the 1950s.
That was a time before birth-control pills, when big families brought cobblestone streets to boisterous life. Episode 1 shows how Jenny comes to live among Anglican nuns: Not a woman of faith herself, but willing to serve in their poverty-stricken community, she meets nurses with high ideals and idiosyncratic personalities, a winsome handyman, and others. We follow Jenny into the lives of fishmongers, prostitutes, and sailors alike, as she brings on her rounds not only tools for safe labor and delivery but respect for the dignity of those she lovingly helps.
Sadly, love in the abstract leads to moral confusion, with premarital sex, drunkenness, and even incest legitimized. In contrast, while Worth’s memoir has its problems, it reached toward a Love that can bend to help without tearing the moral fabric of life. As one sister explains, God’s grace gives her love for the unlovely, not blindness to their faults.
Still, the BBC drama’s witty dialogue, colorful stories, and dramatic (but not too graphic) scenes of newborns gasping for breath have already won many admirers. For pro-life Christians, Call the Midwife’s respect for people of faith and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of abortion may make it especially relevant.