CHIVALRY AND HONOUR

 
A CALL TO HONOR BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME


     While the concept of "honor" predates the Christian era by many centuries and was even alluded to by Solomon, the idea behind it is relevant to our day and age because it has to do with conduct that will not bring shame upon one's family ("Honor thy father and thy mother," Exodus 20:112, Proverbs 29:23)

    However, the idea of having a personal code of honor came later, and has to do with conducting ourselves in such a way that we have nothing to be ashamed of. In other words, if we do what we know to be wrong, we will have to live with it even if no one else ever finds out. And, if we cheat or use foul means to get ahead, we will never be able to take any real pride in our accomplishments.

    Nevertheless, because so many in our society have been given over to a reprobate mind, the idea of honor seems out of fashion (Romans 1:28). False prophets encourage people to escape the inner condemnation their conduct brings, by deceiving themselves. Good is called "evil," and evil "good," while those who live a life of debauchery tell themselves that they are "good" people. In short, many are living in a fool's paradise, while their inability to feel shame perpetuates a high rate of crime, illegitimacy, and drug abuse.

    A true, "man of honor" will stand strong against temptation, as Joseph did, saying, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13). In the movie, "Gone With the Wind," Ashley Wilkes stood against temptation in that way. Yet Scarlett had no idea of what he meant when he said, "We have our honor." In fact, the concept of honor was alien to her way of thinking. However, what he was telling her was that even if they got away with doing evil, they would know about it and, therefore, they would have to live a life of shame, for their own heart would condemn them.

THE RISE OF CHIVALRY


    In contrast to honor, the ideal of Chivalry is clearly Christian and western in its origin. It seems to have originally developed as a way of reconciling an honorable defense of one's life, family, or country with the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." To that end, a distinction was made between killing the helpless, and killing in self-defense. While killing the helpless was clearly an act of murder, killing in self defense was seen, not only as preventing murder, but also as the just end of all would be murderers. When applied to the military, this way of thinking saw the willingness of a soldier to risk his life in defense of others, as an act of love (John 15:13). Therefore, soldiers who risked their lives to protect women and children, and by physical prowess overcame and defeated those who would harm their countrymen, were seen as worthy of honor. At the same time, there was no honor for the soldier who would kill from ambush, or kill helpless prisoners. Such a man was assumed to be too cowardly to engage his foe in a fair fight. The same held true for those who mistreated women, noncombatants, or prisoners. As a result, even though individuals often fell short of that ideal, warfare in the middle ages was more civilized than warfare today, in that there was no mass slaughter of noncombatants or organized gang raping of women.

    While certain aspects of the legend of King Arthur are theologically incorrect, and the moral standards of that age were more lax than those of post-Reformation Europe, the story was never intended to romanticize sin. Lancelot was a man of virtue, a man who earnestly prayed for an opponent wounded in combat, a man who was at first ashamed of his love for the queen, and a man whose sin, like the sin of David, brought sorrow and tragedy.

THE CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN


    During the Renaissance, the concept of chivalry developed into the concept of the Christian gentleman. A man of great inner strength who is gentle, virtuous, and kind on one hand, and capable of meeting and overcoming any problem that may arise, on the other. In addition, he is also a man who does not flaunt and abuse his strength, or boast and brag to cover up his inner feelings of inadequacy (Barney Fife).

     The author of "Gone With the Wind" brought out that idea when she had Rhett Butler ignore a challenge by a young man eager to prove his "manhood." While Rhett would hardly qualify as a true gentleman, the writer understood that a man, who is confident in his manhood, does not need to act tough in order to "prove" that he is a man. On the contrary, such a man is able to be tender and gentle, kind and considerate. He does not need to hold a woman down and mistreat her in order to affirm his own manliness, but instead affirms his manhood by protecting and caring for the weaker sex. That is why men have traditionally shouldered the harder and dirtier jobs, why they have opened doors for women, and why they have allowed their wives to remain at home instead of putting them to work.

    At present, those who see women only as sex objects ridicule this idea of manhood, and would replace it with the "Macho Man." A man who works out with weights so he can impress others while exploiting women, a man who evades the responsibility of parenthood, and has no qualms about hitting a woman, a man who sees anyone weaker than himself as someone he can exploit. That is not progress, or enlightenment! Instead it is a change for the worse, and a rejection of civilization on the part of those who cannot distinguish between civilization and technology.

HONESTY AND FAIR PLAY


    A man of honor will not cheat to win, because he knows that there is no honor in cheating. Instead he will strive to win honestly, because he knows that the only real accomplishment lies in playing the game fairly and still winning. Furthermore, if he does not win, he will not pout and accuse others of cheating, instead he will show good sportsmanship. In England this concept was broadened into an entire way of dealing with people, known as, "honesty and fair play."

    During the nineteenth century, England ruled one forth of the world's inhabitable land surface. Yet because of the concept of honesty and fair play English administrators tried to be fair and impartial. Of course, they were not perfect, and there are always individuals who fell far short of the ideal. However, when independence was granted, English administrators were often asked to stay and help govern the newly independent country. In contrast, even though Holland maintained a very efficient government in what is now Indonesia, the subject people were continually made aware of their subservient position. When talking to a Dutch official, they were not even allowed to raise their eyes or look the official in the face. As a result, when Indonesia gained independence every reminder of Dutch rule was stripped away and all Dutch officials were required to leave.

CONCLUSION


    The concepts of Chivalry and Honor, Gentlemanly conduct, and Honesty and Fair play stand out in stark contrast to the amoral self-seeking behavior of many in our society. Take, for instance, the slanted and one-sided claims that dominate labor relations. One side yells "unfair, unfair" no matter how hard the other side tries to be fair. The same holds true of environmental groups. Instead of trying to be honest about the situation, they try to create alarm so that they can use manufactured crises to ram through the legislation that they want.  In fact, I can remember when they were swearing up and down that the world would run out of fossil fuels by 1990. What does that say about their honesty? False statistics were, and still are, used to promote the political agenda of those who favor abortion, homosexuality, or other left wing causes. Which only goes to prove that our atheist dominated society has forgotten the civilized concepts of chivalry and honor, and is reverting to barbarism.