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Recovering Chivalry

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I recently sat down with a few friends to discuss what it means for a Christian man to be manly. We had mixed opinions on what it exactly Christian masculinity is. So that weekend I set out to examine what Christian masculinity means in our modern age.

Progressive?

Much of modern evangelical Christian culture is greatly influenced by American Christianity, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. However, a few problems arise from this—postmodern liberal thought permeates the cultural landscape. For men (and women) this involves a blurring of the genders/sexes, feminisation of masculine traits, and a pursuit of self-advancement at all costs. This isn’t just a secular problem: it is a church-wide problem.

In my own personal experience, I find many churches in Sydney (and modern Christian culture in general) have a strong feminine culture that preaches nurture and rest. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s good! But it misses another dimension of the message of the Gospel; we are missing out on the challenge, the risk and the reward of the commission of Christ.

Call of heaven

Personally, I have a very high view of the time of the Crusades. The Middle Ages remind us of adventure, knights, nobles, castles, and battle. There is something particularly romantic and mysterious about the Middle Ages.

For Christian men, this was a time when boys were called to take responsibility when they were about 15 years old, sometimes even earlier. As with any era, society changes, but we can look back to see there are treasures to be found amongst the ruins.

Knights were an active and significant social group during the Middle Ages. One of the most influential cultural components was the Code of Chivalry. There was no ‘set’ code as the Code of Chivalry was mainly a cultural agreement in society. I will highlight a few key points of this sacred oath that are relevant to today.

To fear God and maintain His Church

For our medieval brethren, this meant to fully submit their lives to God through worship, sacrifice, and obedience—even till death. Protecting His Church was the second charge. This meant protection by martial ability or legal jurisdiction.

As in the Parable of the Talents, wise maintenance is not confined to retaining what is, but it includes proper expansion to what it could be. Cue the rise of Christendom. Accompanying all this was the virtues of Faith and Sagacity.

In the 21st century we should also fear God and maintain His Church. We need to submit ourselves to God, who so graciously gives us life every day. Our service is not merely a service on Sundays, but each and every day.

Our call to protect the Church may not rest in military work, but we certainly have a duty to uphold and to promulgate the faith and virtues Christ and the Apostles so faithfully gave us. Expansion never stops in the Kingdom of God, whether it is internal or external.

To protect the weak and defenceless/to give succour to widows and orphans

Knights were chosen, not only agents of the monarch, but as arms of the Church—both militarily and civilly. For them, the protection of the widows, orphans, destitute, and abandoned is of highest calling.

The majority ethos of the Crusades rested on these first two principles of the Code of Chivalry. Pilgrims to the East were so frequently attacked and the Church was constantly ravaged by Islamic armies. Christian Europe had no choice but to oppose them and slow the advancing Islamic Empires that dominated previously Christian lands.

Similarly, we shouldn’t be shocked when young men go to the Middle East to defend Christians against ISIS. Pray for them. Here, it is the virtues of Justice and Charity which motivates the Christian man to action.

As modern men, we shouldn’t pass the homeless on our streets without a care, nor should we turn a blind eye to the plight of people less fortunate. An issue for us all to wrestle with at the present is our Australian response, our collective response, to the issue of refugees.

Whether or not detention centres, like Manus Island, are justified to be operated in Australia is for you to decide. For me, I believe it is shame upon our nation. For those who come across the sea, do we not have boundless plains to share?

To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun

Simply put, “finish what you start”. Today, we have a big problem of not doing what we say, because it is inconvenient or too costly. How can we answer the call of God if we shirk even from the smallest things?

In our culture, “I” has become more important than “you”. Loyalty is also another issue. We are more fickle than ever before as our lives and lifestyles choose flexibility/fluidity over steadfastness and faithfulness.

For Christian men, this presents many problems: how can we sustain marriages/relationships even through the tough times? How can we be successful in our careers when we face hardships? How can we increase faith when there are few reasons to hope?

Stories like ‘The Knights of the Round Table’, or a more modern equivalent, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ can teach us about perseverance. If you don’t like fiction, the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels are the best places to start. Christ persevered, the Apostles did too. These men possessed the virtues of Resolution, Diligence, and Hope.

To respect the honour of women

Medieval knights were expected to serve their lady first and foremost, then after her, all other ladies. It was an expectation that encompasses a general sense of gentleness and grace shown toward women by the knight.

This was a kind of courtly love, which is equivalent to being a gentleman in modern times, and is the kind of chivalry that is the most prevalent today. It is the idea of “women and children first”, or “ladies first”, symbolising an act of grace that extols the beauty and treasures the excellence of women.

This kind of chivalry has always functioned with God in mind, which is why our modern equivalents are often viewed with contempt or as attempts to control women due to the lack of God in the lives of many men.

In Christianity, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is our prime example of how we should honour women. Archangel Gabriel called her “blessed”, and we should follow suit by looking to her purity as we aspire to protect and bless our sisters in Christ.

Though sin came through Eve, so did salvation come through Christ, who was born of Mary. We can look to King Solomon, who puts forth the idea of the honourable woman in Proverbs chapter 31. Honouring women requires a Christian man to display the virtues of Temperance, Prudence, and Valour.

Christian gentlemen

In a marketplace of ideas, many concepts and temptations are presented to us, yet Christ calls all men to himself. For those who have answered him, we firstly must exhibit a faith that reaches beyond our mind, but into our very lives through what we do.

In truth, chivalry is a relic of the past, but we have something greater to look to, not to our modern culture, but to Christ himself, who is the crown image of masculinity. Let us journey together and look to his courage, his sacrifice, his glory, and show others to the truth of his Gospel as well.

 

This guest post was written by Jack Liang, a Commerce & Arts student at Macquarie University.

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