The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or a happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth degree and meek to the nth.
~C.S. Lewis, “The Necessity of Chivalry,” August 1940
My Dear Readers,
In the last 50 or so years, I don’t think any other traits of men have been so derided as “knighthood” or “chivalry.” I even write these words and most people have a false picture of King Arthur and Camelot: Children’s stories their parents read to them that taught men to open doors for ladies.
People my own age probably aren’t familiar with King Arthur. Chivalry, to my generation, is some archaic nonsense that our parents fell into: it comes from an old time we can’t identify, it pretends to make a man respect a woman, but in reality makes her subservient to him. This we call sexism.
If we believe one or both of these, and if they are, as I say, traits of men, our situation is rather bleak. Because if it so, we must unlearn it. But how do we unlearn a trait? We don’t, and nor are we supposed to. We’ve simply forgotten what chivalry truly is. It is not sexism, nor is it simply being nice to a woman.
Recall, if you will, the words of C.S. Lewis. He described a chivalrous man as “fierce to the nth degree and meek to the nth.” This is chivalry. A chivalrous man—the knight—is both, in their proper contexts. In the field he is a warrior. In the hall or home, he is something of a servant or a caretaker. No one would ever dream him capable of harming a fly.
Lewis drew attention to the obvious fact that this is not ordinary for men. Especially for modern men. His modern man was usually either. Ours usually possesses both qualities—in their improper contexts. It is with our modern man that I will concern myself.
Lewis notes that in his own day men were either fully fierce or fully meek—already undesirable—our day’s men suggest that we have gone in for worse. Our men are fierce where they don’t need to be and meek where they don’t need to be.
We see it in the husband who never confronts the boss he doesn’t like very well; upon returning home, he berates (or beats) his wife. We see it in the boy bullied at school, of his peers, broods on his own anger and lashes out randomly. He may even develop the sad need to bully others. Men today are more afraid than yesterday to take risks in life, and often mock those who do. We could create hundreds of examples, but these will do.
What has become of us men? I believe the answer is that the sins that we have committed, influenced by our fathers and they by theirs, have accrued, poisoning us so that true manhood has been put aside and forgotten. We have put aside our responsibility for our households, where we are men meek and prayerful before God, submitting our fallenness to Him that we may lead our households peacefully, or for young men like myself, to prepare ourselves for that day. There is our missing “guest in hall.”
To us is the responsibility to guard, provide, protect, and to work: it is for us to work twelve hours to make ends meet, to advance our careers and to defy odds so that we may grow—and that we may teach our children to grow. We must never be satisfied with “enough” but pursue a path to leave behind us a world better than we knew before. And finally, to be step forward, attending Church with our families in tow, dragging them if need be—to prepare them for the spiritual battles ahead. This is our lost “man of blood and iron.”
This is chivalry. This is what it means to be a knight. Too often have we laid down our arms and surrendered to others what was ours to protect. And these others falsely preach against chivalry as harmful and misogynistic. Chivalry is not wrong, it is men who are often wrong.
The modern man has drunk the hemlock; without men, false preachers freely feed it to children. As a result of their words, young boys grow reach adulthood rejecting knighthood for villainy. They defile their bodies, their souls, and their minds. They lust after women, who they ruin; if these men have children, their lack of responsibility has spoken for the curses visited upon their offspring.
Where are these new men in the workforce? Nowhere. Where are they in the Church? Nowhere. Are they with their families? Are they gaining wisdom? Are they preparing for the life ahead, or for eternity? No; they have no one to guide them.
The diagnosis is harsh, but it is fitting. If you want the proof, you must only take a single look around. All is not lost, but what time is better than now to change the course of history? History is not a record of bad men oppressing the weak. History is a record of men failing to step up for Truth in times of darkness. Our calling is to the old ideal of chivalry and knighthood—men, are we up to the task?
I know that I am young. I know that I have much to learn. But I will not settle for just enough, for the mediocre—nor will I compromise with what is morally wrong. I seek to serve only what is true and right. Chivalry is not a children’s story; knights are not fantasies. The man under this code is he who sacrifices. He is called to pray, to suffer. To protect and provide for those in need. He is a strong man; he is a meek man. His King is the Christ, his life is the Church. This is the truth—and the cost—of chivalry. True chivalry is manhood. True chivalry is Christianity.
Until next time my friends.
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