Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Men Who Style Themselves Chivalrous

To men who style themselves chivalrous, or somehow or other defenders of women, including the author of this post, in what are probably his better moments, if also his more prideful:

If the essence of chivalry ever really was in a darkened alleyway, walking home a mother, sister, friend, or lover, this is no longer the case.

Chesterton said that fairy tales describe what sane men do in mad worlds, and modern psychological novels describe what mad men do in sane worlds. We are the heroes of modern psychological novels, we are trapped in the setting of fairy tales, and there is no hope for us but in Christ. America is a mad world if there ever was one, and we, with our ability to presume false victory over our own impulses, are mad men. Our first duty is to guard our own hearts; if we don't do that, we can only do so much in guarding the hearts of culture.

Our first duty is to pray to God that we regain what is left of our sanity, to avoid losing our sanity to the surrounding psychology of the world. Only when we can begin to remove the planks in our souls can we proceed to remove the planks (and they are planks!) from the soul of our culture; this leaves us with nowhere to begin but prayer. A bunch of people with planks in their souls can do nothing to help each other without the grace of God. Once we've taken the vital step of acknowledging that we cannot do this on our own, we can move on to practicality, a step which I think we will all find remarkably simple, if somewhat uncertain.

As a first practical step I suggest that what we choose to think, what we choose to say, how we choose to conceive of women be guarded carefully, lest we give quarter to lust and concupiscence or anything else which dishonors. Any thought we have that so much as hints that a woman is lesser for being a woman, anytime we even remotely think of another human being as an object to be used, not a subject to be related to...we must take captive those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Furthermore we must cultivate a positive Love of all things in our hearts, so as to leave less and less room for these demons, be they personal or actual, to maneuver. And we must do this all without losing the spirit of prayer. Will this be hard? Yes. But virtue is our goal—avoiding sin isn't good enough to be called good.

The battlefield is no longer a darkened alleyway. This may be the case in special circumstances, but for most the bulk of the fight is spiritual, not physical, as much against oneself as against strange attackers. It is, and probably has been for awhile, in subjugating our passions to our spiritual needs, in subjugating our wills to those of Christ. If chivalry is really the middle ground that we have left between male chauvinism and the newer radical feminism, we cannot find it other than by following Christ, who, if chivalry is a virtue, was and is by virtue of that fact a chivalrous man.

Furthermore I suggest that if we are to take this positive meaning of the thing one called chivalry, and make it mean the defense of the honor or the rights of the other, that it is does extended to us as men and our honor. Indeed, in guarding our minds as men we guard our own honor as well as that of the other sex. At the same time there seems a special and qualitatively different mode of defense across the line of sex, but we must not pretend that only men are made to defend or that only women need defending from. But that is perhaps another conversation for another time.