Has Social Darwinism overtaken the concepts of chivalry and honour? Social Darwinism stresses competition between individuals in laissez-faire capitalism; and the ideology has also motivated ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups (Wikipedia). On the other hand, Chivalry represents the ideal of true manliness, the Christian gentleman. The man of Honour who, like King David, is willing to face death to protect his faith, his loved ones, or his nation, yet who, like Christ, is kind, understanding and gracious in his dealing with others. In contrast to the Social Darwinist who is selfish, cold, unfeeling and often cruel, the Christian gentleman is considerate, respectful of others and protective of the weak. Can chivalry and honour exist in a society dominated by Social Darwinism?
Confident in his manhood the chivalrous man is kind. This is in full accord with godliness as it is written, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) In contrast, the Social Darwinist is cruel and unforgiving ever ready to put his fellowmen down. They believe that the winner takes all, and only the fittest survive.
The chivalrous man is respectful. He has no need to show disrespect in order to prove himself. His speech is gracious. His conduct is in accord wisdom. (Cf. Eccl. 10:12; Phil 2:5-8) On the contrary, the Social Darwinist has only respect for himself and those he considers his equal (i.e. in terms of wealth and power). He has no respect for God and the dignity of the human person.
Being gentle the chivalrous man embodies true manliness. His manliness consists of far more than pride and pretence. His manliness issues from an inner strength which enables him to evaluate himself honestly and to do his duty in whatever situation he may find himself. He does not put on airs, nor does he feel the need to impress other people. (Cf. Gal 6:3) He is a defender of the weak and oppressed, never their exploiter. (Cf. Lev 25:17) On the other hand, the Social Darwinist will do whatever it takes to win. He will try his best to impress the right people and exploit the weak (if necessary) to attain his goals.
Walking in true manliness the chivalrous man will not run from responsibility. He will face his duties with a manly resolve to prevail and an inner confidence that his life is in God’s hand. (Cf. I Timothy 1:7; Philippians 2:5-8) Conversely, the Social Darwinist will claim credit when everything is going fine, but will avoid all responsibilities when things go wrong. This can be clearly seen during the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed.
The man of honour maintains an inner integrity. He knows in his heart what is right and what is wrong and he will not do what he believes to be wrong. He values a good reputation and wants to identify himself with that which is good and righteous and praiseworthy. However, even if no one would ever know, he would not do evil. (Cf. Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 8:13) On the contrary, everything has a price for the Social Darwinist. Integrity can be sold if the price is right.
Although generally neglected and considered old fashion the dual concept of chivalry and honour continues to exert its effect upon our society. We see that effect every time a man opens a door for a lady or elderly, every time a child is told not to make fun of the handicapped, every time a doctor risks his life to stop the spread of disease, or every time we hear someone say “we follow the honour system” or “you are on your honour”.
Now it is true that the trend of our society is away from chivalry and honour. More and more we see selfishness, envy and brutality exalted as the standard to follow. Babies are slaughtered by abortion. Unions resort to violence. Terrorist acts are directed against innocent civilians. Sexual mores are cast aside. Children are exploited for profit. Corruption is rampant in some governments. Frankly enough is enough. If this trend is not reversed, if the dual concept of chivalry and honour is not revived, then all indications are that civilization itself will be destroyed. Barbarism and brutality, terrorism and dictatorship will become the universal situation. As Christians it is our responsibility to revive the concepts of chivalry and honour in our societies so that love, peace and justice may prevail. Although we have no right to judge others but we have every right to uphold our ideals and values. May God help us.
Let the hymn “Where Love Is Found” remind us that God is charity and love: