the As a young boy, I was constantly reminded to be a gentleman. This meant opening the door for women, saying please and thank you, and keeping my elbows off the table at dinner, among other things. Despite a severe period of waywardness, my manners stuck with me.
We live in an age without a code. People, young men in particular, need a code in my opinion. One reason that men need a code is whether they realize it or not, a code provides a challenge, and thus a sense of accomplishment when the tenets of the code are met. A code orders people’s lives and can prevent arbitrary moral renderings. Of course there are dangers in a code, that it can become dogma and too rigidly enforced, legalistic. Furthermore a code implies a sense of honor, and thus strength and community, things that all men, some subliminally, desire. The codes of the past have primal power, pulling at the strings of Natural Law, reinforcing the things that all people know to be good and right. Even the codes of people we consider our opposites embody aspects of Natural Law; an example is Pashtunwali, of the Pashtun people in Afghanistan. This code requires Pashtuns to protect, house, and feed strangers, even at the cost of the Pashtun’s life. It also requires that blood debts be paid, thus the Pashtun blood feud.
The first code I remember is the Boy Scout Oath, which states the following:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Boy Scouts do a tremendous job in instilling the spirit and morality that is happily the antithesis of the modern spirit and morality. The mention of God, Country, and morality is likely to bring a hurumph from our Progressive masters.
The second code I remember is The Nicene Creed. I was an alter boy, and I rather enjoyed it. I had an oath to swear, a holy cause, a distinct function and a code that was unapologetic.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
Maker of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
As a police officer, I raised my right hand in city hall, and recited the following code:
On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.
Finally, when I enlisted in the Army, I swore yet another oath:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
All of these codes involve God, honor, duty, country, law, and truth, thus they are an anathema to the dissolute regime now at the helm.
I propose people should get themselves a code. A code provides meaning to life beyond the next trip to the mall. A code can help order a person’s life, and as Augustine stated: Peace flows from order. A code can also remind you that you have weaknesses. St Paul states that the intent of the Old Testament law was to show man he was inadequate. A code leads to introspection and a focus on the deeper meaning of life, love and death. A code can bring a higher meaning to a person’s life, something no widget can do. Since almost all old codes find their essence in Natural Law, a code is likely to help you get along with other people and to have a happier life.
For men, I propose the old Chivalric code and the American/British/renaissance code of the gentleman. The great thing about these codes for me is that they mostly adhere to Christian ethics while endorsing an active, even martial life style. This fits my personality perfectly. I don’t want to be a flaccid man or Christian. I prefer the way of David or Joshua.
We can even use some aspects of these codes to help us develop skills and past times. For instance,
Along with combat training and courtly graces, a knight was typically taught to dance, swim, read poetry, play chess, to hawk and to hunt with a team, as well as fight as a unit in battle. Yet, in tournament and joust he was also tutored to excel as an individual.
These guidelines can easily translate to the modern day. Learning to play chess, or improving one’s game is a great way to improve your mind and it’s a great past time. Swimming, and team sports are fantastic too. I took up fencing years ago and plan to do so again; it’s inexpensive, a great workout and has the martial quality I prefer. While poetry is not the soup of the day, we can learn to write and communicate better and more beautifully. Hunting wild game develops many manly attributes and of course provides food.
Robert E. Lee is an excellent example to follow when it comes to martial and gentlemanly prowess and here he describes his gentleman’s code.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
The Chivalric code endorsed the 7 knightly virtues. They are as follows:
- Courage More than bravado or bluster, today’s knight in shining armor must have the courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved.
- Justice A knight in shining armor holds him- or herself to the highest standard of behavior, and knows that “fudging” on the little rules weakens the fabric of society for everyone.
- Mercy Words and attitudes can be painful weapons in the modern world, which is why a knight in shining armor exercises mercy in his or her dealings with others, creating a sense of peace and community, rather than engendering hostility and antagonism.
- Generosity Sharing what’s valuable in life means not just giving away material goods, but also time, attention, wisdom and energy — the things that create a strong, rich and diverse community.
- Faith In the code of chivalry, “faith” means trust and integrity, and a knight in shining armor is always faithful to his or her promises, no matter how big or small they may be.
- Nobility Although this word is sometimes confused with “entitlement” or “snobbishness,” in the code of chivalry it conveys the importance of upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching.
- Hope More than just a safety net in times of tragedy, hope is present every day in a modern knight’s positive outlook and cheerful demeanor — the shining armor that shields him or her, and inspires people all around.
The Chivalric code and the code espoused by Robert E. Lee highlight two things that I believe are central to the success of Christian culture: The mixture of strength with mercy. These warriors were not bullies. Almost no where else in history do we see this. In almost all other places and times, the strong were taught that they had the right to crush the weak. But in Christian culture, the strong maintained the ability and right to defend themselves, but then also made society stronger by helping the weak and showing mercy.
Today, most people have no code at all. They have never established for themselves the rules of their own life, how they should treat others, the expectations they have for themselves on a daily basis. They float on a sea of meaninglessness and confusion. Their manners and demeanor are so atrocious that other people are unhelpful to them, and this causes the unmannered to revile those around him. But the strongest people of the past had codes. They ordered their lives.
I’d suggest all young men get themselves a code. Stop floating in the modern sea of meaninglessness, directed only by the lyrics of the attest pop song, or inane antics of a star on tv. I can’t imagine how a code of lasting power could possibly hurt your life when compared to what we have now.
The Seven Knightly Virtues: by Scott Farrell