On the Evils of Chivalry

Let’s not get bogged down in the details. What Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, laud as good moral guidelines stands in flat contradiction to the Bible. Broadly, chivalry as a body of lore arising from the European Middle Ages was an attempt by church officials to impose what they imagined were good moral restrictions on the Germanic tribes slowly adopting civilization. Almost no one bought into this package of mythology wholesale, so it remained an imaginary ideal. And it remains with us today.

What most people cannot quite grasp is that it stands behind both left and right social agendas in the US. It’s the same basic assumptions about reality that make the whole debate possible. All the competing “should” and “ought” statements arise from the same pool of moral sewage. They are both expressions of the same cultural mythology, the same heathen worldview, the same badly broken morality.

However, we recognize that some propagandists will openly embrace the term “chivalry” as if it grants them some moral high ground. Let’s take a look at one particular issue: civilian casualties in war. You’ll hear a lot of absolutist rhetoric that is simply not possible. It presumes a mythical “innocent bystander” as the hapless victims of war. This presumes to know the motives of humans when most humans don’t even know their own motives. It takes a significant amount of work and introspection just to get started down that path. While utterly necessary for heart-led living, it is frankly near impossible without heart-led awareness. Motives come into play only when we narrow down to the business of individual awareness. Trying to impute motives in the aggregate requires at least a lot more study than most so-called analysts can engage. Further, group motivations are a moving target. The bigger your population, the less you can say about it in any meaningful way without losing any sight of the presumed “high moral ground.”

Humans war. Nothing you promote will change that; it’s part of fallen nature. The Bible does suggest some general moral guidelines, but you can be sure nobody actually engaged in warfare is interested. There’s nothing wrong with prophetically addressing things, so long as you don’t take yourself too seriously. But a heart-led evaluation starts with knowing biblical morality, not mindlessly walking in the mythology into which we are all born.

Reminder: Life is not precious. That statement is hyperbole designed to shatter a cultural myth, but remains a salient reminder that we cannot approach this with badly broken Western morals. The proper view is radically different.

So far as I can discern, no current warfare stands on good moral grounds. Defending your community in general is morally right. It falls under the broad moral goal of social stability (shalom). Most current warfare stands on some kind of imaginary national insult or simple greed and lust for power. For example, the US suffers from this hellish imagination that she is morally superior to the rest of the world, and that whatever some bureaucrat imagines is in our national interest (with all the paranoid bullshit concerns for “national security”) is naturally what God Himself wants us to pursue. We are the anointed nation, set apart to decide what humanity should be doing, which includes making our lives luxurious and convenient. The only thing our troops defend is our divine right to tell everyone else how to live.

That said, when we take a look at how other folks fight in their wars, Americans tend to think there is something sacred about avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage unless we are the ones doing it.

But we shouldn’t be wringing our hands about this or that group of civilians bleeding in some blasted pile of rubble solely because they are civilians; the soldiers nearby are just as morally important. We make a legalistic distinction that didn’t come from divine revelation. If it so happens those soldiers are generally defending their community, then they are victims, too. How they go about defense really depends on the wider context of whom they fight, the tactics they face, the training they can get, and what they have to use against their enemy. And nobody in this world, or even the whole outside world together, has any business commenting on it beyond openly confessing their interests. Presuming to address things from some imaginary universal moral standard is downright evil.

Don’t get wrapped up in the activist propaganda. Weep over the bodies of children because that’s how we are wired, but don’t imagine the mere fact of a child’s death is somehow justification for cheering one side or the another in war.

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About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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