December 29, 2017 Matthew

Honor: A History by James Bowman ★★★★★

James Bowman’s Honor: A History could be construed as the counterpart to Braudy’s From Chivalry to Terrorism. Braudy gives no actual link between chivalry and terrorism, but would have us think of manhood (masculinity in the academic vernacular) as being at the root of terrorism as it was for chivalry. The jihadists of ISIS, after all, chant “for honor” to each other as they hurl themselves at civilians with bombs strapped to their chests. It’s similar to the Nordic vikings’ destructive ravaging of vulnerable and innocent civilians in small towns in the dark ages. The jihadists and vikings were not acting out of rage and hate but a system of honor. What is important to know is that the various systems of honor in ancient times were invariably based on religious beliefs.

Christianity has it’s own system of honor and reward system. Modern academia has its own system of honor which is based on atheism: self-esteem. All these systems contradict each other and create war. Bowman argues all wars are wars over honor. The Christian system of honor however is the one that leaves the war to its head, Jesus, who is prophesied to come and make a war to end all wars and thus prove to all that all honor and glory belong to him. End of story. In the interim the Christian fight is against false knowledge, lies, and foolish arguments—a spiritual one. This is why Christians, and the subsequent Christian civilization of the West, has prospered and become so powerful. The West is the only civilization that has ever regarded ‘personal individual achievement’ as the highest honor. Not blowing people up, ravaging towns, or collecting scalps from infants. This system was part-and-parcel to American life for the first couple of centuries as the underlying theme of Thayer’s 1893 work, Gaining Favor with God and Man, strongly testifies. The system flipped upside down in the last century when achievement was shunned, the celebrity idolized, and self-esteem indoctrinated into children.

Bowman discusses honor in the Islamic culture and then traces the Western sense of honor from the Greeks to the Renaissance to America today. He covers the decline and fall of western honor during the years between 1914 and 1975. He then looks closely at the post-honor society we have created since then and the toll it has taken on us–celebrity culture, self-esteem, feminism, egalitarianism, etc. His last chapter argues the need for honor’s revival and what would be necessary to see that happen. The book was published in 2006 and I found that this last chapter was almost prophetic for a lot of what he had predicted about honor’s revival was proving true today, 12 years later. Men by the hundreds of thousands have been forming grassroots movements based on pursuits of honor systems. Then there was the explosion of the beard products industry in 2013-2014, as I detailed in The Worldwide Beard Renaissance, with all of its honor-based, Victorian gentleman marketing campaigns. The amount of material cited in this book is monstrous and is enough to need a graduate-level class to work through.

This is a very important subject for men to study. Once you realize the background and meaning of ‘honor’ you’ll begin to notice its context and use in the Bible and in Jesus’ own teachings. Honor is in fact a central tenant of Christianity. Jesus rewards his followers according to their works, not according to who they are. The labor deserves his wages.  He is not a respecter of persons. I spend time on this in my upcoming book Gentle: The True Woman, because women need to understand that this driving force is in our bones. It will not ever be gotten rid of, and if pressed in the wrong way too much will only result in men’s instinctive retaliation like a wild animal being cornered.

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