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    Book Club: The Roots of American OrderChapter 9

    May 3, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I am officially a chapter behind the other participants, from what I can tell, but I’m plugging away nonetheless. This is truly a great book, and I have decided that, unless something else comes along over the years, we’ll use it as a spine for Government in high school. It just seems ideal to use it that way.

    There were a couple things that stuck out to me in chapter 9, the first being characteristics of the American gentleman, and the second being Jonathan Edward’s comments on the affections.

    The American Gentleman

    I found the qualities of what Kirk called “the American gentleman” to be fascinating. The idea is that we still have an aristocracy here in America, but it isn’t an artificial one, inherited by unqualified characters. Instead, it is the natural aristocracy which occurs when we compare one man with another. As Kirk said,

    The Roots of American Order
    by Russell Kirk

    [O]ne man is not as good as another, and a society without sound social distinctions is a miserable society, and a republic requires leaders with a sense of honor.

    The gentleman, then, was the best sort of man. He was the embodiment of the ideal, in many ways. I decided I’d draw up a bullet list of his qualities, and share them later with my son:

    • Good breeding: good and tasteful manners
    • Honorable: would not lie or cheat
    • Valorous: would not flee before enemies
    • Dutiful: would serve as a representative of his king or country as required
    • Charitable: good steward of his wealth, using it for the common good
    • Not prideful: especially about his inheritance, if he has one
    • Diligent student: at the university level (meaning uncommon achievement, I think)
    • Knowledge of laws: studied the law
    • Rides his horse well: What would be the modern equivalent of this, do you think?
    • Accepts public office: if given to him (it has always been interesting to me how many of the Founders seemed to serve their country out of duty rather than desire–a far cry from the modern politician!)
    • Severe but just: judged meditatively, but acted swiftly when the matter was clear
    • Prepared: used peacetime to prepare for war (didn’t waste his time, prepared well for the future)
    • Known: his generosity, his dress, and his companions are remarkable
    • Courteous: well mannered, flexible, truly generous in attitude toward others
    The concept of the gentleman is not dead, but I would hardly call it a goal that most families work toward with their sons!

    “The word ‘gentleman’ has a positive and limited signification. it means one elevated above the mass of society by his birth, manners, attainments, character and social condition. As no civilized society can exist without these social differences, nothing is gained by denying the use of the term.

    Jonathan Edwards on the Affections

    My husband and I were in a conversation with some others about sin awhile back. In the conversation, sin was characterized as chocolate cake. So the line of reasoning was that the desire for the cake is overpowering before salvation, but after salvation, we are free from our bondage to said chocolate cake {which is bad for us}, and we can deny its power over us and go eat our vegetables {which are good for us}.
    Or something.
    In the context of the conversation, it all made perfect sense, and yet I couldn’t help myself. If you’ve been reading here very long, you can probably guess how I felt about this.
    I said that I think that it is more this way. Before we are Christians, sin appears to be chocolate cake, promising us the fulfillment of our desires. But then we eat it, and it’s nothing but sawdust. It looked like a great thing, but it really wasn’t. Once we are saved, we begin to be sanctified, and as this process continues, our affections are ordered. We begin to see things accurately, as if the wool has come away from our eyes. Suddenly, sin looks exactly like the pile of sawdust {or worse than that!} that it is.
    And Goodness? Beauty? Virtue?
    Turns out those things are the chocolate cake we’ve always wanted. And not just a Betty Crocker cake mix from a box! No. They are the best chocolate cake.

    With the best frosting, I might add.

    Lots of it.

    I believe that over time we can grow to love what is good and pure and true and beautiful and virtuous. All the good stuff can become chocolate cake for us, because God is making all things new, including us.
    All of this is to say that I loved this quote from Edwards:

    True religion in a great measure consists in holy affections. A love of divine things, for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections.

    Read More:
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    More book club posts linked at Cindy’s blog

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    The more I think about “riding your horse well,” the more I think there is not a one to one correlation in our culture. The horse was so important for transportation, but he was also a weapon during war, and a tool during peace. There was strength as well as grace involved in mastering the horse, and also compassion because a good rider is able to form a relationship with his steed. There is just so much there!

    But Mystie, YES! That definitely is part of a modern version of manners–the ability to be present instead of distracted, the ability to use technology as a tool rather than being enslaved to it as a master. Good thoughts for sure!

    • Reply amy in peru May 6, 2012 at 1:22 am

      this is the main reason i’m so sad we don’t still ride horses… so much there! have you watched ‘war horse’? kinda interesting in light of this comment. πŸ™‚

      your posts always make me wish i had more time to read along. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      War Horse is in my Netflix queue right now! You make me anticipate watching it even more. πŸ™‚

      Speaking of time to read along…For this particular book club I have carved out time more than ever before. I’ve been more crunched than ever, so for most of this time {going on two months now, I believe} I’ve read nothing but Roots and my Bible. I made an exception last week when E.-Age-Almost-Ten wanted me to pre-read Dandelion Fire for him, but that’s been about it.

      If you ever get the chance to read it, I really do recommend it, and I think it’d be easy to read it one chapter at a time, putting it down when you need to.

    • Reply Go quickly and tell May 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      DH and I enjoyed War Horse ~

  • Reply Mystie May 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Hm. How about if we interpret the modern “ride your horse well” as “manage your technology well.” You know, not checking FB in the middle of a conversation. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Trisha May 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I just got my copy of this book the other day. I was encouraged to try it since both you and Cindy are going through it. Now I have the benefits of your notes. πŸ™‚ Thank you for the time and effort you put into sharing what you’re learning with the rest of us. It is a blessing.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      I hope you like it! I think it is very readable compared to some of the past selections, and it is *full* of good ideas. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Go quickly and tell May 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Enjoyed your synopsis, especially the gentleman bullet points which tie into Cindy’s parenting extrapolations from 18th Century Intellects (Chpt X) ~

    and will be thinking about the modern equivalent of *riding your horse well*

  • Reply Daphyne May 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Ahhh, I’m in the middle of Edwards’ book “Religious Affections” right now. Great read. I highly recommend it if you’ve never read it. πŸ˜‰

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Good idea! I own the Complete Works, but haven’t read everything. I’ll make that next on my list!

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