Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chivalry by Zach Hunter: A Book Review

How can a young man think like I do, was my first wondering thought when I began to read Chivalry: The Quest For A Personal Code of Honor In An Unjust World just published by Tyndale Momentum (an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers) in July 2013.

"My generation is tired of talk," Zach writes and proceeds to identify the problem his book is going to be dealing with. More people are engaged in social justice and poverty alleviation now than ever before but Zach has become concerned about a double standard in people's lives, including his own. We don't know how to be kind to the people right around us. Chivalry is about becoming a kind and chivalrous people. Zach helps us do that by developing a personal code of honor that is based on his hero, Jesus Christ. Why was I wonder-struck by this? Well, I'd just completed writing something similar - lack of Christ-like love - in my work in progress, a daybook on freedom. Somehow I had not expected a young, single, white male to see American Christians in the same way I,  a first generation immigrant and mother of a young American male myself, did. With different life experiences for both of us to see the double standard in our Christian culture is not quite the norm. This will be a worthwhile read was my second thought. Sure enough, Zach totally delivers in Chivalry.

A quotation starts off Zach's description of the epic quest to which he invites and challenges his readers, young and old, women and men, all the people of the world. It is a poignant quote by Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India: "We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."

Zach's personal code of honor is crafted from the knights of old but it is based on the image of the "all-loving God who gives without limit and sacrifices without end." A total number of 10 principles make up the complete code. The 10 principles are: 1) I will not go on this journey alone; 2) I will never attack from behind; 3) I will practice self-control and selflessness; 4) I will respect life and freedom; 5) I will fight only for the sake of those who are unable to defend themselves, or in the defense of justice; 6) I will honor truth and always keep my promises; 7) I will fear no evil; 8) I will always follow the law unless it goes against what is moral and good; 9) I will live and die with honor; and 10) I will never abandon my quest. A chapter of the book is dedicated to each principle.

Zach writes in an easy to read and conversational style punctuated by anecdotes of people he's met, his own feelings and experiences, and books he's read. Most of the principles begin with a framing story. For example, Rooted, about trees, is the tale that frames the first principle. Different kinds of mentors serve to root us and help to keep us strong through the winds and storms of life; this is why we don't go on the epic quest of our life alone. We are to seek and develop relationships with mentors. Mentors are important whether we are women, men, young or old. In a similar fashion, Zach discusses all the 10 principles with stories, quotes, and Bible verses. He is not shy about voicing the need for self-control in romantic relationships. "True manliness is power under control," he writes, quoting his Dad, in the chapter on I will practice self-control and selflessness, and includes verses from Galatians and the Psalms. "Self-sacrifice and self-control go hand-in-hand," he writes just a short while later. How wise! The abolitionist Frederick Douglass is his exemplar in the chapter on I will respect life and freedom and he highlights the importance of learning, especially about other cultures and nations. With sensitivity he draws out Douglass' early life and makes us understand what it meant to be a slave. One of the stories I liked best is of Asher and his triumph over fear; there is a candid discussion that precedes and follows about his friend Cozette's Tyranny of the Familiar in the chapter on I will fear no evil. We mistakenly think fear is our friend because we like the safety of what is familiar and the unknown is scary even if it is in in our best interests. The final chapter I will never abandon my quest fittingly closes with the story of Fair Hands the kitchen boy turned brave knight Sir Gareth in King Arthur's court.

A chapter titled Living the Code Discussion Guide has questions as well as a code (sort of like a do list) that can be printed out as a reminder and signed. Provisions for the Journey is an interesting idea. Zach lists some of the music, art, books and films that can serve as inspiration, motivation, and of course, sustenance as the title suggests for the quest. Bibliographic and Scriptural references and allusions are carefully listed chapter by chapter in EndNotes.

I agreed to review Chivalry because I was intrigued by the sub-title. Also, as the mother of a young man I know how important chivalry and codes of honor are to the younger generation. I had never heard of Zach Hunter prior to reading the book. It was a pleasant surprise to find out Zach has written other books Be the Change, Generation Change and Lose Your Cool. I am looking forward to reading them and gifting them to the people in my life.

Full Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy for the review. Thanks, Tyndale!

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