The Christian Boys’ & Men’s Titanic Society, a project of Vision Forum Ministries, is devoted to portraying the story of the Titanic as it really happened. We stand for the proposition that the strong must sacrifice for the weak, that greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for another, and to the enduring legacy of those men who died that women and children might live.
Special commemorative dinners have been held on the anniversary of the great maritime disaster since the Society was founded in 1997.
One hundred years ago, the second-most famous ship in the history of the world sank.
What makes the story of the R.M.S. Titanic so important is the men who lived out the expression “women and children first.” From first class gentlemen to 16-year-old cabin boys, from boiler room workers to Wallace Hartley and his musicians—all perished for women and children.
Three days after Titanic sank, churchman Henry Van Dyke (author of the lyrics to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”) offered this:
Where did this rule which prevailed in the sinking of the Titanic come from? It comes from God through faith of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the ideal of self-sacrifice. It is the rule that the strong ought to bear the infirmities of those that are weak. It is the divine revelation which is summed up in the words: Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. . . . Only through the belief that the strong are bound to protect and save the weak because God wills it so, can we hope to keep self-sacrifice, and love and heroism, and all the things that make us glad to live and not afraid to die.
For one thousand years, the doctrine of “women and children first” has guided Western civilization. We see this in the fields of Scotland in the seventh century when evangelist Adomnan authored the “Law of the Innocents.” We see it on board the sinking H.M.S. Birkenhead in the nineteenth century. These men, and the men of the Titanic, recognized their duty because they had been raised in a Christian culture that implicitly embraced this principle. Ours is the first generation to reject it.
How do we reconcile “women and children first” with the spirit of feminism? We do not. Today, many are confused. They have a quaint appreciation for “women and children first” while misunderstanding the application to the duties of manhood and the distinctions between the sexes.
As we progress through the twenty-first century, Christians need to understand the choice before them. It makes no sense to speak of women and children first in one breath, and place our daughters in harm’s way in military combat in another. If men are no longer the defenders of women, why hold the door for a lady or perform other acts of deference which once defined the meaning of “gentleman”? Today, Christians need to see exactly where feminism and evolution have taken us—into a world where it is every person for themselves in a struggle for the survival of the fittest.
One hundred years after the sinking of the Titanic, this message is more relevant than ever. It is a reminder of what separates Christian civilization from everything else.
Does “women and children first” still matter? You bet it does!