A Night to Remember
A Report on the Tenth Annual Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society Dinner
Providence had brought them all together, approximately 2,201 souls: rich and poor, young and old, men, women, and children. Some 325 luxuriated in the privileges of their wealth, enjoying the amenities of the upper deck. Below them were the second and third class passengers, many of them immigrants from many nations, full of the unknown hopes and aspirations of future Americans. Interspersed through the mighty ship were 885 crewmen, thrilled with their new assignment on the pride of the White Star Line. All were glad to be aboard the magnificent Royal Mail Steamer Titanic.
Providence also had ordained that the ship strike an iceberg in the North Atlantic shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, plunging through the freezing waters to the ocean floor a few hours later. When Captain Edward Smith realized the fatal nature of the collision, he issued the order to abandon ship, although the lifeboats were woefully inadequate to rescue all the passengers. The crew manned their posts and tried to save as many lives as possible, women and children first. The men of the engine room stayed to the last in order to keep the lights on above, the musicians continued to play hoping to allay the fears of passengers, the young telegraphers continued to send SOS until finally ordered to get out. Officers of the ship, particularly Charles Lightoller and William Murdoch, calmly and resolutely loaded the boats with women and children. Assisting them in their task were men who possessed all of life’s worldly wealth, like retired banker Archibald Gracie and multi-millionaire Harry Widener, men who gave no thought to their own survival in order to preserve the lives of women and children. One of the wealthiest men on the planet, Levi Strauss, stood back and awaited his death. All but a handful of the courageous men who stood to their duty perished with the ship.
For ten years, The Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society has sponsored a memorial dinner in honor of the brave men of RMS Titanic who gave up their lives that women and children might live. We remember those men who, wittingly or not, were suffused with the Christian ethic enshrined in The Law of the Sea: that men are to give their lives to preserve the lives of women and children. Not all the men aboard the Titanic were courageous and honorable, and mistakes were made by the heroes of that battle with the sea. Nonetheless, those who placed duty and sacrifice above all other considerations deserve commemoration.
The Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society, sponsored by Vision Forum, met at the Phillips Flagship restaurant in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2006. About two hundred fathers and sons from eleven different states gathered for a seafood feast of titanic proportions and remembered once again the lessons from the sinking of the Titanic ninety-four years ago.
Charlie Zahm provided his unique renditions of Celtic, American, and Titanic-related ballads in his rich baritone voice. Our musical cultural heritage is well worth preservation, and to a group dedicated to the task of keeping the ideas of Christian sacrifice and heroism alive, Charlie’s performances always enrich our appreciation of these legacies. Included in the inspiring repertoire of the evening were some of Charlie’s signature pieces: “The Blacksmith of Brandywine,” “Shenandoah,” and “The Minstrel Boy.”
One of the themes of the evening, which is at the heart of the Christian Boy’s and Men’s Titanic Society, is the need for inter-generational continuity of the Christian concepts of manly self-sacrifice, honor, and courage in life-threatening circumstances. While our general culture seems to have abandoned those values, God has always preserved a faithful remnant determined to preserve and persist regardless of current apathy or antagonism, especially in regard to protecting women and children. This gathering of the Society had the special privilege of hearing from a father and son who actively demonstrate the continuity of brave sacrifice and the passing on to the next generation the importance of those values. Bill Brown and his son Scott appeared together to discuss the lessons learned from the elder Brown’s service as a combat aviator in World War II. We heard of God’s covenant faithfulness and were reminded to learn the values of sacrifice and duty at an early age so when the opportunity to make a stand comes upon us suddenly, our response will be instant and unequivocal.
Doug Phillips delivered the keynote address of the evening. The central theme of his message was manliness, a word no longer in common usage, a concept hated, vilified, and discarded by the intellectual elites and opinion makers of American culture. The influence of a thoroughly humanist social psychology and the insidious leaven of evolutionary social-Darwinism have combined with militant feminism to create an insipid and emasculated modern man. By contrast, the men of the Titanic “were children of the old Christian order.” The character of manliness constantly exhibited by men like President Theodore Roosevelt, was familiar to the heroes of the stricken ship. Honorable conduct regardless of circumstances, striving, fighting, and doing were values absorbed by many men of that generation. As Lieutenant General Robert S. S. Baden-Powell instilled in the code of the early Boy Scouts: have the spirit of knights and pioneers, always honor women. No sacrifice should be too great to nurture and cherish women and children. The strong should sacrifice themselves to protect the weak.
The contrast with modern society is too great to miss. We sacrifice our daughters on bloody battlefields with the eager assent of the politicians and military hierarchy. We encourage our wives and mothers to join the men, and if possible, lead them in the universities, the marketplace, and the corridors of political power. The enemy strives tirelessly to teach that the created order does not exist and that Christian civilization should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Doug Phillips called us to hearken to the teaching of Scripture, with exhortations to be men of patriarchal vision who assert the created order and work for Christian civilization, living the lives of men willing to fight for the Lord, for their women, and for their children against the forces that decry manliness and honor.
With ringing words of encouragement and a renewed desire for faithfulness to our calling as husbands, fathers, sons, and men, we adjourned to the monument erected in the memory of the men of the Titanic.
The cruciform statue of a man in sacrificial pose was the result of a funding drive begun by Nellie Taft, the wife of the president in 1912. Women across the United States sent $1 donations till the total was reached to erect the memorial. Having been situated in different spots around the capital, it now stands along the Washington Channel next to Ft. McNair.
The sons who were present for the ceremony laid carnations on the pedestal as Mr. David Winyard played “Nearer My God to Thee” on his violin. The Society laid a large floral wreath at the base as the assembled group sang all the verses of the hymn, which had been played on board the ship in its death throes. Inspired but solemn, the attendees departed at 1am with the call to our generation, “Women and children first,” ringing in their ears.