Comments on “How (and Why) to Dress Like a (Southern) Conservative, Part I”

I originally posted a link to the article “How (and Why) to Dress Like a (Southern) Conservative, Part I” on the now-defunct Society of Southern Gentlemen blog in 2016. I’m in the process of integrating all my posts from that site here. Normally I’m just copying them over and keeping their original timestamps, but for this article, all I had originally done was to post the URL, but with this article, I want to provide some commentary on Dr. Dan E. Phillips’ original article from the Abbeville Institute site.

Dr. Phillips began his article on the defensive explaining he is a married man with children, to which I would say there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a straight, masculine dandy. A Southern Gentleman (Dr. Phillips uses the term “traditional conservative” or “trad con” in article, but for reasons that will be come apparent shortly, I’ll make use of the term “Southern Gentleman”) does not need to rationalize nor defend his sartorial acumen. The Dr. has my full sympathy in the story he conveyed of his progeny having no clue what a “summer” shoe was. I think all of us who have taken the effort to establish a seasonal wardrobe have experienced such apathy from the lesser enlightened amongst our own families.

Dr. Phillips went on to say:

I have also, since young adulthood, identified as a paleo or traditionalist conservative, as opposed to the more common type of modern “movement” conservative. This combination of interests in traditional fashion norms and traditional conservative politics has led me to think along the lines of the title of this essay for some time now. While this set of interests strikes me as logically consistent, my experience suggests that it is not a particularly common combination.

Dr. Phillips’ statement about modern “movement” conservatism reminds me of a question I often ask myself of so-called “conservatives”: what are they trying to conserve? So far as I can tell, they don’t conserve anything, except Lincoln-era Radical Republicanism, and even then they usually roll over in the face of opposition from their political opponents, but I digress…

An article that has stuck with me for years now was published by the Mises Institute in 2009 under the title “Dress Like the Great Depression” by Mr. Jeffrey A. Tucker. Like Dr. Phillips’ article, this one is definitely worth your consideration.

© Mises Institute

Just look at this guy in this Depression-era photo. See the 1 ¾ inch cuffs on his trousers, the snappy crease in his pants, the great hat, and the woolen trousers? And the shoes: leather and laces resting on a solid foundation. If I found any of his clothes in the vintage shop, I would snap them up and be ready for today’s tight job market, which seeks serious men, not goofs in sweats and polos.

The boom times led to great shabbiness. Workers have lived in wrinkles and jeans. The guy with the shirt with buttons is derided by others — “You going to a wedding or something?” We were all encouraged to look up to the slobwear of hotshot traders and stock jobbers and the others, who revel in the fact that they look like heck all of the time. Even the billionaires have looked like hobos (who themselves looked pretty great in the 1930s).

https://mises.org/library/dress-great-depression

Since adulthood, I’ve tried to dress in a manner to give the impression that I want others to have of me. Vanity of vanities, I want others to see me as “important” and worthy of their respect. Maybe its plain arrogance, I don’t know. An article on Forbes some years back provides me the reassurance that I’m not the only person out there thinking like this:

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner literally wrote the book on this phenomenon, which she calls the “psychology of dress.” In “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You,” she explains not only how psychology determines our clothing choices, but how to overcome key psychological issues your wardrobe might be bringing to light in your everyday life, or even at work.

Americans rely on clothing as an economic and social indicator because there aren’t official marks of rank such as a caste system or aristocracy, says Dr. Baumgartner.

There’s no one piece or style that makes a person look successful. Dr. Baumgartner recommends the basics when trying to project a positive image: the little black dress, the blazer, the pumps. “With classics, history has done the work for you. It has lasted throughout time, so you already know it works,” she says. And what is it that makes a classic a classic? “It has multiple functions, and it’s appropriate for different age ranges and body types. It became a classic because it works no matter who you are.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2012/04/03/what-your-clothes-say-about-you/#434733966992

Getting back to Dr. Phillips’ article, he goes on to say:

This lack of focus on appropriate attire within trad con circles is unfortunate, because I believe aesthetics are an important part of the whole trad con package. Upon consideration, I have concluded that there are two ways to dress that could signal to the world, so to speak, one’s conservative leanings, not including simply wearing an NRA or Hillary for Prison or whatever t-shirt. The first, the subject of this essay, would be to consciously make “dressing up” your baseline public presentation. The second will be the subject of part II. As we will see, today’s dressing up was yesterday’s routine attire. As a traditionalist conservative, I have developed something of a motto: “If you want to restore the past, you should act like you are living in it.” This manner of dressing would follow that logic.

[N.B. It appears from a search of the Abbeville Institute site that Part II of this article was never written.

I think Dr. Phillips is spot on when he says “If you want to restore the past, you should act like you are living in it.” I recognized this the first time I read The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby wasn’t trying to restore the past in the book, but my interest in emulating the fashion of that era was because I believed it to be a better period in American history. I’ve since learned it wasn’t the Roaring Twenties that I longed for, but the Edwardian era that preceded it. It’s just that the Twenties were a transition era in fashion that closely resemble things that we still can wear today, if only we allow ourselves to.

Dr. Phillips goes on to mention an article he’d read in 2003 that references an earlier article written by Mr. Jeffrey Tucker, the author of the aforementioned article on dressing like its the Great Depression. Dr. Phillips states:

Mr. Tucker makes an important point that most modern Americans miss since our current norms have been the standard for decades, but much of what people routinely wear today are, by historical standards, work clothes or otherwise not clothes once considered suitable for public presentation. Jeans, for example, used to be exclusively for manual labor, not a fashion statement.

I try very hard to live by this, and only very rarely wear jeans. They don’t represent the image I want to portray of myself. This causes me to stand out in my local community, and once I was mistaken for a preacher in town who shares my surname because I was “dressed up” and it wasn’t even Sunday morning. There are situations where not blending in is counterproductive, but that’s a whole other topic for another time. Dr. Phillips went on to say:

This is why cotton khakis are considered “casual,” a designation that used to confuse me. Since they are not jeans, I, like many others, believed that putting on a pair of khakis constituted dressing up, but historically, this is not the case. Khakis are rightly considered informal primarily weekend attire, particularly if your day is going to include a lot of outdoor activity. Routine attire would be a wool pant. (Since these norms were generally suited for the North, some accommodation to the reality of weather in the South is allowed.)

In the ignorance of my youth, I wore unkempt, ragged jeans because that’s all I had. We didn’t go to church, so I had no church clothes to speak of, either. When I got to high school, I saw wearing khakis as somehow demonstrating that I had stepped up somehow in social status. I wanted to be a “prep” although in sincere honesty, even those who I though were “rich” by my estimation due to their neat appearance were at best lower middle class. They dressed nice, and that’s what I aspired to.

As I entered the technology workforce, I took my new attire of khakis and polo shirts with me. It was several years later that I realized that my “fancy” clothes were now the uniform at Best Buy. I was still sartorially illiterate. I’m by no means an excellent dresser now, but I recognize how I should try to dress to emote the image I desire of myself.

Before I get back to Dr. Phillips’ article, I’d like to share something I learned from a book written as satire of the WASPy Prep culture of New England. In a chapter dedicated to “Dressing the Part”, Ms. Lisa Birnbach provides these ten fashion fundamentals (with my comments):

  1. Conservatism. Preppies wear clothes for twenty-five years and no one can tell the difference. Hear, hear. Were it not for the fact that my waistline has increased in that period of time, I’d gladly adhere to this principle.
  2. Neatness. Preppies’ shirts stay tucked in, through all kinds of strenuous exercise. This is one attribute that has sadly not been maintained in the near forty years since Ms. Birnbach wrote her treatise. I remember this being the rule for us ne’erdowells at the McDonald’s I worked at in high school. When I go into a fast food establishment today, I see outfits slopped together about as haphazardly as the obesity bombs they pass across the counter for my glutinous consumption. There again, a true preppie would never eat at such an establishment, much less work there. There is one exception to this here in the South though: Chic-Fil-A. The Cathy family runs a tight ship, and the manners and professionalism their employees exude would rival that to be learned at any finishing school, in my humble estimation.
  3. Attention to Detail. Subtleties in cut, weave, or color distinguish the merely good from the Prep. One who is well put-together in attire, is also likely to be well put-together in intelligence and emotion.
  4. Practicality. Prep clothes are sensible… As are a Southern Gentleman’s attire.
  5. Quality. Everything in the wardrobe should be well made. It’s important here that we don’t equate expense to quality, nor brand names to quality. That bastion of Southern accoutrement, Belk, occasionally sells wares of no better quality than the French department store, Target (pronounced “tar zshay”), yet us simple country folk think it to be upscale. Likewise, not everything Mr. Lauren slaps his name on fits the bill, either. We might not want to patronize the shops of the Brothers Brooks, but, the old maxim “you get what you pay for” is often true.
  6. Natural Fibers. Wool, cotton, and the odd bits of silk and cashmere are the only acceptable materials for Prep clothes. There’s something to be said of eschewing the wear of chemical by-products. There’s also some truth in the old chestnut “cotton is rotten”. I think Ms. Birnbach’s principle here has been overcome by events due to the advances in synthetic fibers in the past several decades.
  7. Anglophilia. The British have a lot to answer for: Shetland sweaters, Harris tweeds, Burberrys, tartans, and regimental ties. The Southern Gentleman, while abhorring poor King George the Third, still admires aristocracy, and may even have a fondness in his heart for the current Royal family, although for the life of us we can’t figure out why Prince Harry didn’t learn anything about Americans from the former King Edward VIII. Speaking for myself, one of my role models is the Duke of Edinburgh. Oh, and Burberry; one word: chav.
  8. Specific Color Blindness. Primary colors and brilliant pastels are worn indiscriminately by men and women alike in preposterous combinations. I’m glad that genetic strain has somewhat been limited to the Northeast, albeit I think some of the Yankee immigrants might have introduced it down here.
  9. The Sporting Look. Even if they have never been near a duck blind or gone beagling, Preppies are dressed for it. Here is where Southern folk are getting it wrong. Mossy Oak is not proper going-to-town attire. If your Sunday best has deer antlers silk-screened on it, you are wrong. If I can see you in your camo, then you are wearing it in the wrong place.
  10. Androgyny. Men and women dress as much alike as possible and clothes for either sex should deny specifics of gender. And here is the gulf that divides the Southern Gentleman from his Yankee preppie counterpart. Here in the South, our Tradition prevents us from androgyny, and we’ll even throw a couple Bible verses at you to back up our stance.

All that being said, The Official Preppy Handbook has its place in my library and is worthy of consideration to add to yours.

Returning to Dr. Phillips’ article, he references a Mr. Stephen Carson, who he finds of a kindred sartorial spirit. Mr. Carson observes that mens fashions were stable until the “hippie counter-culture” rejected the status quo. Dr. Phillips makes a good point in it about the show Mad Men “chronicl[ing] th[e] sartorial decline”. Dr. Phillips ended his article with this paragraph:

Why would modern day trad cons want to rubber stamp a change brought about by counter-cultural forces that have also contributed to the degeneration of our traditional society in many other ways than clothing standards? Perhaps trad cons should instead counter-signal, so to speak, our prevailing cultural decline by consciously embracing a manner of dress and norms that characterized a bygone era and still characterizes the dress of certain people of a particular station? Since routinely dressing appropriately is so counter to the modern norm, it is a potentially subversive act. When people ask you why you are dressed up, tell them. This could potentially impact a lot more people than writing essays that preach to the choir, or campaigning for Republican candidate A, or whatever else it is we do to try to restore right order to our civilization in free fall.

My greatest and only disappointment with Dr. Phillips’ article is that it appears that Part II was never written. Since I can only speculate on what he might have said, I am going to use it as a springboard for a few of my views on the subject.

First, it is possible to dress well as an act of defiance. When I think of this, there are a two groups of men who come to mind. The first I’d like to mention are Les Sapeurs, who show that extreme poverty is no excuse not to dress well. I first heard of them in an article in The Chap in 2017. From the article:

The sapeur style and relationship to clothes is unique – a throwback to a lost world of pre-colonial elegance and decadence and at the same time it is futuristic. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality.

©NetflixUK&Ireland

Second, are the Peaky Blinders. I know, they were a street gang from the post WWI era who have been glamorized by the eponymous TV Show. Similar to Les Sappers, the Peaky Blinders defied their poor living conditions to dress nice. The Chap provides a great guide on where (in the UK) to buy clothes to emulate the style from the show. Granted, clothing suited for Birmingham, England, is a bit too warm for Birmingham, Alabama in all but the coldest of Winter.

So, getting back to the premise of Dr. Phillips’ original article, how do we develop a fashion that identifies us as a Southern Gentleman? The answer is right in front of us: go back through the vast archive of the Internet and rediscover how a Southern Gentleman dressed.

Now, it takes more than fabric draped over the body to “wear” a style. You have to be comfortable in it, or it just becomes a costume you’ve put on. For example, I’ve acquired a certain penchant for flat caps over the past several years, although I am still refining that style. I’ve moved on from the narrower variety co-opted by hipsters to the wider, “newsboy style”, as worn by the cast of Peaker Blinders (above). Mr. Sven Raphael Schneider has an excellent guide to the differences on his website. Wearing this style of head gear in a sea of baseball caps is quite scandalous is some small towns. People may not know me by name in my town, but they know me by my flat caps.

© Los Angeles Times

That being said, there is a wrong way to wear this cap if you’re trying to exude Gentlemanliness. I very much doubt anyone would confuse these blokes with Southern Gentlemen, although to be fair, their homeland is much further south than my beloved Dixie. They’re also getting on up there in years, so that Highway to Hell might be a little shorter than it was when Mr. Young first put on that schoolboy uniform.

Staying on the thought avoiding a costume appearance, It has to fit in with the points Ms. Birnbach made in her seminal work. It has to look like you’ve always dressed this way. Again, be psychologically comfortable in what you are wearing. That goes way beyond the fit of the clothes.

© Bloomburg LP

Now, I’m going to speak heresy for a moment: a MAGA hat does not a Gentleman make. It’s one thing to wear a lapel pin, campaign button, or other small object of affiliation, but a true Southern Gentleman does not adorn himself like a political NASCAR.

© Wild turkey Bourbon

A true Southern Gentleman is not a walking billboard for his political affiliations, sports teams, or favorite adult beverages. Such attire informs those in proximity of such persons that they suffer from the malady of consumerism. Such behavior indicates they are mindless servants to their marketing overlords. Matthew McConaughey may be sipping Wild Turkey while driving his Lincoln Navigator (or was it a Continental?), but I gar-on-tee he ain’t wearing no logo t-shirt when he gets out at Wal-Mart to pick up a new bottle of Stetson. Be reactionary, do not pay money to advertise for the products that you pay to consume.

While I’m stepping on toes, a true Southern Gentleman doesn’t show up at his hipster church in blue jeans and a t-shirt sipping his overpriced latte, because in post-modern churchianity, we all just come as we are. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Corinth (Greece, not Mississippi), said “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV). We have to do the same. The Southern Gentleman goes to church to worship God and dresses appropriately to be in the presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe. Talk about a reactionary stance!

I hope I’ve been able to do justice to Dr. Phllips’ original intent while infusing some of my own views on the topic. If I were to summarize my ramblings, is suppose it would be these major points:

  • Sometimes the path forward is to retrace steps already trodden.
  • Stand out. Be the man you want to be while your peers are still acting like boys.
  • Don’t be a consumer sheep awaiting your slaughter.
  • Save the blue jeans and t-shirts for their proper place: yard work.

A Commentary on Mr. Jeff Fitzgerald’s 15 Things A Man Must Do To Be Considered A True Southern Gentleman

In perusing the Internet I stumbled across an article written by a Mr. Jeff Fitzgerald titled 15 Things A Man Must Do To Be Considered A True Southern Gentleman. I’m not familiar with Mr. Fitzgerald and have not read anything else he’s written, but he makes a pretty good summary of fifteen food-related mannerisms of a Southern Gentleman. I recommend perusal of the full article, but I want to take a moment to apply Mr. Fitzgerald’s points to other areas of a Southern Gentleman’s essence.

  1. A Southern Gentleman is fad-proof. While this is true of multiple aspects of a Southern Gentleman’s life, it does not mean that he never adapts to the changes of society around him. Observations of manners of dress among Southern Gentlemen will indicate that while lapels and ties grow and shrink as trends wax and wane, a well curated wardrobe can weather the seasons of time from one’s teenage years onto later in life (barring the ebb and flow of ones waistline, to be certain). Likewise, the Southern Gentleman can appreciate music across multiple genres and generations, depending on the mood and the venue. When in New Orleans or Memphis, he mellows to the tunes of B.B. King or Louis Jordan. In Nashville, it might be Brad Paisley, Jerry Reed, or the man in black, Johnny Cash. In Huntsville, it’s Microwave Dave and the Nukes. In all aspects of life, a Southern Gentleman doesn’t eschew the old just because something new is trending.
  2. A Southern Gentleman has time to say entire words. Here, Mr. Fitzgerald is terse but precise, and the only things I would add to what he said in his article is that anything worth saying is worth clearly enunciating.
  3. A Southern Gentleman can cook. Yes sir, he can.
  4. A Southern Gentleman eats what is put in front of him, and receives it gladly. A Southern Gentleman is also appreciative of other acts of kindness and hospitality. When someone offers us a gift, we shouldn’t turn it down. This is an insult to the generosity of the giver. We accept it graciously and look for a way to pay it forward to someone else.
  5. A Southern Gentleman knows how to dine properly at a white tablecloth restaurant or a roadside Barbecue stand. In all areas of life, a Southern Gentleman knows the protocol for the event. He blends in with others around himself without being out of place.
  6. A Southern Gentleman never, ever wastes food. And a Southern Gentleman is a conservator of all that God has blessed him with. He’s not an environmentalist zealot, but he cares for nature. That’s often difficult to do in our disposable, consumerist society, but he tries, nonetheless.
  7. A Southern Gentleman always treats the restaurant wait staff with kindness and respect. And the janitor, and the lady at the checkout counter, and so forth.
  8. A Southern Gentleman respects tradition, but relishes new experiences. Going back to my earlier musical reference, just because he listens to Johnny Cash and B.B. King doesn’t mean he can’t also enjoy the Lacs or CeeLo Green. Even anachronistic curmudgeons need to freshen up the playlist every now and then. This applies across all aspects of life.
  9. A Southern Gentleman would gladly lay down his life for his family, his friends, his fellow man, or his country. But if he’s going to make that sacrifice, it had better be worth it. The Southern Gentleman who has served in the military made an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; …will bear true faith and allegiance to the same“. He is honor-bound to uphold his oath even when the politicians are less than honorable and do not uphold theirs.
  10. A Southern Gentleman doesn’t lord his culinary knowledge over others. And he doesn’t berate others with less education or experience than he has. While he may be better educated and well-off, he doesn’t make a show of it. Does that mean he speaks like an imbecile? No, he speaks eloquently, as a man of proper breeding naturally does. He speaks intelligently and respectfully, but not in a manner that puts down others who have not the education or experience he has been blessed with.
  11. A Southern Gentleman also doesn’t feign expertise, nor does he refuse advice. This statement extends well beyond food into all aspects of the Southern Gentleman’s life.
  12. A Southern Gentleman understands that Southern food is not one thing, but a collection of distinct regional cookery further delineated by the individual styles of predominantly domestic cooks. Likewise, there is not just one Southern culture. A Southern Gentleman from New Orleans will have very different traits from his colleagues in Nashville, Huntsville, Charleston, or Richmond.
  13. A Southern Gentleman is respectful of, and knowledgeable about, other cultures’ food. Mr. Fitzgerald’s comment on Philly cheesesteak’s is spot-on. Having eaten a real cheesesteak while working in the Philadelphia area, anything else is a weak imitation. Likewise, a Southern Gentleman is respectful of, and knowledgeable about, other cultures in general. A Southern Gentleman will not be dismissive of a culture just because it is not his own.
  14. A Southern Gentleman is never completely dry. On this point I must disagree with Mr. Fitzgerald, unless he allows a glass of sweet iced tea to count toward whetting one’s whistle.
  15. And finally, a Southern gentleman eats. Mr. Fitzgerald eloquently describes the decorum a Southern Gentleman maintains when engaging in this most pleasing activity. Borrowing Mr. Fitzgerald’s words and making an expanded application: “He sits down to a [pursuit] and devotes his time and attention to the enjoyment of the [pursuit] and company“. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and enjoying thoroughly, while in the company of one’s friends and family.

I sincerely enjoyed Mr. Fitzgerald’s article and the opportunity to ponder and make other application of it. My only regret is that it took me so many years to discover it.

Migrating articles from the Bleddyn Heritage site

Several years back I set up Bleddyn Heritage with the best of intentions of creating a site dedicated to all things related to the surname Bleddyn, with all its derivative spellings. Well… Several years later, I’ve really not done a whole lot with the site, so I’ve migrated the meagre few posts I created there to this site. As I put them here, I kept their original date stamps so they appear here chronologically of when I wrote them in the first place.

While I still plan to maintain that domain name for a future, yet-to-be-identified purpose, It won’t have any content that isn’t on this site as well. For the time being, I am going to redirect that domain to point here. If you’re interested in what was on that site, here are the articles I migrated over:

Becoming Jed

Long ago when I was attending 35E school at Ft. Gordon, GA, I was bestowed the moniker “Jed” for my most excellent Southern accent. The Yankee colleague who addressed me with this Appalachian appellation did so in joking condescension, yet I decided to embody his insult in pride. I went out and bought a pair of cowboy boots and started listening to Country music.

I’m twenty years removed from those days at Ft. Gordon, and while I’ve tried not to be a caricature of Southernness, I’ve never denied my heritage. While I work in arguably one of the most advanced cities in the World (yes, here in Alabama), I’ve chosen to live in the country, in a County that attempted to secede from the Great State of Alabama during the War of the Northern Aggression, no less. We are in fact the only County in the State that still doesn’t have a single four-lane road.

Recently, my wife and I binged the first two seasons of Beverly Hillbillies. I’d watched the show as a kid, but never in sequence and never these early episodes. I have decided that The Beverly Hillbillies is one of the greatest TV shows of all time and is just as relevant today as it was in 1962. I am amazed that it’s not been banned because of the positive light it portrayed on the Confederacy. Granny is an ardent sympathizer, and at one point, “whomps” Jethro on the head for not showing proper respect for the President, Jefferson Davis.

I think one thing I never realized as a kid is that the Clampetts weren’t from Appalachia (although Granny grew up there), they were from the Ozarks. It was never made clear on the show if they lived in Arkansas or Missouri, but that minor detail is irrelevant.

While Jed was not a rich man in the beginning, he was an honorable man, a noble hillbilly, if you will. There is an innocence to the entire Clampett clan. The only one with any worldly inclinations was Cousin Pearl, Jethro’s mother. It was upon her insistence that Jed uprooted the family to move to “Californi”. Even her worldview was limited to the world as she saw it through the old movies screened at the theater where Pearl played “Pie-annie” to provide soundtrack to the silent pictures.

The Clampetts weren’t ignorant rubes. Theirs was a world of isolation from the rest of the country, much as I would envision the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Modern folk out in Beverly Hills were just urbane and worldly, they weren’t more intelligent. One of my greatest amusements from the series is how the Clampetts and Mr. Drysdale and others would talk past each other. They all spoke English, but they were speaking different languages.

One of the greatest traits expressed by Jed Clampett was the sincere pitty he felt for others. He didn’t try to convert them to his worldview (as they did him), but offered hospitality and genuine concern; both hallmarks of a true Southern Gentleman. He never comprehended the vastness of his newfound wealth, and he did not let Mammon change the man he was.

We’d all be better men to emulate the wonderful traits of Jed. He feared God and loved his family.

Modern TV has not reproduced this character, to its discredit. They portray Hillbillies as bumbling fools. I’d contend the closest they’ve came to the honorable Jed Clampett is Jacob Snell, from the show Ozark. Like Jed, Jacob’s family has been in the hills for generations. Jacob has a code of honor, but he’s a local crime lord, growing poppies and controlling the local heroin supply. People who get sideways of him end out dead.

But back to his code of honor, he holds himself to a higher standard than your regular, run of the mill white trash. This is made clear in one episode where he is dealing with a colleague’s failure. In speaking with the lesser individual, he shares a parable about a redneck and a hillbilly:

A redneck and a hillbilly are strolling along a country lane, talking about the Garden of Eden.

The redneck, drinking whiskey as he walks believes that Adam and Eve had every right to take that apple for, if God were kind why would he forbid them from partaking in that delicious fruit? The hillbilly listens and nods.

Then the redneck finishes the bottle and throws it onto the path. When the hillbilly frowns the redneck says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” When the hillbilly frowns again, redneck says, “You judge doubly, you sin twice.” Whereupon God smites the redneck dead.

Hillbilly forever silent and diligent digs the redneck’s grave fashions a humble tombstone from the empty bottle, and walks on.

That eve he witnesses the most beautiful sunset ever ‘fore made.

Source: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=ozark-2017&episode=s01e04

The parable is quite apt. The hillbilly in it is reserved, reverent. He shows respect for the redneck, unworthy of it as he was. In the show, Jacob Snell tried to be that honorable hillbilly but fell short. Maybe that’s just a more human portrayal in Snell; he’s jaded, leery. Clampett, in contrast, sees the best in all men. He gives the benefit of the doubt. When I hear that parable, I don’t envision Snell, who told it, but Clampett who embodied it.

I try not to seek those who I’d emulate from the imaginations of Hollywood, but if I were to pick a hero from those I see in the movies or on TV, I’d want to be Jed.

The Whole Armor of GOD

I have been blessed on occasion to have opportunity to present a lesson from GOD’s word to the local congregation of Christians with whom I’ve worshipped for the past couple years. I’ll be the first to admit, that my public speaking skills are woefully inadequate given the levity of the subject matter. I can’t imagine any topic that I could speak or write on where I am as concerned about presenting truth as I am when I am speaking on a topic from the Bible. My crutch every time I’ve gotten up to speak has been a visual presentation. It helps the congregation to keep track of what I’m speaking about, and it helps me to stay on topic. As time permits, I’d like to convert those slide presentations and the scripts I used to speak into posts here on my site. I hope you find them as beneficial for you as they have been for me.

(NB: I believe I am within my rights under fair use laws in the United States to use the images presented below as derivative works, except as where otherwise noted. If that is not the case, please let me know and I will remove them.)

One topic that I’ve spoken on, and surely countless myriads of others over the history of the church comes from Ephesians chapter 6; the whole (or full) armor of GOD. The particular Sunday that I presented this lesson was around Memorial Day, and I led off with this slide:

The Whole Armor of God.001

To many, Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer. It’s a weekend for grilling out and spending time with family. For others it has a different meaning.

What many people don’t think about is that the day Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who have died to protect the freedoms that we enjoy so much in this country. There are two verses that come to mind to remind me of this sacrifice. The first is John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. The next is Romans 5:7: For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

Throughout the history of the United States, men and women have done just that. They have died so that we might be free. As great a sacrifice as that was, none of them were perfect, and none of them died so that we could be redeemed from our sin. Jesus did, and he was the only one who could.

The Whole Armor of God.002

We have examples of warfare throughout the Bible. We read of Abraham going into battle in Genesis. We know that David was a warrior king. In the New Testament we read of soldiers, like Cornelius, who were Christians. As Christians, we are all called to be soldiers of Christ, but we fight a spiritual war against our enemy Satan and his demonic followers.

Like soldiers here on earth, we have to be prepared for battle. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. Read with me in chapter 6 verses 12 and 13.

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We see here the general reason why we need armor. Let’s look at a few more good reasons.

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First, Peter tells us in his first letter that Satan is as a roaring lion, walking about to see who he can might devour. We get a glimpse of this in the book of Job when Satan was before God in the throne room of Heaven. God asked the devil where he had come from, and the devil responded that he’d be going to and fro on the earth and walking up and down it. Satan was a restless soul, looking to cause trouble. And we know from the accounts of the Gospels that there were others on the Earth with him, as we just read in Ephesians chapter 6. There are principalities, and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. We cannot face such enemies alone. We need the strength of God that comes from the armor he has provided us. Let’s take a closer look at what that armor is.

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First, we must gird our loins in Truth. Ephesians 6:14 tells us: Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth… This is the first step in preparing to arm ourselves. So what does girding our loins mean? That’s not a phrase that makes a lot of sense to us today. Let’s take a look at what girding one’s loins refers to.

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Image copyright © Art of Manliness and Ted Slampyak, retrieved from http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/10/02/how-to-gird-up-your-loins-an-illustrated-guide/

We have to remember that in the first century in the Middle East and most parts of the Roman Empire, men didn’t wear pants. They wore long tunics. You can imagine how this would have gotten in the way. This is the reason Roman Legionnaires wore short, kilt-like skirts. The illustration shows how someone would roll up their tunic so that it wouldn’t be in the way. With the tunic tied in place, the first step in preparing for battle was complete.

In spiritual warfare, the truth is like that tunic. It has to be always with us whether we are working or fighting. Where the tunic provided basic protection from the elements, the truth is our spiritual base layer. It has to be in place for the rest of the armor of God to go on top of. The truth, God’s word is our foundation.

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On top of that base layer of truth, we must layer righteousness. While the truth is essential, just knowing God’s word isn’t enough. Unbelievers can know the truth. We read in Mark 1:24 of an unclean spirit saying to Jesus: “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God”. We also read in James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble”. If we read on to the next verse in that passage, James make the point of why righteousness must be layered on top of truth: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”. We can’t just know the truth, we have to have action. Righteousness comes through action. In Romans 4:3 we are told “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness”. This believe had action. In Genesis chapter 17, God commanded that Abraham and the men of his house and their descendants be circumcised. Abraham obeyed. In Genesis chapter 22, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and Abraham obeyed, but God saw his faith and provided a sacrifice in Isaac’s place. We know this is a foreshadowing of God sacrificing His own Son, which shows us God doesn’t ask us to do anything He wasn’t willing to do. Our God leads by example, as does His Son.

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For us to follow Christ’s lead, we have to have the right footwear to endure the long march. Think about a time in your life when you were walking in an ill-fitting, uncomfortable pair of shoes. Bad shoes make everything harder. The shoes we are told to wear are designed to make the march ahead possible.

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After we’ve gird out loins, put on our breastplate, and laced up our shoes getting ready to march, we have to take up our shield. Our spiritual shield is a shield of faith. With a strong faith, we are told by Paul that we can quench the fiery darts of the wicked. Our shield of faith gives us courage. We hold it in front of us to deflect the attack of our enemy. The Romans had a tactic called a shield wall where the legionnaires would overlap their shields to provide a near-inpenatrable defense. Like the Legionnaires, we are stronger as Christians when we are supporting each other.

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The last essential piece of armor is the helmet. The head is where reason and observation dictate action. A blow to the head impacts our ability to engage in action, and a hard enough blow kills us. We can take a lot of other damage to other areas of our bodies, but our heads are a weak point. Salvation is protection for the life to come. And when we put on salvation, we are called to action.

Finally, in this inventory of items for spiritual warfare, we must take up the sword of the Spirit. Paul tells us this is the Word of God. The Bible is our offensive weapon. If we choose any other text, we’ve chosen wrong. No other book is up to the task of fighting against Satan and his followers.

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In this spiritual war, we are guaranteed victory, but not necessarily in this life. In the spirit of Memorial Day, I’d like for us to consider several other soldiers of Christ who fought the good fight, but paid with their lives. As you can see from this list, they did not live out peaceful years and die of old age. Like the service members we honor this weekend in America who died in combat, our brethren listed here died in spiritual combat. They await their reward on the day of Judgement. We may not be called to be martyrs, but we might fight the good fight.

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As Christians, we are enlisted in the army of God. If you’re not a Christian, you are not a part of this army. In fact, you are fighting for the enemy. Fortunately, you can make this right. Cross the battle line and get on the winning side.

On President Trump’s Assumption of Another Man’s Arms

Recently, the arms used by the Trump Organization has come into the public light. The New York Times, on May 28th, 2017, published an article by Danny Hakim entitled The Coat of Arms Said ‘Integrity.’ Now It Says ‘Trump.’. The article outlines the history of the arms, which were granted to Joseph Edward Davies in 1939. Mr. Davies was the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, who built Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort now owned by the Trump Organization. What can be inferred from the article is that Mr. Trump, in his acquisition of Mar-a-Lago, also believes himself to have acquired rights to the arms in question.

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Image courtesy of the New York Times

I’ll do my best to avoid being political in my response to the notion of assuming another man’s arms. As a gentleman should, though, I try my best (and sometimes fail) to stay above the political quagmire. This particular issue, for me at least, is not of a political nature, but a question of honorable action.

I am not saying that Mr. Trump is dishonorable. I am saying that assuming someone’s arms that have been granted by a heraldic authority such as the College of Arms is a dishonorable action. I realize that the College of Arms has no jurisdiction in the United States, or anywhere outside its very limited realm of authority, but its still bad form. The arms displayed on Mar-a-Lago when Mr. Trump purchased it were not intellectual property or a trademark to be transferred with the purchase of that wonderful estate (if estate is a fitting term for a resort), but the personal property of a past owner, to be transmitted to his posterity, independent of where he might have displayed them in his lifetime. On this issue, I find myself at odds with Mr. Trump.

I realize that as the de facto leader of the free world, Mr. Trump faces intense criticism, much of which is of debatable validity. I am not here to heap burning coals. Heraldry, anachronistic as it may be, is nonetheless a passion of mine, and I do not wish to see it diminished by anyone, especially by someone such as Mr. Trump who seems to enjoy its use.

In fact, in December of 2016 after Mr. Trump was elected President of the United States I sent a letter to him, that in part, made this petition:

Now, to the main point of my letter: I am writing to ask your consideration in expanding the role of The Institute of Heraldry (www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil) to include civic, corporate, and personal grants of arms. I have observed that you are an admirer of armorial bearings, and I think the expansion of the Institute fits in with your pledge to make America great again. America’s greatness is displayed in our symbols, from Old Glory to the Great Seal to the bald eagle. The federal government and the military make excellent use of heraldic devices, I would love to see formal recognition of personal coats of arms.

To date, I have not received a response to this letter. Granted, I sent it care of the Trump Organization’s address at Trump Tower in New York, before he had been sworn in as President. Maybe I should resend it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I went on to make the case for a republic to have a heraldic authority:

Like you Mr. Trump, I have a coat of arms that I have assumed [N.B. I was not aware of the controversy surrounding his assumed arms at the time], which is all that is possible in America since there is no equivalent of the Court of the Lord Lyon or College of Arms for the granting of private arms. The best I can do to have my arms recognized by a heraldic body is to provide genealogical evidence of ancestry from a nation with an official heraldic body and petition for an honorary grant of arms. This is a very time consuming and costly effort. I could also petition another heraldic body that does not have descendancy limitations, such as the South African Bureau of Heraldry, which is less costly, but also carries less meaning since I have no hereditary affiliation to South Africa.

There are a few notable examples of republics that grant arms: South Africa, which I have already mentioned, and Ireland. Both of these republics have historical ties to Great Britain, as do we, and they do not find heraldry incompatible with their republicanism. Likewise several prominent Americans have been granted arms: President George Washington, through his decent from an armigerous ancestor; President Dwight D. Eisenhower, assigned/assumed in relation to his investiture in the Order of the Elephant; President John F. Kennedy, who was awarded a grant of arms from the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland; and Secretary Colin Powell, who matriculated a coat of arms granted to his father, a Jamaican subject, from the Court of the Lord Lyon based on his mother’s Scottish heritage.

In amending the mission of The Institute of Heraldry, which would be well within your prerogative as Chief Executive, you would enable thousands of Americans to obtain formal recognition for their assumed arms.

I think expanding the role of the Institute of Heraldry could solve Mr. Trump’s woes in his improperly assumed arms, and provide American citizens the opportunity to have recognized grants of arms. I realize that adopting arms that differ from those that rightfully belong to the male heir of Joseph Edward Davies would be very costly for Mr. Trump, but it is the right thing to do. It is not a display of integrity to reuse a man’s arms without difference, except for changing the motto on the scroll from “Integritas” to “Trump”. I realize in the United States this may be “legal”, but it is most certainly not “gentlemanly”.

Am I asserting that Mr. Trump is not a gentleman; by all means, NO. Mr. Trump was elected as President with the mandate to Make America Great Again. I support him wholeheartedly in doing so. I just happen to think that part of that making great also includes following tradition. I’ve prayed for Mr. Trump’s success as President in doing the will of God, just as I did for his predecessor Mr. Obama. I didn’t pray for their individual success, I prayed for God’s blessings on the Nation through their leadership.

Mr. Trump is not old money and he doesn’t come from an established line of American “aristocracy”. He is a self-made man. He doesn’t need the arms of another man to provide him standing in society. One of my favorite books is The Great Gatsby. Mr. Trump reminds me of Jay Gatsby. He’s got the money; he’s in the right places, yet the old money snobs will never accept him. Mr. Trump’s story, at the trajectory it is on, will end much better than that of Jay Gatsby. Most importantly, Mr. Trump has a family to carry on the great name he is making. They have the potential to be a leading family in the American nobility (I can hear the shrill liberal screams of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” as I type this).

I think that one thing that Mr. Trump could do to secure that legacy would be to adopt his own unique arms, or have conferred upon him by some foreign state with a heraldic authority unique arms. These arms would be differenced among his sons, and passed on to their sons’ sons. This legitimate armorial achievement might even be as enduring as those borne by General George Washington, which he had hereditary right to through an armigerous ancestor.

Even if wholly unique arms are a step too far, Mr. Trump should at least difference the arms currently in use enough that they then become unique. Add a bordure, a canton, or something. Put a bald eagle in chief. Just something. The brand recognition would be retained and heraldry geeks such as me wouldn’t be blowing a gasket.

 

 

The Commander-in-Chief of What?

[N.B. I originally posted this article on the Society of Southern Gentlemen blog. I don’t plan to maintain that site, so I am merging all the posts there onto this site, but keeping the original timestamps.]

An article recently published by David Boaz on the the Cato Institute website is a good reminder of the limitations of the office of POTUS. We the People have acceded too much power to the head of the federal government in a way that is contrary to the Constitution. In the article, Mr. Boaz states:

[I]t’s important for our understanding of a constitutional republic to be clear on these points. The president is the chief executive of the federal government. He is the commander in chief of the armed forces, not of the entire government and definitely not of 320 million U.S. citizens.

https://www.cato.org/blog/president-not-commander-chief-united-states-nor-its-ceo

We have afforded quasi-monarchical status to the office in recent years: this is not a new notion. We must remember that there were those who wanted General Washington to be the king of the United States; he flatly refused. He set a precedent that the President be limited in power. We must remember this if we are to remain a Representative Republic.

Likewise, “Commander-in-Chief” is a martial role. It represents the President’s role as the head of the military, but he does not have the power to declare war; that power is reserved to Congress, although they have abrogated that responsibility since WWII. That being said, the military has no obligation to Congress, per se, as affirmed in the Oath of Enlistment:

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/oaths.html

The oath for officers is slightly different:

I, ______ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

https://history.army.mil/html/faq/oaths.html

Officers do not swear/affirm obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them]. They are to make conscious decisions to give lawful commands in accordance with the Constitution.

Officers do not swear/affirm obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them]. They are to make conscious decisions to give lawful commands in accordance with the Constitution.

Natural born citizens do not swear/affirm such oaths as this, but naturalized citizens must swear/affirm a similar oath:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/naturalization-test/naturalization-oath-allegiance-united-states-america

While there is no allegiance to the President, there is in all three oaths two common elements: 1) the person will uphold and defend the Constitution and 2) the person solemnified the oath “so help [them] God. With this affirmation, the person binds himself to the laws of the land and invokes the name of the Almighty to assist them in doing so.

As Southern Gentlemen, we have an obligation to obey those in authority over us. We are not, however, serfs of the State. We must maintain our dignity and ensure those elected to lead in all levels of government remain faithful to their offices and remain within the bounds set forth for them in the Constitution.