When most people think about knights, they think of feudal knights serving a sovereign or devoting themselves to lady. Probably the most famous knights of all time were King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. These knights served their king and also went on sacred quests to find the Holy Grail; the German writer Wolfram von Eschenbach, in his immortal medieval work Parzifal, equated the Grail Knights with the Knights Templar. Both the Grail Knights of Arthur’s realm and the Knights Templar were dedicated to achieving purity of heart: the spiritual attribute that would allow one to have a vision of the Grail—or to see God, as the Beatitudes stated.
The essential quality of knighthood was complete devotion to one’s sovereign, in the case of secular knights, or complete devotion to Jesus Christ and His church, in the case of knights belonging to one of the religious Orders. Knights of both types devoted themselves to skill of arms. In fact, the term virtue once referred to a knight’s skill with his sword and other weapons, rather than to morality or character traits as it does today. Whether religious or secular, however, a knight was expected to be unrelenting in battle, fearless in the face of hopeless odds, and magnanimous in victory.
Knights are not just a thing of the past, however. There are a number of chivalric Orders that exist today. The British monarchy still grants knighthoods, as does the Papacy. Two religious Orders that still grant knighthoods are the Knights of Malta (Order of St. John) and the Scottish Knights Templar. In all cases where a secular knighthood is granted, it is for exceptional service to the sovereign or to certain worthwhile causes, while knighthoods granted by religious Orders are in recognition of service to God and one’s fellow man.
The traditional role of the knight was to defend the defenseless, to be pious in worship and in dealings with others, and to maintain one’s personal honor above all costs. Such knightly values might seem out of place in the 21st century, with so much emphasis on “me,” money, and materialism—but a few individuals still believe life is truly not worth living unless it serves a higher purpose. Such individuals believe that “living into a holy life,” and not material success, is the most important thing to which we can aspire. These are the kind of men and women that we are seeking to join the Scottish Knights Templar!
What are the reasons, however, for having knights and dames in the 21st century?
First, there is the matter of commitment. As opposed to the past, most modern institutions do not ask much in the way of commitment. In the past, people were asked to give more of themselves to the church and to the community; in many cases today, all that we are asked to give is money. There are few things in the modern age that ask for personal loyalty, or that reciprocate loyalty in turn. Seemingly, there is little expectation that people want to commit themselves to anything, or to receive a commitment in return. The man who would become a knight, or the woman who would become a dame, however, feels unfulfilled in such a world. These men and women are looking for something to give themselves to wholeheartedly, something in which to invest all of their heart, mind, and soul. Just as importantly, they are looking for something that will reciprocate their loyalty and devotion.
Those who become knights and dames know that although there are government agencies and private charities to fight poverty, and militaries and police agencies to fight the enemies of our country and its citizens, these are not enough. They know that unless good men and good women take personal responsibility for making the world a better place to live, not all the organizations and agencies in existence will keep the forces of darkness at bay.
Knighthood takes the concept of personal responsibility to the “next level.” Knowing that many of their fellow men and women will do nothing, those who aspire to knighthood believe that it is incumbent upon them to do that much more.
One example is poverty. As our Lord said, “The poor you will always have with you.” For all of the programs administered by the government, and charities operated by the churches and other organizations, there will always be the poor. We should not, however, let the existence of “programs” give us an excuse for inaction. The true knight has internalized the story about the “Good Samaritan,” and helps the poor or disadvantaged whenever he or she can. It is not necessary to always give money—a knight’s most precious gift may be his or her time, which may be spent teaching the illiterate how to read, or driving elderly persons to a doctor’s appointment. A true knight should never walk past someone who is truly in need without trying to help!
A knight or dame, however, is distinguished from those who merely dispense aid to the poor and disadvantaged. That distinguishing feature is the willingness to engage in “knightly combat,” the battle against evil.
Those who would become knights also know that there is still much evil in the world. As St. Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The principalities and powers that the Scottish Knights Templar wrestles with are those that would destroy the Christian Church—and have been trying to destroy it since its inception. When Christians are killed at worship in their churches, or hunted down and sold into slavery, or charged with “blasphemy” and sentenced to death by Islamic courts, we know that it is not mere men who are behind such crimes—it is Satan and all of his angels who providing the dark thoughts that lost souls are translating into action. Whenever the knight or dame faces the evil wrought by mankind, he or she knows that the ultimate source of that evil is the “principalities” and “powers” that St. Paul warned us about.
The true knight or dame knows that such evil must be resisted. The Scottish Knight Templar takes an oath to engage in knightly combat both in the temporal and spiritual realms: to work through our respective governments and churches to defend the persecuted church on earth, and to pray without ceasing for the defeat of the powers of darkness that are behind the persecution of the church.
We, the Scottish Knights Templar, know that many of our pulpits are silent about the persecution of the Christian church. We know that the politicians in our respective countries are seemingly oblivious to the suffering of Christians in Islamic and Communist countries, and we watch as they conclude trade agreements and offer economic incentives to countries that continue to persecute Christians. We know that it’s time for a big change.
It will take men and women with the dedication of true knights and dames to make the changes that are needed. It will take men and women with the courage of true knights and dames to stand up and be counted, and to demand accountability from our respective governments on their relations with countries that persecute Christians. It will take men and woman like those of the Scottish Knights Templar.
Our Order was founded in 1118 A.D. to protect Christians journeying to and from the Holy Land. Later, the Order was responsible for protecting Christians in the Holy Land itself. We have stayed true to our original charter by defending the persecuted church in foreign lands. Our mission is just as compelling today, if not more so, than it was 885 years ago.
Today, the Order has priories in some of the most dangerous countries on earth for Christians: Lebanon and Pakistan. In those countries, it monitors the treatment of Christians and protests both to the national governments and to the world at large when Christians are mistreated.
More Christians were martyred in the last century than in all previous centuries combined. The current rate of martyrdom has been estimated at 159,000 Christians a year, and it is projected to climb.
The Scottish Knights Templar stands as a bastion against the persecution of Christians in Islamic and Communist countries. Our knights have truly taken to heart the admonition of St. Paul in Hebrews 13:3 – “Remember those who are in prison, as if you were in prison with them, and remember those who are being tortured, as if you were being tortured with them.” We are dedicated to obtaining the release of imprisoned and tortured Christians, and to the abolition of oppressive laws that treat Christians as second-class citizens. To these tasks we have pledged our knightly honor.
Our Order believes that there is still a place for knights and dames in the 21st century. We believe there will always be a place for knights and dames as long as there is poverty and the persecution of the church.
For those men and women who wish to dedicate their lives to a higher purpose, who believe that knightly qualities are still relevant in this modern age, and who believe that evil is to always be resisted, the Scottish Knights Templar beckons to you!
--Chev. James R. Reese, KGCTJ
Priory of the Holy Angels
Scottish Knights Templar