Christian, Greek, and Muscular Christian Values© 2013, Sarah Lane
It may at first seem surprising that a devout Christian, such as Kingsley (Fasick 106), would choose to write about the Greeks. However, despite the fact that they worshiped different deities, many Christians in Kingsley’s Victorian society were very interested in comparing the similarities between ancient Greek and modern Christian religions (Louis 331). Some of the parallels, such as ideas regarding heaven, hell and sin, make themselves known in The Heroes. These Greek tales gave Kingsley an opportunity to teach his children valuable, religious lessons, while at the same time entertain them with the fantastical elements often found in Greek myths. His children could learn to serve the Lord as the Greeks served their Gods – selflessly and actively. Yet, Kingsley also made sure that his children knew that the Greeks, unlike the Christians, fell from God’s grace. When the Greek heroes pleased their Gods, with prayer and good deeds, the Gods helped them in return (see figure 3). However, when they grew too proud or displeased the Gods, as Theseus did, they were punished. In both 1855 and 1912, when religion was being debated constantly and facing some serious changes, this book and the lessons within it would have been valuable to Christians wanting to instil their own values on their children (“Volume E”; “Volume F”). This text also allowed Kingsley, specifically, to explore his interest in a more unique branch of Christianity.
Christian manliness or, as it was later called, Muscular Christianity, was a branch of Christianity, which Kingsley advocated, that favoured a balance between strength, manliness, and piety (Fasick 106). Kingsley did not like the idea of men being inactive. He wanted them to go out in the world and do God’s work, or do things that would please the Lord (Norman 31). In The Heroes, Perseus, Jason, and Theseus are bold, strong, and courageous, but they are also extremely devout and show a softer side as well. This is the type of man that he wanted his son, and all young boys, to try to become. Through these stories Kingsley was able to give them role models to try to live up to, role models that he shaped into ideal images of Christian manliness.