Group says ‘Titanic’ film gets ‘women and children first’ doctrine all wrong

A spate of books, films, TV programs, and commemorative events are seeking to capitalize on Sunday’s (April 15) 100th anniversary … Continued

A spate of books, films, TV programs, and commemorative events are seeking to capitalize on Sunday’s (April 15) 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s sinking, especially the new 3-D version of James Cameron’s 1997 epic movie, “Titanic.”

But for one Texas-based Christian ministry, Cameron’s film still delivers a decidedly un-Christian message: That “class warfare” aboard the doomed ocean liner resulted in the disproportionate deaths of poor, female and young passengers, thus sinking the “Christian doctrine” of “women and children first.”

That’s why Vision Forum Ministries in San Antonio and the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society are sponsoring “Titanic 100: An International Centennial Event” in the resort town of Branson, Mo., which is also home to a Titanic museum.

Using drama, music and interactive events, including an “Edwardian Ladies Tea,” the group aims to “set the record straight” by disproving Cameron’s portrayal of the ship’s demise, and to showcase “the legacy of heroism” aboard the Titanic, “as men and boys on board the ship gave their lives so women and children might live.”

On the group’s website, Vision Forum Ministries argues that as the ship foundered, the “Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest was rejected in favor of the age-old Christian doctrine that the ‘strong sacrifice for the weak.’”

“The Christian doctrine of ‘women and children first’ was firmly upheld.”

Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, founded the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society the same year as Cameron’s original film, and each year, the society hosts a gathering on the anniversary of the disaster to commemorate the legacy of “male chivalry” demonstrated while the ship sank.

Cameron’s film, which won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, advances “a false image of Marxist class-warfare,” the ministry claims, “with the rich seeking to bribe their way to freedom, the poor deliberately prevented from reaching safety, and the nobility of Christian sacrifice minimized and ridiculed. … Such depictions are historical nonsense.”

The ministry cites Lee Merideth, author of “1912 Facts About Titanic,” saying that of the 706 survivors of the disaster, almost as many Third Class passengers survived (174) as did First Class (202) and crew (212). “Other than ‘women and children first,’ there wasn’t any attempt to save one class of passengers over another,” the ministry argues.

The Titanic Historical Society in Indian Orchard, Mass., which bills itself as the world’s largest such group, offers a more nuanced view.

According to George Behe, the society’s past vice president, 52 percent of First and Second Class passengers were saved while 26 percent of Third Class passengers survived. In First and Second Class, 94 percent of women and children were rescued, while the rate was 47 percent in Third Class.

Far fewer men did survive than women. The official inquiry into the sinking noted that the overall survival rate for men was 20 percent; for women, 74 percent and for children, 52 percent.

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  • sk8tergater

    I have to comment. I normally just read articles through, shake my head, and continue on with my life but this absolutely absurd. As an historian with a major interest in the time period of Titanic, I know without a doubt that class played a part in the tragedy of not full life boats. Here were some things barring the way for the third class passengers:

    Per AMERICAN immigration law at the time, the third class passengers had to be completely and totally separated, with locked doors between them and the other classes. This was due to the fact that apparently steerage passengers carried more diseases than everyone else and America didn’t want more diseases coming into their country. These barriers were very much in the way when the steerage tried to make their way up top.

    Not only were there locked barriers in the way, but the ship itself was designed to keep the classes separated. All three classes had separate dining rooms, separate promenade decks, separate everything.

    And last, the number of third class passengers lost PALES in comparison to the number of crew people lost.

    “Male chivalry”….. Has this group ever heard of Bruce Ismay? What about Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon? Yeah, those were really chivalrous men. Duff Gordon managed to get into a lifeboat that only had 12 TWELVE people on it. O yeah, and all were either his wife or his valets/servants/people he brought aboard. Gender isn’t portrayed as such a big issue in these modern films because it wasn’t a real big deal then. Even men who didn’t bribe officers still made it on to life boats. Classism and racism were the dominant themes in late Victorian/ Early Edwardian society. The people in this group need to pick up a book and read instead of dreaming up revisionist histories.

  • Sadetec

    Quote: ‘On the group’s website, Vision Forum Ministries argues that as the ship foundered, the “Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest was rejected in favor of the age-old Christian doctrine that the ‘strong sacrifice for the weak.’”’

    You’d think someone at the Vision Forum Ministries might have actually bothered to acquaint themselves with the basics of Darwin’s theory (especially as On the Origin of Species has surely been available in every major library for over 150 years, and is free to download now its copyright has expired) before organising a whole series of events to prove him wrong.

    For the record “survival of the fittest” DOES NOT AND HAS NEVER referred to the strength or weakness of individuals within a species (only those devoid of any basic understanding of the theory believe this). Rather, it refers to their fitness with regard to natural selection. So, in the case of a sinking ship, saving your children and the parent most directly responsible for raising your children is PRECISELY the fittest thing to do in an evolutionary sense. The whole point of Evolution is, after all, to ensure the survival of your genes. This is why in Nature we see plenty of examples of adult placing themselves in mortal danger, and even sacrificing themselves, to save their off-spring.

    I understand why the Vision Forum Ministries, with their seemingly embarrassing ignorance of Science, might want to claim Christianity invented altruism — but unfortunately Mother Nature got their first, by a few million years or so.