C. S. Lewis, Reepicheep, and our chests
- Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:54 EST
November 20, ,2013 (BreakPoint) – Half a century after C. S. Lewis joined the Church Triumphant, the Oxford don’s works are still offering almost-prescient insights into our culture. In one of my favorite Lewis books, “The Abolition of Man,” he describes and predicts with eerie accuracy trends that have come to define the society we live in today.
In the first chapter, entitled “Men without Chests,” Lewis slams the schools and the textbooks of mid-twentieth century Britain for abandoning the teaching of virtue.
Using the analogy of the head to represent the intellect, the belly to represent the passions, and the chest to represent rightly-ordered affections, Lewis laments that modern education has allowed young chests to shrivel by teaching students to dismiss transcendent truth and morality as nothing more than personal preferences. Instead of freeing them to think, he argues, this regimen enslaves them to their bellies—their animal passions—and leaves them easy picking for propagandists.
As Chuck Colson documented in the “Doing the Right Thing” video series on ethics, the 2008 financial collapse and recession were largely the result of a society-wide failure to say no to our own desires. Yet we were shocked and angry when this dearth of virtuous decision-making brought the world economy to its knees.
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity,” Lewis writes, “we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”