“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.” —C.S. Lewis
The above is from C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man , one of the deepest books I have ever read. I can vividly remember studying it in seminary. It is a hard book, but a valuable one, and easy to misunderstand. Do not expect the Chronicles of Narnia when reading Lewis’ non-fiction. It is amazing to me, at times, that they even come from the same source.
Lewis, in the first chapter, speaks of a dystopian age that he fears is coming. An age when human beings have no moral center, which is what he means by chest, and instead act based on whim or, at best, expediency and pragmatism.
His argument ranges across a broad spectrum of historical philosophical and religious systems to come to the conclusion that there exists what philosophers refer to as “natural law.” In other places he argues that this natural law is ultimately supernatural in origin, but that is not his point here. Instead he takes to task those who reduce all value statements to expressions of feeling, those who would equate the statement “The waterfall is sublime” to “I FEEL the waterfall is sublime” would also equate “His actions were wrong” to simply saying “I feel his actions were wrong.”
Lewis argues for moral absolutes. Killing human beings is wrong. Taking from others is wrong. There are those I should not have sex with because it would be wrong. The best one is, of course, “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”
Does he overstate the commonalities? Yes, he does a bit. He has some other minor logical flaws as well.
However, his point is vitally important.
I will put it in the words of another one of my moral guides:
“There is a right and a wrong in the universe, and that distinction is not hard to make.”*
Lewis saw coming and feared a world where humanity would replace our moral spine with subjectivism.
Sorry, Clive; your warning went unheard.
Christians are willing to overlook a host of evil so long as someone agrees with our pet issues and uses the correct rhetoric.
Christians are willing to latch onto a single issue and make it the test of righteousness.
Christians have elevated material wealth over the greater good.
Christians have become deaf to the very ones Jesus called us to serve for the sake of the status quo, or ego, or self identity, or something.
You say: Not all Christians!
No, not all Christians. But everyone who fails to condemn these attitudes is guilty of supporting them. There is plenty of blame to go around.
We need to spend far more time considering the moral standards than the context of the actions.
Is there a degree to which morality is relative? Yes. Context does matter. Should we hold to a list of laws and not deviate? No. All things must be tempered with grace.
But we do need to sit down and have serious times of introspection and conversation about right and wrong and good and evil that have nothing to do with our feelings, our circumstance, or our preferences.
We need to get back to the basics.