“Men Without Chests”

“Men Without Chests”

I read something this week that resonated with me, and I want to share it with you. My colleague at Alabama Policy Institute (API) eloquently explained what many of us understand to be true but haven’t quite put into words.

Much of what we battle in our culture today stems from a loss of virtue due to moral subjectivism, reflexive emotions that supplant truth. Then, we wonder how things got to be so chaotic.

Stephanie Smith of API breaks down for Alabamans what is equally as applicable to Arizonans:

As I sat down to write this update, it occurred to me that many of API’s supporters might be experiencing what I’ve experienced this week; a simultaneous sense of hope and despair. The list of problems to fix and issues to address, yes even in Alabama, seems impossibly long and the timeframe with which we have to address them seems impossibly quick. We spent the week meeting with legislators, building coalitions, and communicating with stakeholders about what must be addressed in 2024.  But, instead of making a list of the things we have done or hope to do, I ask that you indulge me in a week of stepping back to discuss the why behind the work that we do.

The phrase that kept leaping to my mind this week was “men without chests” and that is not yet another criticism of manhood. That quote is found in C.S. Lewis 1943, The Abolition of Man.

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

Lewis asserts that values are universal, but that values aren’t inherent. In other words, value systems must be taught as they don’t develop automatically or inevitably in children; those who have not been taught virtue lack the trunk that unites the heart and soul with the visceral appetite, and are thusly and rightfully called “men without chests”.

It is impossible to be a consistent moral subjectivist. 

The only thing consistent about moral subjectivism is that it is consistently wrong; it’s consistently wrong because it has no mooring except for arbitrary feelings and continually changing emotions. Lewis said that the chest is the engine for virtuous action. But the chest (heart) cannot be unmoored from the truth for the action to be virtuous. The sort of emotion Lewis calls for is the desire for truth, goodness, and beauty; that sort of longing only comes from God. Our innate longing for truth, beauty, and goodness is distorted by sin and must be regenerated by God’s grace and cultivated by those also on the journey.

We are living in a time of heightened reflexive emotions and the overwhelming sense of chaos that swirls around us can be tied directly back to that lack of mooring. Experience doesn’t trump truth. Emotions don’t trump truth. Without education and discipline, the untrained heart lapses into uncontrolled emotional responses that lead to chaos and conflict. The current chaos and conflict in our society related to identity are the direct result of such uncontrolled sentimentality.

We chafe at chastity, but are shocked to find porn and promiscuity seeping into our homes and schools.

We refuse to acknowledge God, but are shocked to find hopelessness, violence, and selfishness in our communities.

We dishonor life and allow children to be used or thrown away like trash, but we are shocked to find we’re missing generations.

We boldly dismiss hell, but are shocked to find the cruelty that we would find there here on earth.

We laugh at fidelity, but are shocked to find divorce and brokenness to be the rule rather than the exception.

We dismiss fathers and make a mockery of manhood, but we are shocked when men act like boys.

We condone the rejection of creation, but are shocked when people find their identity in disorder.

We value dishonor and bravado over honor and bravery, but are shocked to find we have few heroes.

We teach to the test instead of teaching critical thinking, but are shocked when the masses blindly follow the paid pundits and compromised experts without question.

We minimize motherhood but are shocked to find we have no grandchildren.

We refuse to teach virtue, but we are shocked to find that virtue is no longer valued.

The adage “the heart moves the feet” is true in both politics and in life. 

So, what now? We must stop being shocked as the result of what we’ve created. But where do we find hope while surrounded by chaos and hopelessness? The only right answer is to turn to the one who IS the truth and to the Word that is inerrant. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

The answer to so many of our problems, at the core, is not systematic reform, electing the right politicians, or having the exact right policies in place. The answer is in remembering the why behind the work before we sit down to do it. Remembering that in order to become men with chests we must first acknowledge who we were made by and what we were made for. Empty rhetoric, temporal philosophies and political ideologies will never heal society. Scrolling news feeds and angrily shaking our fists and banging our keyboards isn’t enough to make a dent in this mess. Our hope isn’t in this world and our bootstraps will never ever be enough. Let’s first become men with chests … and then let’s accomplish great things together.

Stephanie Smith,

President and CEO, Alabama Policy Institute


  • Read or listen here to Al Mohler’s take on former President Trump’s recent comments about abortion law.
  • Read here the Catholic Medical Association’s position on the transgender craze.
  • Read here about the growing cultural resistance to Christian organizations like “Promise Keepers,” whose show in Tennessee was canceled because the men’s group holds to biblical views of gender.
  • Listen here to Engage Arizona with Tim Goeglein who works to restore biblical and moral principles on which our nation was founded.
  • Read here how “woke-free” is now a selling point.
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