Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Free Peoples Suicide by Os Guiness

Proverbs 27:6 says “faithful are the wounds of a friend” and Os Guinness’s latest offering A Free People’s Suicide : Sustainable Freedom and the American Future is an extended observation of the American experiment from the point of view of a longtime friend who is both an evangelical and British that is both critical and constructive and I believe deserves a hearing especially among those who have grown concerned or disenchanted with the current political climate of America.  Guinness makes the case that America is currently moving in the same direction as the fallen empires of Rome, Greece, Britain, France, and Spain and needs to take stock in that fact if it does not want to crumble and go into great decline.  Like the great empires of the past we have overextended ourselves through wars to spread democracy and runaway spending.  But Guinness speaks to another overextension in American society that if unchecked, will result in the end of our experiment in national freedom as we know it.  What we have failed to renew is the public virtue that supports our democratic institutions.  Our founding fathers designed our republic to give the people two kinds of freedom: the freedom from government tyranny in your personal life (as enshrined in things such as freedom of religion and speech)  and the freedom to become what you aspire to be (hence public education, civil rights).  But for both of these freedoms to be sustainable, the founders understood that the people must be virtuous in character.  This character, identified as ‘habits of the heart’ by the author, would be developed and reinforced in the family, churches (and all religious institutions), public schools, and communities.  Although America has never done this perfectly, there has been an acceleration of erosion of all these institutions, sometimes through the courts, sometimes through efforts of atheists and secularists, and through the corrosive effects of material wealth.  Thus our freedoms are really only supported by the interpretation of the constitution and laws which can be subject to change or withdrawal.  We emphasize today our rights and our society demands them in ever greater amounts.  Freedom is freedom from interference and moral restraint, which will eventually undermine our entire nation.  Summed up, Guinness prescribes a national renewal of education that not only trains for the workforce of the global economy, but trains our children in citizenship.  He also calls upon all institutions and businesses to rebuild their idea of serving not just their stockholders but the good of society.  Finally, that spiritual values and religion be respected in the public square and political discourse and not be privatized.  Our freedom was attained by the Revolution, it was organized in our Constitution, but it must be retained in the hearts of the American people through a continual renewal.  With freedom comes responsibility.