A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future  -     By: Os Guinness
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A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future

InterVarsity Press / 2012 / Paperback

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Nothing is more daring in the American experiment than the founders' belief that the American republic could remain free forever. But how was this to be done, and are Americans doing it today?
It is not enough for freedom to be won. It must also be sustained. Cultural observer Os Guinness argues that the American experiment in freedom is at risk. Summoning historical evidence on how democracies evolve, Guinness shows that contemporary views of freedom--most typically, a negative freedom from constraint-- are unsustainable because they undermine the conditions necessary for freedom to thrive. He calls us to reconsider the audacity of sustainable freedom and what it would take to restore it.
"In the end," Guinness writes, "the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor." The future of the republic depends on whether Americans will rise to the challenge of living up to America's unfulfilled potential for freedom, both for itself and for the world.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830834656
ISBN-13: 9780830834655
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

2013 Logos Book of the Year in Christianity/Culture "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Abraham Lincoln Nothing is more daring in the American experiment than the founders' belief that the American republic could remain free forever. But how was this to be done, and are Americans doing it today? It is not enough for freedom to be won. It must also be sustained. Cultural observer Os Guinness argues that the American experiment in freedom is at risk. Summoning historical evidence on how democracies evolve, Guinness shows that contemporary views of freedom--most typically, a negative freedom from constraint-- are unsustainable because they undermine the conditions necessary for freedom to thrive. He calls us to reconsider the audacity of sustainable freedom and what it would take to restore it. "In the end," Guinness writes, "the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor." The future of the republic depends on whether Americans will rise to the challenge of living up to America's unfulfilled potential for freedom, both for itself and for the world.

Author Bio

Os Guinness (DPhil, Oxford) is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including and A frequent speaker and prominent social critic, he has addressed audiences worldwide from the British House of Commons to the U.S. Congress to the St. Petersburg Parliament. He founded the Trinity Forum and served as senior fellow there for fifteen years. Born in China to missionary parents, he is the great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer. After witnessing the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to England where he was educated and served as a freelance reporter with the BBC. Since coming to the U.S. in 1984, he has been a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter, celebrating the First Amendment, and has also been senior fellow at the EastWest Institute in New York, where he drafted the Charter for Religious Freedom. He also co-authored the public school curriculum Guinness has had a lifelong passion to make sense of our extraordinary modern world and to stand between the worlds of scholarship and ordinary life, helping each to understand the otherparticularly when advanced modern life touches on the profound issues of faith. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Editorial Reviews

"Os Guinness enlightens, cheers, chastises and informs with this latest contribution to our civic discourse. Guinness here solidifies his reputation as one of the most nimble voices from the Christian community as he surveys our history and our present with appreciation as well as deep concern. Highly recommended for all interested citizens, whatever their political or faith commitments."
" A Free People's Suicide challenges each and every citizen concerned about America's diminishing role as a beacon of liberty not only to comprehend the urgency, but also to participate comprehensively in freedom's preservation."
"Dr. Guinness' book is rich in its explorations of Lincoln's words and their import for us today. As an expatriate friend of America, Guinness, like de Tocqueville, has a rare gift for helping us see our better selves. He casts a discerning eye at our modern institutions, and habits of the heart—as reflected in the broader culture. He freely concedes that there are worrying signs on the horizon, but then, having thoughtfully set out the challenges we face in our historical moment, he brings us back to the best things the founders gave us. On the whole, it's a fascinating perspective from a British citizen."
" A Free People's Suicide is an inside view from the outside. Os Guinness has a clear eye, a quick mind, a profound grasp of political philosophy and an eloquent pen. His analysis of American freedom, what it has been, now is and is likely to become, is a clarion call for renewal of the founders' vision for a free people."
"Sometimes a book is so important and so timely that not to have read it is to embarrass oneself. This is such a book. Its message is so crucial and so clear that all Americans are obligated to read it and have a national conversation on its themes. No cultural commentator or politician who has not read this book should ever be taken seriously again. Let this book be the new litmus test. If you are serious about America, be familiar with its themes and expect to discuss them and to be tested on them. Rest assured that you will be, because America is now herself being tested on them. Alas, we will not be graded on a curve. This book's clarion call is both piercing and full of hope. May God help us to hear it and to take action."
"With passion and urgency Os Guinness gives a sweeping historical account of America's past and her prospects for the future. He urges us to pay serious attention to a deeper understanding of freedom and makes a compelling case for why freedom requires virtue. Weaving together a wide-ranging knowledge of classical, constitutional and contemporary history, Guinness warns of America's decline but charts a course for America's renewal. It is a straight-shooting and sober volume, yet in the end it is a hopeful book."
"In a passionate work that blends historical-cultural analysis with moral exhortation, Os Guinness finds at the heart of America's culture wars something different than what many observers have seen. He identifies a 'freedom war,' a struggle over the very concept of freedom itself. As the Founders well understood, it is not enough for Americans to invoke endlessly the name of 'freedom' when they no longer agree as to what it means or what ends freedom is meant to serve. Guinness warns that freedom cannot long endure unless it is consecrated to purposes beyond itself. It is a warning worth heeding."

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  1. Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Os Guinness strikes a balanced approach.
    February 22, 2014
    Will
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: male
    This book is a must keep. Guinness realizes that the role of virtue is a necesary quality in public officials and its citizens; otherwise, the American experiment will inevitably collapse. This is not a sly argument for a theocratic government in the U.S. but one that encourages virtuous order and civility among and within the balance of powers and its citizens regardless of particular biases.
  2. Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    essential reading for Americans
    November 1, 2012
    bookwomanjoan
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    American's love freedom. But Guinness believes that America's deepest crisis at present is that of ordered liberty and sustainable freedom.

    Freedom is its own greatest enemy. It can prove to be an Achilles' heel, dissipating into license, triviality, corruption, etc. Freedom requires order and self-restraint. Guinness believes, "Americans today are heedlessly pursuing a vision of freedom that is short-lived and suicidal." (29)

    "If the founders were correct, contemporary America's pursuit of political leadership without character, economic enterprise without ethics and trust, scientific progress without human values, freedom without virtue...can only end in disaster." (34)

    Guinness covers the founders' understanding of the tasks of sustainable freedom, the classical understanding of why no political systems have endured, the founders' solution to the challenge of sustaining freedom, the condition of American freedom today, America's international standing, and the possible grounds for America's restoration.

    Guinness brings reality to the discussion. The world is flawed. There is not going to be any lasting victory for freedom in the world. American freedom is being tested in the international arena.

    Guinness believes in the possibility of American renewal. He outlines the three tasks necessary for freedom to last. There will be a high price to pay if Americans do not act soon.

    Guinness' book is not light reading. He critiques America's current situation. It is not an encouraging situation. But there is hope.
  3. Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Man's view, but is it God's view?
    September 16, 2012
    dddavids
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    This is a fascinatingly objective summary of the historical and philosophical foundations of the American Revolution, written by an Irishman. However, I was a bit surprised that the author, an accomplished Christian apologist, had so little to say about the contributions of Biblical or theological currents in the outflow from freedom's spring. His concluding optimism seems a bit humanistic and unsubstantiated by current events.
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