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A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future Paperback – August 10, 2012
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"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." (Kevin Belmonte, Huffington Post Religion Blog, September 1, 2012)
"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." (Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, author of Sovereignty: God, State and Self)
"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." (James W. Sire, author of The Universe Next Door and Václav Havel: The Intellectual Conscience of International Politics)
"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." (Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery)
"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." (Michael Cromartie, vice president, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC)
"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." (Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Chair of Excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America)
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Top Customer Reviews
According to Guinness, any society that wishes to be free must accomplish three tasks: win its freedom, order is freedom, and sustain its freedom. Americans commemorate the winning of our freedom on July 4, 1776, even though peace with Britain was not formalized until 1783. We commemorate the ordering of our freedom with the adoption (1787) and ratification (1789) of the Constitution. But sustaining our freedom is an unfinished and ongoing task.
Unfortunately, Guinness argues, "freedom has a chronic habit of undermining and destroying itself." He notes three instances:
* "When freedom runs to excess and breeds permissiveness and license."
* "When freedom so longs for its own security that its love of security undermines freedom."
* "When freedom becomes so caught up in its own glory that it justifies anything and everything done in its name, even such things as torture that contradict freedom."
He then notes that "the last decade has displayed clear examples of each of these corruptions writ large in American culture and in American foreign policy."
Now, Guinness is a Brit, so it's easy--too easy--for freedom-loving patriots to dismiss his analysis as so much anti-American twaddle. But Guinness is an America-loving Brit. He doesn't critique America in order to defame it but to improve it.Read more ›
We call ourselves "the land of the free"; our Declaration of Independence talks about liberty as an "inalienable right"; there are few things that can get an American riled up like the threat of a loss of freedom.
But our freedom is in jeopardy, says Os Guinness. Guinness doesn't find the primary threat to our freedom in an external source, like another nation, or even "big government" or "big business" or special interests. No, the enemy is us. Freedom cannot be won for all time and then left alone; it needs to be sustained. And, Guinness writes, Americans are failing to sustain the freedom our nation's founders worked so hard to win: "The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. Powerful free people die only by their own hand, and free people have no one to blame but themselves" (37). The vision of freedom we Americans are pursuing is "short-lived and suicidal" (29).
(Side note: The title A Free People's Suicide might seem bombastic, but it comes from a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "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.")
The problem with our vision of freedom is that the freedom we love to talk about and claim for ourselves focuses exclusively on freedom from external constraints. There are two kinds of freedom: freedom from constraint (negative freedom) and freedom for cultivating virtue and becoming the people we ought to be (positive freedom). Modern Americans are only interested in negative freedom. We claim rights and entitlements for ourselves, but do not care about duty, virtue, character, or pursuing excellence. Negative freedom alone is unsustainable.Read more ›
"Sometimes a book is so important and timely that not to have read it is to embarrass oneself. This is such a book ... This book's clarion call is both piercing and full of hope. May God help us to hear and to take action."
This book should be read by all Americans who care about our country. Guinness argues that the American experiment at freedom is at risk. He writes that winning freedom is not enough, freedom must be sustained. The book is simply outstanding. One may not agree with all of what Dr. Guinness has to say in this book, but it is worth the effort to work through.
So, on the negative side, whenever Guinness wanders outside of his philosophical-theological wheelhouse, namely into politics and statecraft, his product suffers. Meaningfully. He takes the apolitical tack... at times... but then frequently meanders back into generic political commentary and prescriptions. The unspecific terms he employs undermine his arguments here. For example, he cries out again and again about how America cannot sanction torture and remain free (agreed), but then fails to define what he means by torture, trying to make the point based on assumptive agreement by his readers (after all, who could be against any kind of torture?).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Others have written more literate and comprehensive reviews of A Free People's Suicide than I could ever hope to write. Allow me these two observations, however.... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Chuck Warman
This is a real wake up call that should be read by every american who wants to keep this country free.Published 2 months ago by Ray Smith
Os Guinness is an Irishman with a passionate heart for America and for the ideals upon which she was founded. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Dale Wickizer
Another bell ringer by Oz Guinness. I believe it should be required reading for every politician. Among other issues he show the fallacy of both extreme conservative and liberal... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Robert J. Steckert
The book is like a love letter to America from a worried friend - who also happens to have an doctorate in philosophy. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Børge Bentsen
This is a powerful book for our day--one that every political candidate needs to read and one that every American citizen should read. It's that important.Published 8 months ago by Rccjr1
Incredible book! Everyone in America should read this and perhaps we can help our country.Published 9 months ago by Jason
Excellent book. Hard to put down. Very clear lessons to learn. I give it 5 stars only because there aren't more stars availanlePublished 10 months ago by Sharon Campbell