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The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It Hardcover – January 22, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Popular evangelical writer Guinness (The Call) worries that the culture wars are destroying the United States. If Americans don't find a way of living with our deepest differences, the republic will decline. He forcefully defends religious liberty, noting that it was crucial for the founding generation and should be just as crucial today. To that end, he calls Christians to rethink their enthusiasm for government-sponsored faith-based initiatives, and to remember that evangelicals were the victims of earlier church-state establishments. The religious right—whose discourse of victimization, says Guinness, is silly and anti-Christian—comes under fire. Nor is Guinness a fan of the nascent religious left—he prefers a depoliticized faith. For all Guinness's rhetorical vim, his proposals ultimately feel anodyne: his boilerplate conclusion is that in order to restore civility we need leadership and a remarkable articulation of vision. Furthermore, although Guinness notes that he is a European, the book is oddly marked by the old rhetoric of American cultural imperialism. Echoing JFK, Guinness wants his essay to be taken as one model for fostering civility around the world and helping make the world safe for diversity. Many readers may prefer Charles Marsh's lively, provocative manifesto Wayward Christian Soldiers. (Feb.)
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From the Back Cover

“How do we live with our deepest differences, especially when those differences are religious and ideological?” The place to begin to search for answers is the United States. Not because the problem is worse here than elsewhere--on the contrary--but because America has the best resources, and therefore the greatest responsibility to point the way in answering the deepest questions. The Case For Civility is a proposal for restoring civility in America, as one model for fostering civility around the world and helping to make a world safe for diversity.

Guinness makes a passionate plea to put an end to the culture wars that--rather than creating a public space for real debate--threaten to reverse the very principles our founders set into motion that have long preserved liberty, diversity, and unity in this country. Guinness argues that we must:
•Say “No!” to the sacred public square-we cannot privilege one religion over another; the Christian Right has it wrong
•Say “No!” to the naked public square-public expressions of faith must remain legal; intolerance in the name of tolerance by the secular left is equally wrongheaded

The world is watching how Americans behave and, in the eyes of the world, we are failing to live up to our own ideals. Rich with historical anecdotes that unlock the genius of the American experiment, Guinness also takes on the contemporary threat of both the religious right and the secular left to construct a new way forward in the midst of the buildup to the Fall 2008 presidential elections.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (January 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061353434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061353437
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Os Guinness, The Case For Civility. HarperOne, 2008. As an Englishman born in China, and as an astute sociologist and social critic, Guinness offers a wise and compelling vision for civilizing the public square and moving beyond the machinations of endless culture wars.

While writing as a Christian, Guinness charts a course for "a civil public square" in which citizens of any religion or of none are allowed and encouraged to let their voices be known and to respect those of others. He argues against both "the sacred social square" (where pluralism is defrocked and one religion dominates at the expense of others) and "the naked public square" (in which religious citizens are not allowed to participate socially and politically on the basis of their deepest convictions).

Guinness grounds his reflections on a profound understanding of The First Amendment and its entailments. Contrary to many, he argues that civility is a higher virtue than mere tolerance. Moreover, civility requires knowledge and discipline; it is not the fruit of relativism, which despairs of objective moral knowledge and the pursuit of objective truth.

Readers of Guinness's previous and much larger work, The American Hour (1992), will find echoes in The Case for Civility, but the latter is far more than a digest of the former; it is, rather, a timely and clarion call to principled pluralism tied to the essence of the American experiment.
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Format: Hardcover
"It would be a safe but sad bet that someone, somewhere in the world, is killing someone else at this very moment in the name of religion or ideology." Thus begins "The Case for Civility" by Os Guinness. Every day the media brings us stories of death and mayhem and often religion and ideology are to blame. The bookshelves at your local bookstore are groaning under the weight of books by atheists--Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins--who blame religion for many of the world's ills. But the record of nations that turned from religion have fared even worse. Guinness says, rightly I'm sure, that no question today is more urgent than this one: how do we live with our deepest differences--and especially our religious and ideological differences. This book is a proposal for restoring civility.

But it is deeper than that. It is a proposal for restoring civility first in America is a model for the rest of the world to follow. It is a call for the United States to take the lead in restoring civility. "The place at which we must begin to search for answers is the United States. Not because the problem is worse here than elsewhere--on the contrary--but because America has the best cultural resources, and therefore the greatest responsibility to point the way forward in answering the deepest questions." America is uniquely equipped to take the lead and Guinness urges her on.

Much of the answer to whether or not we'll learn to live with our deepest differences depends on rejecting two erroneous responses to the culture wars. First, we must say no to a "sacred public square"--a situation where one religion has a position of privilege or prominence that is denied to others.
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Format: Hardcover
Os Guinness has done us all a great service in writing The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It. Always an articulate and sane voice, Guinness attempts to bring reason to the conversations / arguments that rage in America and beyond today. He notes, "Unquestionably, religion can be divisive, violent and evil. But also, unquestionably, secularism can be oppressive, murderous, and evil, too." He addresses issues like: What role does faith play in the public square? What role should it not play? Is secularism the answer? Moving beyond simplistic versions of the "new tolerance" where every view point is seen as "equally valid," Guinness helps us think about disagreements and how to disagree; yet in a way that affords dignity and respect--A truly important and timely work.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heard Os Guinness speak IRL and he gave a 30 minute synopsis of this book. Wow. He makes a great case for being civil to each other (political right and left, religious right and left, really any group) and why it matters to the future of the USA. Irish-born, Guinness has incredible insight on the Founding Fathers, Bill of Rights, and our Constitution.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Guinness takes us back into our own history, to point out to us the intent of the framers of American politics. "Civility" is indeed the key concept behind the book: that the framers recognized that civility is required to encourage the voicing of disparate opinions in society, and that these opinions need to be brought civilly - with a respect for the other and for the political process - in order for the system to encourage true freedom.
This books is a breath of fresh air that every politician should have by his/her pillow, and every thinking American should read, and read again.
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Format: Hardcover
As more and more problems build because of the divisiveness and incivility in the current US political climate, Guinness's words could not be more timely. "Why our future depends on it" could be a pretentious subtitle, but in this case, this is an almost certifiable fact.

In a carefully reasoned, well-explained presentation, the author leads us step by step through an analysis of the many problems presented by our divisive public debates and then suggests ways in which we can, as his last chapter is titled, "Start with Ourselves."

No single political position is singled out here; both left and right are excoriated for their contributions to the current incivility. As a result, we all should probably find some discomfort in at least part of the text. But it is sometimes not until we are faced with the error of our ways that we are motivated to take corrective action. We all need to read this with an open mind and then look for ways that we can begin, individually and corporately, to turn around the incivility we have too often become inured to.

This is an important book to read, to ponder, to share, and to discuss. Our future depends on it.
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