Dec 04

Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom has Become its Greatest Threat, by Os Guiness ★★★★★

I first read one of Os Guiness’s books in the 1970’s, the Dust of Death. I later purchased one of his books at a book signing (I don’t remember which one!), and when I mentioned how I appreciated The Dust of Death, he snidely asked why I hadn’t read any of his other books. Well, without giving him an answer then, I noted that I generally dislike reading books on contemporary politics or social commentary. (Os excels in the department of politics and Christian interaction in the public square.) With politics now appearing like we have completely lost our country, our true freedoms, and any sense of public civility, this book seemed to be worth reading. Indeed, it was most enjoyable, even though there were a few parts that I tended to disagree with. This book was read electronically via the Kindle app.

Guiness begins by comparing the American and French revolutions, which he labels 1776 vs 1789. The distinctions between the two revolutions were quite notable, with the French revolution having a distinctly secular basis, and based on a contract between the government and the people, and the American revolution with its Judeo-Christian orientation, and based on a covenant between the government and the people. The covenant is fundamental to understanding the nature of liberty, since it requires a Judeo-Christian morality and assumes that the citizens are fallen creatures bound to do wrong. Without integrity and a sense of Judeo-Christian moral right and wrong, the constitution becomes an unstable document that simply will not work in the long term. Much of the book elaborates on the differences found between a secular society and a Judeo-Christian society, and, since the book is about freedom, the book goes into length as to how freedom would be defined differently and enacted differently between the two competing systems. 

Typically, books seem to run out after the first few chapters, the author having stated the fundamental ideas of the book, and then tying up space in order to create a book-length document. Os does anything but that, and the next to last chapter (Question 10) is the crowning chapter of the entire book. This is the only chapter that I will VERY briefly summarize. In this chapter, Guiness essentially demolishes much of the new liberal mindset, developing sound arguments against identity politics, the super-primitives vs. the super progressives, victim politics, multiculturalism, and the like. Quoting Guiness,

With the notion of the melting pot scorned, with civic education abandoned, and with a de facto open border policy in place, there was no unity and no clear national identity to balance the diversity. Indeed, notions such as sovereignty, unity, and identity were themselves viewed as coercive or white colonialism, and therefore to be rejected. Newcomers no longer needed to adapt to their new country or even to gain a legal standing if it was difficult. The country needed to adapt to them, and sanctuary cities were opened. 

Political correctness is attacked…

But political correctness is far deadlier than [a form of amusement]. The term can be traced back to 1930s communism, but its roots go back to the French Revolution and the notion that controlling language is the way to control people.

and

categories such as racism, sexism, and ageism were used to replace sin as the egregious evils of the day that still needed confronting.

Tolerance, political correctness, social justice, social constructionism (i.e., the “right” to re-define the nature of your own existence) all are addressed, and multiple worthy quotes would be spared. As Guiness summaries, 

Man can now be God…[] … for everything is socially constructed, and humanity can therefore deconstruct and reconstruct itself at will.

and

what we call reality is only “reality” as socially accepted, and if it was socially constructed in the first place, then it can be socially deconstructed now–and reconstructed as we wish, whenever we wish, and as many times as we wish. We are free, totally free…

Guiness summarizes with “Freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought”. Nobody could have said it better. Guiness speaks at length then of “liberty” as expressed in the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences, which is written so well, I’ll spare a summary but only encourage the dear reader to purchase a copy and read it themselves. Indeed, the sexual revolution has decreased rather than increased our freedom! Quoting Guiness, “Ideas have consequences, but bad ideas have victims.”. Too true. 

My only complaint with the book is that Guiness might have shown how the liberal politics of 1789 France is imbedded in our constitution, and resulted in the seeds of destruction for our country. Indeed, many of the country’s founders, like Jefferson, were endeared to the style and philosophy of the French revolution, much to our detriment. I think that Os could have explored or brought that out better. Remembering that the US constitution was formalized in 1786-7, much thinking in the USA had changed since the start of the revolution in 1776. Secular liberalism already had a creep into our society. Thus, I think that to compare the USA to France in 1776/1789 is a touch unfair. 

Complaints aside, this book was outstanding. Most of his thoughts were already on my mind before reading this book, but Os Guiness has a way of categorizing and clarifying one’s thinking, marking him as truly a genius to be commended. This book is thus not only recommended by me, but suggested as something that should be on each and everybody’s MUST READ list. 

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