Os Guinness is an Englishman with a deep respect and appreciation for the ‘American Experiment’. Os is one of my favorite authors. His grasp of history, philosophy, theology, and sociology are, in my opinion, unmatched in this generation. As such, Guinness uses all these skills to put forth a compelling vision for America and the world to move toward a civil public square and past the self-defeating culture wars that are currently being played out in our media, blogs, websites, classrooms, etc.
Guinness argues, that because of America’s unique history, and in particular the genius of the 1st Amendment, America is in the best position to lead the world forward to a place where we can all live with our deepest differences in a civil and constructive manner. The problem is, at the world’s hour of need, we as Americans seem to be going away from this great heritage, as we entrench ourselves in culture wars (think Fox News vs. MSNBC).
Guinness blasts both the Religious Right and Left as well as the New Atheists, both the idea of ‘the sacred public square’ (where one ideology gains dominance and preference over all others) and ‘the naked public square’ (where adherents to religious faith are sequestered away from any type of public discourse). Instead, we need to regain civility and the art of dialogue and persuasion as opposed to tolerance and culture warring. We need to engage in thoughtful debate, while respecting those who believe differently than us. The culture wars create an atmosphere where we tend to only listen to our ‘own side’ and blasting those that differ, rather than engaging them personally.
Guinness says the solution starts with us individually… and then calls on an American leader to rise to the occasion in this hour of need for both America and the world.
Here’s the vision he puts fourth for an American leader to rise to:
“The present hour requires from America a national leader and statesman—not a mere politician, not a manager, not a celebrity, not a demagogue, not a figurehead, but a statesman with a deep grasp of the American experiment, an expansive understanding of American history, a wise experience of the contours of the modern global world, an indomitable courage to stand against powerful political forces, and the ability to speak with such vision and power that new vistas are opened for the American people to see and head toward.”