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Table of contents



Jun 01, Bob rated it really liked it Shelves: Guinness contends that great powers basically destroy themselves from within before they ever fall to external enemies. I write this on the day our government has shut down because our leaders cannot even agree to fund the obligations into which they've entered. Guinness's book seems prophetic and especially relevant today.


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He argues that freedom has been the fundamental and driving idea of the American experiment. But freedom has two aspects, freedom from and freedom for. His concern is that our Guinness contends that great powers basically destroy themselves from within before they ever fall to external enemies. His concern is that our understanding of freedom has been pervaded by the former to the neglect of the latter. He argues this was not always so and that we can learn from the framers the positive virtues necessary for sustaining freedom. He believes we can use history to defy history.

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A repeated refrain in the book is, "For Americans must never forget: Rome and its republic fell, and so too will the American republic--unless By this, he means freedom only flourishes in the presence of moral excellence and the cultivation of civic virtue. Virtue in turn must be rooted in some sense of the ultimate--the fear of the Lord, as it were.

And faith in turn must be sustained by freedom--free speech, free exercise, freedom of conscience. He speaks trenchantly about the dangers of overreach which have brought down many of the great powers and it is plain that he sees this as a form of hubris of which we are enamored. He concludes the book with a call not to return to some golden age of American life but nevertheless to return to the American virtues framed by our founders who drew on both biblical and classical sources. He references the beautiful metaphor of the eagle and the sun--the mighty bird whose flight is illumined by something greater and higher.

While this book is published by a religious publisher, Guinness frames his argument in the language of the cultural public square. Whether one is a person of faith or not is beside the point in engaging this book. What is striking to me is that this Irish ex-pat connected with the Guinness family of brewing fame seems to love the United States and care deeply for her future.

A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future

I would encourage others who love this country to consider his argument for sustaining our freedom. May 07, Bob rated it it was amazing. If you want to read a careful, detailed account of why our nation is in the mess it's in, read this book. He explains how unique the United States has been as a nation whose core value has been "freedom.

He explains how the Constitution is necessary but not sufficient to ensure freedom. Guinness also argues that "the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom", meaning that the freedom we enjoy turns out to be a sort of assumed freedom that does not press us to persevere in our freedom. Nov 04, Diane rated it really liked it. In this book, the author argues that America is founded upon the idea of "sustainable freedom," that is, a freedom where Americans restrain themselves and their immediate desires in pursuit of longer-term goals.

He discusses history and how the founding fathers had this view of American life, and how they intended for American citizens to be informed by virtue. Then, he discusses how Americans have lost this vision, and how this explains our contemporary decline, and how it may lead our society In this book, the author argues that America is founded upon the idea of "sustainable freedom," that is, a freedom where Americans restrain themselves and their immediate desires in pursuit of longer-term goals.

Then, he discusses how Americans have lost this vision, and how this explains our contemporary decline, and how it may lead our society to go the way of ancient Rome. Overall, he makes a strong argument for his views, and presents a complicated subject in a manner accessible to the average reader. However, he leaves many questions unanswered. He talks about how the founding fathers saw religion as necessary to virtue, and virtue as necessary to preserving liberty.

However, he never presents a vision for how to promote either faith or virtue in contemporary America, aside from saying it is not the role of the government to do so. While I agree with him, it is not clear what course of action he is recommending.

Evening Conversation with Os Guinness (April 3, 2013)

The author is critical of the utopian strain in American foreign policy, but he never provides an adequate framework for what American foreign policy should be like. He complains about American interventions overseas, but never discusses the fact that much of the world, while criticizing American actions, looks to the United States for leadership on various global problems. Does the author think that the U. Should America just leave other countries to themselves to sort out their own problems?

It isn't clear from this book what course the author would recommend instead of the current confusion. Although the author never says it succinctly, it appears to me that America at the time of the founding had a more robust civil society than currently exists, and this civil society produced habits of the heart within Americans that allowed society to flourish.

However, with the growth of the state, civil society has lost much of its influence over contemporary America. Unfortunately, the author never provides any suggestions for how to restore what has been lost. However, he does make an impassioned plea to understand the problem and the consequences of inaction, and for that reason, the book is a worthwhile read.

Apr 03, Jon Sedlak rated it liked it. Os Guinness is a superb artist with words. His knowledge of world history, both modern and ancient, is impressive as well. This book contains a lot of unique insights concerning America and its developing history as an empire, all of which illuminate many basic problems which keep it's traces of "true freedom" from being sustained in its present form. He sheds light on problems which have been around since the founding of the nation, some which have evolved since then, and some which are entirel Os Guinness is a superb artist with words.

He sheds light on problems which have been around since the founding of the nation, some which have evolved since then, and some which are entirely new to the 21st century. All in all, I have read other books which touch upon this subject, and in a limited sense are like this one, but none which have focused entirely upon "freedom" in principle and sustaining that which is true concerning the traditional multi-faceted American views about it. Guinness does not bring in any childish name-calling or rhetorical invectives. As always, his thoughts are well-balanced and considerate of opposing viewpoints.

The weakness of this book, in my mind, is that he presents no absolute, objective standard for virtue, morality, and ethics other than repeating general references to the virtuous Christian religion and Christians within that religion. This is the book's weakest link. For all of his colorful artistic expressions of truth, virtue, and character, this book merely explains how America got to where it is today as an empire of "freedom" and why America needs to sustain "true freedom" and not just its notion of "true freedom" according to Christian principles.

Guinness does not attempt to explain how those principles specifically can or should be applied. Every outlined solution is at best general in its description. And so, at best, this book is extremely readable and great for convincing people of America's dire circumstances as an empire promoting true freedom, and is also a fantastic reference for pungent quotes and ideas concerning America's past and future.

At worst, it is explicitly standard-less, which irritates my literary tastebuds somewhat. That's why I only gave it three stars. Feb 11, Jeff LeMaster rated it it was amazing. Guinness has a four part prescription for America to avoid the curse of history: Irish born Os Guinness writes as a sympathetic outsider with a global perspective on the American experiment, unfiltered by nationalism or patriotic bias.

Despite the shock value of his attention getting title, he remains fairly upbeat throughout the book. Rather than attempting to hammer nails into the American coffin, he aims to blow on the embers, to rekindle the greatness of which this nation is so readily capable, that America will be free always, as she has been always free. Unless the tide dramatically turns, American economic prosperity and global influence will soon follow her morals into sharp decline. Read the entire review. Dec 30, Richard Minor rated it really liked it. Os Guiness states that there are three steps to American freedom, two of which have already occurred.

The first is obtaining freedom, which was done with the American Revolution. The second is ordering this freedom, which was done with the writing of the Constitution. And the task that Americans have to be concerned about today is the sustaining of that freedom. This is where Guiness sees many failures of late as he takes a look at the decisions of recent administrations. Guiness takes a look at Os Guiness states that there are three steps to American freedom, two of which have already occurred.

Guiness takes a look at the founders view of freedom and how it differs with what seems like every voice in today's political debates. The idea is that America was founded on sustainable freedom, which is not exactly what people call freedom today. And he argues, very well, that the freedom Americans are after today is not something that can be sustained.

He doesn't take political sides in this book, and at the same time, he doesn't hold any political punches. Crushing household debt, crushing federal debt, abortion, terrorism, torturing captives, among other things are seen as symptoms of the loss of true and sustainable freedom. I hope from my description you can see that it is brutally honest while at the same time holding out hope for America. America has not yet collapsed and there is still time for change.


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I highly recommend the reading of this book for anyone concerned about American freedom and the direction America is headed. Sustainable freedom must be renewed by each generation with ideals, customs, education, virtuous living, etc. Guinness makes some interesting points about how modern American is in real danger of losing our freedom due to the corruption of our society on many levels.

Although Guinness makes some fascinating points I was very frustrated with how the book was organized and how many of the point In A Free People's Suicide Guinness makes a case that American freedom cannot be assumed to be perpetual. Although Guinness makes some fascinating points I was very frustrated with how the book was organized and how many of the points were supported or not supported.

I felt as though Guinness spent a lot of time on less than vital points and then glossed over other primary points. He tends to support his assertions with broad generalities. I was frustrated more than once when I wanted him to actually dig into an idea and flesh it out a bit more rather than just glossing over it and moving on. This is not a large volume but I feel as though I just finished reading a massive tome.

I found it hard to read as the ideas did not flow smoothly. I am also not a historian myself so I think I was missing some background knowledge that the author assumed readers would have. Apr 23, Clara Roberts rated it it was amazing. This was a difficult book to read because it was critical of many of the people I admire. Guinness says that American freedoms rest on the Constitution, customs and manners and virtue character which are base on faith which he specifies as the Judeo-Christian faith.

Guinness calls this the golden triangle. The loss of faith causes a decline in customs, manners and character. The results is a loss of freedom. He said that "all who aspire to be like Rome in their beginning must avoid being like R This was a difficult book to read because it was critical of many of the people I admire. He said that "all who aspire to be like Rome in their beginning must avoid being like Rome at their ending".

He spend a whole chapter on explaining how America can avoid the ending of Rome by engaging in what he calls renewal. He quotes a phrase from physics by saying "Things are perserved from destruction by bringing them back to their first principles". This renewal incldes the following speres: This book should be a must read for every adult American. I would rate it a ten if the ratings went that high.

I'm a big fan of Os. I think Os is spot in in his discussion of freedom - what comprises it, how it must be vigorously guarded and how it is steeped in faith and the classical tradition. I really appreciate his "outsiders" view of the American experiment. Os has more faith in the restoration that's required than I do.

He speaks of the Renaissance and the Reformation as powerful and successful attempts to r I'm a big fan of Os. He speaks of the Renaissance and the Reformation as powerful and successful attempts to reclaim and restore culture. While true, we're a relentlessly nomadic people that have recast freedom in America to mean "no boundaries on me. We have little concept of context, and we have no concept of how to subjugate feelings in exchange for the discipline required to remain free.

My biggest takeaway from this book? Freedom requires personal discipline. Jul 09, Kathy rated it it was ok. This was a difficult book for me to get into and read. The author presents a problem for all of us. We claim to be free but only consider and work for freedom from constraints. We do not work at or care for duty, virtue or pursuing excellence. I feel they really should not critique our society but should look at an analyze their own. Each country has enough of the populatio This was a difficult book for me to get into and read. Each country has enough of the population who will examine and analyze their own societies, without having outsiders do the job.

I also am not sure he is correct when he says that we only worry about eliminating constraints, for I think out history is full of patriots who answer to duty and definitely pursue excellence.

A Free People's Suicide Quotes by Os Guinness

Thus, my difficulty reading this book. I received this book from goodreads. Jul 13, Linda Rusenovich rated it it was amazing. Guinness discussed in broad strokes the current state of freedom in America. This important book introduces themes for further discussion and action. The book is hopeful in that it recalls the love for and pride in America that once infused patriots and motivated them to lives of community service. Their faith and accompanying virtue made freedom work for them and their communities.

Today's America lacks faith and virtue and misunderstands freedom as license. This has downgraded our Challenging. This has downgraded our political and social life as civic-mindedness has largely been replaced by cynicism, selfishness or apathy. Guinness outlines actions that may help restore and revitalize our nation. This small book provides a starting point for moving our country forward, and I hope that individually and as a country, we can rise to the challenge. I believe this is one of Guinness's best books.

His analysis is spot on. I only wish I had read it in a print edition; much easier to make notes in "real" books. Freedom must not only be won; it must also be preserved. The contemporary view of freedom is a negative freedom as in "Freedom from Freedom must be positively portrayed, a view found in America in diminishing measure. It is up to us to rise up and fix the problem or go the other way of great nations and I believe this is one of Guinness's best books.

It is up to us to rise up and fix the problem or go the other way of great nations and empires. He posits "the Golden Triangle of Freedom": My advice - go a get a copy and keep your dictionary handy - Os has a great felicity of language! Jun 29, Zahra rated it liked it. I won this book in Goodreads First Reads. America, the land that is notorious for its freedom and mission to spread that same freedom to every corner of the world. We often misconstrue and take advantage of the rights that each individual is given and this book reminds us of exactly that. This book basically tells us Americans that "Hey, our forefathers in no way meant modern America to be so corrupted and misinformed, but it's okay because we are "free".

What is freedom anyway? This book redefin I won this book in Goodreads First Reads. This book redefines that meaning for us. If you are into politics and interested in American philosophies, this book is perfect for you. Although hard to analyze and digest sometimes, it is a good read that deserves to be looked at by every man and woman who considers themselves American.

Nov 24, Bauer Evans rated it it was amazing. Symbols also play key roles to illustrate complex concepts. May 23, Alexander Rolfe rated it did not like it. At least now I know not to waste my time with Os Guinness. He's sneering, arch, smug, and un-serious. He is incapable of picking a position and holding it for more than three sentences. I would far rather read someone I disagree with than someone always trying to sound cute and maintain his centrist brand by taking swipes at both sides. He works hard to sound smart, and I guess he knows how to maintain his popularity as a public intellectual, but I just don't see much here.

As for style, it reads At least now I know not to waste my time with Os Guinness. As for style, it reads like a quote book-- and at times he lapses into a series of quotes without a word of his own. That is not my idea of writing. Apr 12, Danny Bennett rated it liked it Shelves: Os Guinness gives a striking perspective on America as an Irishman. He starts out with the idea that America will most likely not be destroyed by enemies from outside, but rather from within. Guinness continues by saying that the easy part was gaining freedom, the really difficult test is sustaining that freedom.

Guinness also emphasizes in order to sustain freedom it must contain virtue with faith. Guinness brings up some points that are worth considering as an American. He is neither liberal o Os Guinness gives a striking perspective on America as an Irishman. He is neither liberal or conservative and dishes out criticisms on both sides. Well worth the read if you are interested in where America is headed today. Dec 10, Dianne Davidson rated it really liked it.

Ah yes - a thinker who makes me think. Here his topic is freedom and, clearly, this is a topic he has spend time thinking about at great length. In his other writings, I had to follow a train of thought some distance before the ah-ha moment when I gain his point of view. That's not true of this book. He is passionate and clear in his message - that if we as Americans and free do not wake up and address the elements of our behavior in which freedom has gone amuck toward lice Ah yes - a thinker who makes me think. He is passionate and clear in his message - that if we as Americans and free do not wake up and address the elements of our behavior in which freedom has gone amuck toward license, we are committing suicide.

America is poised for either self destruction or further greatness and he urges the upcoming generation to consider this challenge. Dec 12, Jared rated it it was amazing Shelves: An excellent book drawing from classical sources and the repetition of history to serve as a warning and offer hope to the future of America. Unfortunately, it's the sort of book that will be seen as preaching to the choir. After witnessing the climax of the Chinese revolution in , he was expelled with many other foreigners in and returned to England where he was educated and served as a freelance reporter with the BBC.

Since coming to the U. 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 other - particularly when advanced modern life touches on the profound issues of faith.

As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. InterVarsity Press Bolero Ozon. A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. But how was this to be done, and are Americans doing it today? It is not enough for freedom to be won.

A Free People's Suicide Quotes

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. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor.

Os Guinness strikes a balanced approach. Always Free Free Always.