Freedom and the Fate of America
Os Guinness discusses the lateness of the American hour:
Nothing lasts forever. People come and go and nations come and go. Sadly, once free, democratic and prosperous nations can lose all that and devolve into something much different. The old saying holds: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’
Lord Macaulay once said that democratic nations go through this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith.
From faith to great courage.
From courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to complacency.
From complacency to selfishness.
From selfishness to apathy.
From apathy to dependency.
And from dependency back again into bondage.
Or as another formulation puts it: “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” It seems clear that we are witnessing the end of America. Can it recover or is it doomed to degenerate into oblivion or tyranny?
One person who has written quite a lot about such matters is Os Guinness. He has written often about America and the issue of freedom. If you do not know much about him, see this recent piece of mine: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/06/14/notable-christians-os-guinness/
Here I want to discuss his newest book, Zero Hour America: History’s Ultimatum over Freedom and the Answer We Must Give (IVP, 2022). Although shorter than some of his other works, and devoid of any referencing or footnotes, it is still an important volume.
Those who have read previous books of his will find familiar themes in the book. Here I want to simply highlight some of what he has written. Early on he says this: “This short book is no doomsday pronouncement. It is more of a Paul Revere’s ride, though ironically the call to wake up this time is by a Brit and the warning is not about other enemies coming – the enemies are already within the gates.”
One thing in the book I was interested to see was this: often English evangelicals can tend to be less politically conservative than American ones. Often they straddle the middle of the road, claiming both sides are equally bad. Guinness has often been this way in the past. But I see something of a shift here.
Sure, he still warns of shortcomings on both sides, but he seems to be getting more aware of where the real danger is coming from. Consider this quote: “History bulges with examples of authoritarianism from both the right and the left, and both extremes will always be a danger.” But he then goes on to say this:
Which is the greater threat in America is for history to show, but there is no question that the present authoritarian trends are clearer and politically stronger on the left than the right – if only because of their greater power and the prestige of their social location. For all the extreme ugliness and undoubted menace of the right, it cannot match the left for its presence in and favors from the government, the deep state, the academy, the intelligence community, the press and media, and woke business and woke capital. The last two are especially vital to the left. Once considered the last redoubt of conservative America, business is both the most surprising scalp of the radical left and one of the most important captures because of the direct impact of banks and corporations on daily American life.
Later on he again speaks of the left and of the woke activists:
The radical left is the child of neo-Marxism or cultural Marxism. . . . The radical left of “social justice warriors” weaponizes the victims and uses them to attack, subvert, and overthrow the status quo in the name of liberation and revolution….
No one should forget the endgame of the radical left. There are too many well-meaning people who know nothing about critical theory and its astute use of dog whistles and crossover words. They naively think that woke simply means “alert to injustice,” so they adopt it for themselves and use it as a compliment for the young, the idealistic, and the kind. That is incredibly foolish. . . . Woke not only means “alert to injustice” but “active for revolution.” Many a woke politician, woke journalist, woke CEO, woke teacher, woke pastor, and woke parent will wake up one day to realize they have sawn off the branch they were sitting on and swapped their freedom for despotism.
In chapter 5 of this book he deals with things like globalism and the Great Reset. He writes: “The globalists openly favor the new over the old, the global at the expense of the local, the universal at the expense of the particular, the collective at the expense of the personal, and the monumental at the expense of the simple.”
I am glad he is alert to all this. Here is a longer quote worth featuring:
Globalism therefore naturally appeals to those such as billionaires Bill Gates and George Soros who are fired by revolutionary utopianism, and it favors the bookend of authoritarianism. In economics the natural outcome of globalism is a monopoly. (Think of the rise of Google, Amazon, and Facebook and their unprecedented control of our sources of information). In politics the natural outcome of globalism is global governance and a new world order. (Think of the current fashion for state socialism, the emergence of one-party politics in ostensible democracies, the expansion of the ever-expanding European Union, and the global pretensions of “Belt and Road” superpower China.) The logic of globalism is autocracy, the logic of autocracy is technocracy, the logic of technocracy is bureaucracy, and the logic of bureaucracy is the replacement of genuine politics and representative government by administration and regulation. The result will be a cosmocracy, a beehive society, and an anthill state. Wake up, Members of Parliament and Congress, you may be lavishly remunerated by the financial seductions of corporate lobbyists, but you are in danger of becoming dupes and ciphers, the “useful idiots” of the globalist world that in effect is giving redundancy slips to you and all who believe in nation-states and representative government.
Wow, great stuff. If you did not know who had penned that, you might have guessed that it was Alex Jones or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. saying it. I for one am glad Guinness is on top of these very real and very dangerous threats from the globalist left.
Moreover, the cause of freedom and faith must be passed on, which is why the left hates things like history and family:
If any project is to last longer than a single generation, it requires successful transmission, and successful transmission for a nation requires families, schools, and history. Both faith and freedom share this imperative. They are never more than one generation away from extinction. Faith dies and freedom dies too if it is not handed on. Every generation is a pulse beat in the story of humanity, so a transmission’s breakdown is like a heart attack in the life of a person or a dropping of the baton in a relay race.
In light of all this, God’s people must always be part of the loyal opposition – of the resistance:
The Jewish and Christian faiths are protest faiths. Jews and Christians are protesters. They never simply adjust to the world or resign themselves to life, because the world as it stands is a world gone wrong. It is not what it should have been, and it is not what it should be and will be. This means that the People of the Book do not accept the world as it is, and while truly conservative, they are never purely conservative. The world has gone wrong, so there are wrongs to put right and things that are right, just, true, good, and beautiful to be restored or brought into existence. Trust in the God of the Bible is automatically a protest against the world as it is in the light of the world, which it should be and one day will be again.
These few snippets from this important book should hopefully interest you enough to get a copy for yourself and have a careful read. The hour is indeed late, and we can be thankful for watchmen on the wall such as Guinness. Whether we will heed the warnings however remains to be seen.
8 Replies to “Freedom and the Fate of America”
‘… Hard times create strong men…’as partially quoted in this article. I believe this is where the pendulum is swinging to, even my 14 year old son is insightful enough to observe that the average Australian man has become weak at the knees and is due for a ‘shaking’ hopefully of the spiritual sense. Thanks again Bill for highlighting cultural cycles inasmuch of what steps we need to take. If only I could be spiritually prepared enough and model at least part of my journey off Joshua and Caleb (‘…be strong and courageous…’)
Many thanks Mark.
America’s trajectory is rapidly downwards.
Here is but one example.
We need to pray for America.
The 19th-century British historian and statesman, Lord Macaulay (1800–1859), was not the author of the quotation (“From bondage to spiritual faith…”) that you attribute to him in your post, “Freedom and the fate of America”.
I am familiar with many of Macaulay’s historical essays, literary criticisms and political speeches, and the quotation, although it may reflect his classical liberal outlook, is not written in his style.
The author, I’ve discovered, was an American industrialist, Henning W. Prentis, Jr. (1884–1959), who rose to become president of the Armstrong Cork Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and also in later years president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
He first uttered the words in an address he delivered at the University of Pennsylvania on February 6, 1943, entitled “The Cult of Competency”: http://www.ergo-sum.net/literature/CultOfCompetency.pdf
The speech was subsequently reprinted (with revisions and additions) as Industrial Management in a Republic. No. 25 (Princeton University Press, 1943) and Bulwarks of Freedom (University of Michigan, 1946).
The words you quote in your article are an amalgam of his three versions.
The Prentis Cycle, as the author’s cyclical view of history became known, echoes a similar observation made by the Greek-born Roman historian, Polybius (c.200–c.118 BC), in his account of the rise of the Roman Republic as a global power in the ancient Mediterranean world.
The author of the second quotation in your article (“Hard times create strong men…”) is G. Michael Hopf (born 1970), a combat veteran of the U.S. Marines Corps. He is author of the New World series of post-apocalyptic novels. The particular quotation you have used is from volume seven of the series, entitled Those Who Stay Behind (2016).
Many thanks indeed for that John.
I have the utmost respect for the brilliant mind of Os Guinness, and more importantly, I trust his heart.
BTW, I almost always agree with Bill Muehlenberg as well.
Many thanks Bruce.