Thursday, April 4, 2013

America's Nihilism

I recently started reading Os Guinness' new book, A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, and so far it is outstanding. Below are some clips from the first chapter which caught my eye:
"...freedom always faces a fundamental moral challenge. Freedom requires order and therefore restraint, yet the only restraint that does not contradict freedom is self-restraint, which is the very thing that freedom undermines when it flourishes. Thus the heart of the problem of freedom is the problem of the heart, because free societies are characterized by restlessness at their core."1 
"America's nihilism of untrammeled freedom has so far been a soft and banal nihilism that flowers and fades harmlessly within the confines of the consumer paradise of the shopping mall, the online catalog, and the video game. ... no one is fully consistent to his or her own philosophy, and there is always a long stretch of the downhill slope from the adolescent stage of soft nihilism to the delinquent and then to the decadent. But such ideas in such a society will always have consequences, and when the causes of disordered freedom also spread to such vital spheres of American society as the government, the economy, law, education, medicine, science and technology, the consequences will at some point become lethal and unstoppable. The gap between the lightning and the thunder may be delayed, but such disordered freedom will one day prove disastrous when taken to the very end. It is literally irrational and irresponsible, for untrammeled freedom has no need to justify itself either by rational criteria or by any moral standard outside itself. It just is, an untrammeled will to power that is self-evident, self-justifying and self-destructive, and a mortal menace to the society that harbors it. The conclusion for American freedom is inescapable. It is not enough to espouse freedom as the essence of America and to keep mouthing its matchless benefits. Freedom must be guarded vigilantly against internal as well as external dangers. However soft and however banal it is, unbounded freedom simply cannot restrain itself by itself..."2

1.  Os Guinness, A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future [Downers Grove, Il: IVP Books; 2012], p. 20
2.  Ibid., p. 23

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