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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Preserving Truth and Freedom in America

Preserving Truth and Freedom in America

Dr. Os Guinness, a renowned author and social critic, shares about the moral crossroads in America and challenges you to build upon seven foundational stones to preserve freedom. Pointing to the faith and prayers of the Founding Fathers, such as George Washington, Dr. Guinness outlines a path to saving America from decline.
Original Air Date: May 4, 2023

Dr. Os Guinness: Because what we pass on our children is the key to identity and to continuity. And so you’re back to the dining table, the family, this is you, Jim, (laughs) the Focus on the Family, the family is the key to the American future. Without the family, there will be no freedom.

John Fuller: Dr. Os Guinness with a simple yet powerful reminder of the importance of strong families as we look to the future with hope for our children and our country. This is Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And Jim, uh, for this day, the National Day of Prayer, we’re presenting a rather enlightening conversation that you had with Dr. Guinness.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, I met with Os Guinness at his home in Virginia to discuss the need for spiritual renewal in America and some of the issues in the culture today. And he is so good, so well-read, so articulate. Um, it, it’s just a delight to talk with him. It’s kinda like just sitting in the living room with us, as we were in his living room doing this taping.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And I’ve always admired his profound insights and writing on what’s happening in society and in the church, and his clarion call for us to seek God’s truth. I mean, that’s constantly what he’s driving people back toward. Even though America is in trouble in a lot of ways, drifting from its biblical roots, uh, Os remains hopeful, and he points us back to the foundations of our faith. And as you heard in that clip a moment ago, he points us back to the family as well. Uh, I also think it’s appropriate to share the conversation on this, the National Day of Prayer, because before any positive and lasting change can occur in the country, it requires us to rededicate ourselves to prayer.

John: I’d agree. And, uh, much of the conversation we’re about to hear is based on a book written by Dr. Guinness called Zero Hour America: History’s Ultimatum Over Freedom and the Answer We Must Give. Look for that book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or give us a call for details. Here now, Jim Daly with Os Guinness on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Os, it’s always good to have you in the studio, even if this is your living room. (laughs) But, uh, it’s so good to be with you. Thank you for being here.

Dr. Guinness: No, it’s always my privilege, Jim, thank you.

Jim: Let’s get into the first… I opened the book and took a look and read, and, uh, the first, uh, chapter, the table of contents, it said, “America will fail unless…” And the question I wanna ask you is, unless what?

Dr. Guinness: Well, what I’m talking about in this book, unless there’s a return and a renewal back to the first principals that made America what she is.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: In other words, how do you understand a nation? You look what it loves supremely. And there’s no question, what America loves supremely is freedom. But not just any freedom, the ordered freedom that comes through Exodus and Deuteronomy from the bible.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: And that’s what’s been lost. And instead, you’ve got freedom coming down from the French Revolution. So the difference between the two revolutions is extreme.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Guinness: And unless America goes back, she will fall.

Jim: You know, when we contemplate that, that idea of going back and recovering what we’ve lost and understanding freedom and democracy and the responsibilities of all of that, when I take a tour of Washington DC, when I hear how George Washington wrote in his journal, the way he would pray and the way the founding fathers would recognize God’s divine hand on the development of this country, I think for us as Christians, we kinda go, “Wow, could, could we ever get back to that as a nation?” It sounds like yeoman’s work to actually get an illiterate, historically illiterate people back to understanding what made this country so great.

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How do… I mean, it, how do we-

Dr. Guinness: Well, that you said illiteracy in both freedom, and also, sadly, in faith in the church, there is illiteracy. In other words, gen Z, generation Z has not had either the faith or the freedom passed onto them in the way it shoulda done.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: So what we’re talking about is not just Washington DC, it is the average family, the average school, the average church, it’s all of us where we are. But I would say, we mustn’t just think about going back, you gotta go back, to go forward best, you go back first, that’s-

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: … I think a biblical principal.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Guinness: But why go forward? We wanna go forward as something more free, more just, more human and so on, and the bible gives us the grounds for this. And the alternatives today on the left or in secularism, they have nothing, they’re bankrupt. So anyone who cares for freedom and justice needs to re-explore these great truths and go forward. So, it’s exciting,-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Guinness: … not something just daunting.

Jim: I like that. A good opportunity to improve, right? (laughs)

Dr. Guinness: Absolutely.

Jim: Let me ask you, when you look at the fallout of the decline of the country, and I certainly, I wanna be optimistic because the lord says to fear not, and we need to be people of hope, so I wanna look to that moment like you are to say there are things we can do to have a better nation and to have a better experience in this life that God gives us. When you look at the fallout from the decline, let’s say the decay of what we once knew and what, what we once were. And of course, we know, uh, I don’t wanna trigger anyone on the sins of the country, and slavery was horrible, and we get that, but when you look at the very positive things, um, and now you see the decline, uh, the story’s every day what’s going on in major cities and the drug abuse on the sidewalks and homelessness and all of it, w- w- what do we have to rekindle? What do we have to, uh, set aflame again to get our nation righted with some of these declining symptoms?

Dr. Guinness: Well, I think we have to go back to first principals, and that’s what revival, renewal, awakening is. Um, so I mentioned freedom. The difference between a biblical view of freedom with its powerful base and all its guardrails and so on is night and day difference from secular views of freedom. Everyone just used the word freedom. No, no, for freedom, Christ set us free, Christians should be the ultimate champions and defenders of freedom, but we gotta know what it is. And have you ever thought, atheists have no foundation for freedom.

Jim: So true.

Dr. Guinness: You go to, to Freud, Watson, Skinner, Dawkins, Harris, they’re all determinists, all of them. But we believe in freedom, but we gotta know why that’s so and what it actually means. So we have the keys, the foundations to these, and we should be incredibly excited.

Jim: Yeah. Os, you’re such a well-read academic, intellectual.

Dr. Guinness: No, I’m not.

Jim: Yes, you are.

Dr. Guinness: Not an academic.

Jim: You went to Oxford. (laughs)

Dr. Guinness: (laughs)

Jim: But the point of that comment is, it seems, I think, for the average person, when you look at that trench warfare when you watch cable news, i- it feels almost impossible that you could have somebody arise that could actually cast a vision, a biblical vision that recognizes the responsibility of freedom and then how to, um, really harness-

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … people’s drive and motivation to move in that direction. The country just seems too divided.

Dr. Guinness: Because no one’s addressed what is the deepest division, which I think is this difference between the French Revolution and its ideas and the American Revolution and its biblical roots. But I think, Jim, great thing about Focus is you make things practical. You know, take one very simple example, the secret to handing on the faith and freedom is the family dining table.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Guinness: When I first came here in 1968, six weeks as a tourist, one thing that shocked me, not a single family I was with in America ate the whole of supper together.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: Whereas in Europe, it’s gone in Europe too because the speed of modern life, the family dining table is the center of family cohesion, where you learn so much about your parents, grandparents and so on, as well as the bad things about your country. So the restoration of something simple like the family dining table and reading books aloud and so on, that’s the key to so much of this.

Jim: Yeah, it’s almost like the metaphor of the farmer, it’s tilling the field-

Dr. Guinness: Yeah.

Jim: … so the right seeds get planted, right?

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: In your book, Zero Hour America, you’ve identified seven foundation stones. I wanna read them, and let’s just pick a couple that are close to you. This is, this is your seven. So, uh, the first, defining and understanding freedom. The second, understanding that human freedom is grounded in God. Third, understanding there are essentials of life, basic requirements of freedom. Um, four, maximizing freedom and responsibility for everyone. Let me stop there, ’cause that’s a, a really important one. Maximizing freedom and responsibility for everyone. You’ve touched on it, but I’d say even the church, and what is our responsibility in the culture, what is it to love your neighbor? I’m not sure we’re equipped to really, uh, carry that, uh, assignment from God.

Dr. Guinness: But how many Christians explore the Hebrew scriptures, our Old Testament, for all the rich things it teaches us? So historically, the US Constitution comes from the Hebrew covenant, and it’s just plain fact. Now, but what was it about the covenant in Exodus, Exodus 19 and so on, that made the difference? Well, first there was freely chosen consent. That’s the origin of the consent to be governed. That’s incredible. The Lord of the universe puts out a covenant, he doesn’t impose it, three times it says, “All that the Lord says, we will do.”

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: They sign on. The second thing is a morally binding pledge, that’s why your pledge of allegiance is so important. A covenant is more than a contract, but the third one is the one you’re talking about, the reciprocal responsibility of everyone for everyone. You love your neighbor as yourself, Leviticus 19. You treat the sojourner, the stranger differently because you were a stranger, there’s a reciprocity and a solidarity. So for instance, I go around the country, I meet many Christians who say, “Things are dark. I’m just keeping my head down. I’m like the early church.”

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: That’s entirely wrong.

Jim: That’s not what the early church did. (laughs)

Dr. Guinness: The early church were under a dictatorship.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: We’re under a republic based on the scriptures. And in Exodus and in America, every citizen’s responsible for the republic.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: So if a Christian’s to quit and disengage ’cause it’s a dirty business is to a failure of discipleship, but a failure of citizenship, and we gotta recover that sense of solidarity. Now, it collapses in the public schools, there’s no civic education. Instead you have Howard Zinn and the 1619 Project. And of course, it’s totally collapsed with the open border.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: When you have immigrants coming in, they should be integrated. How on earth can you integrate people if you have a totally open border? And yet citizenship, you ever noticed, all the discussion, the humanitarian crisis, trafficking, fentanyl, all that, no one mentions citizenship. The policies on the Southern border are literally suicidal for the republic.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: So these are simple things we can recover because there’s so much in the Old Testament about the covenantal way of living together freely.

Jim: Uh, we got through four of the seven. Let me just mention the other, uh, three quickly. Safeguarding against the abuse of freedom.

Dr. Guinness: Oh, that’s what I mentioned, freedom is the greatest enemy of freedom.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Guinness: So we gotta be very realistic.

Jim: And then, uh, righting the wrongs, restoring freedom when misused and abused.

Dr. Guinness: That’s incredib-

Jim: This is not happening.

Dr. Guinness: … incredibly important today.

Jim: It’s not… Do you think it-

Dr. Guinness: So-

Jim: It’s not happening today.

Dr. Guinness: No. And let me… If you look in the Old Testament, they’re given the covenant and they fall away immediately, the golden calf.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: So the day of atonement, Yom Kippur, was for a national sin. Now certainly, a covenant individual sins no doubt, but it was for a national sin. And I would say bluntly, here I am a European admirer, much of the church has made the cross spiritual and personal only. What does the cross atonement, Yom Kippur, mean for America’s past in terms of racism and slavery? I think you need national contrition.

Jim: And as Christians, we should be looking for those opportunities-

Dr. Guinness: Yeah.

Jim: … to correct those wrongs. Lastly, seven, passing on freedom from generation to generation. We’ve talked a bit about that, and that is the list of seven, but anything to add to the need and the necessity, uh, for parents particularly?

Dr. Guinness: W- people gotta realize the urgency of that, back to the dining table. I love that fact that Jews point out, what did Moses talk about the night of the Passover? Didn’t talk about freedom, he didn’t talk about the promise land, three times he talks about children, because what we pass on to our children is the key to identity and to continuity.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: And so you’re back to the dining table, (laughs) the family, this is you, Jim,-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Guinness: … the Focus on the Family, the family is the key to the American future. Without the family, there will be no freedom.

Jim: Yeah. And also, unfortunately, some elites in this country, and I think probably in Europe as well, see the family as a threat. I mean, we’re seeing that played out in public schools-

Dr. Guinness: Oh.

Jim: … where you have officials saying, “Hey, these kids don’t belong to you, they belong to us.” That’s scary.

Dr. Guinness: No, that is a key part of the French Revolution.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: If you go back, the sexual revolution came from the same quarter in Paris, the [Palaiseau?], that the political revolution came from. And one of their early ideas, you can see this in a writer like Wilhelm Reich who gave us the term the sexual revolution, he said quite clearly, “They have two enemies, the church and the family.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Guinness: And so, you know, 1900 they’re advocating sex education for three and four. Why? Sideline parents. In other words, that’s the issue of the day in our generation.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Guinness: But it goes all the way… Why weren’t we forewarned and forearmed? Now, as many people think all these things happen, Playboy, Hugh Hefner, the pill, the ’60s. No, no, they go right back to the French Revolution. So we gotta understand how they happened and what they’re after and stand firm. Families and parental responsibility are absolutely key. Of course, family’s are the key to life. (laughs)

Jim: Absolutely they are.

Dr. Guinness: And you can see how important that is in countries like China and many other countries.

Jim: Yeah. Os, in that regard, um, Tim Keller, he recently wrote a series of articles about the decline in America and, uh, the difficulty that we face as believers. But he also, uh, sparked a sense of optimism that we should be hopeful simply because of the promise of Jesus, that we don’t need to, uh, kind of become unglued, that God is in control, even though our circumstances may dictate difficulty. How about that idea of being people of hope?

Dr. Guinness: Well, always we should be people of hope, but we gotta say what is our hope based on?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Guinness: In other words, ultimately, when we read Revelation, and our hope is there in the Messiah and the messianic hope.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: Um, but I think we have other things we can be hopeful about. Put it like this, Jim, say Western civilization was to collapse next week, which it’s not, but say it is-

Jim: Okay, in two weeks.

Dr. Guinness: Two weeks.

Jim: (laughs) No.

Dr. Guinness: But then the global church is incredibly strong around the world.

Jim: Oh, it is, it really is.

Dr. Guinness: And by God’s grace, the global church would do what we in the West shamefully have not done. So there’s a hope there we need to see. But I would put another thing, we should be praying, and prayer is an incredibly important part of all this, for an awakening.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Guinness: If you look at England in 1730, the conditions were very similar to what led to the French Revolution in France. So some historians say that the first awakening, Whitfield, Wesley, Edwards and so on saved England from the French Revolution.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: Now, we don’t look to revolut-, uh, revival as a utilitarian way of saving us from decline, no, we want more of the Lord. But I say that because we are basically secular. Many Christians are functional atheists.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: And one of the most encouraging thing is the recovery of prayer and the realization that things are happening which we can’t do anything about. You know, I spoke, a congressman once said to me, “If there’s a flood, a small boy can put a finger in the dyke and be a hero.” The Dutch story.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Guinness: But he said, “I look at America and what I see is a mudslide. Who can do anything?” Well, there are aspects of what’s happening you can’t cure on Capitol Hill or anywhere in the country, even in our individual home, the Lord has to do it. And so I think our deepest thing, not to sit back, no, we gotta engage, but to be praying for revival.

Jim: Mm. Boy, it’s, it just resonates. And, and what else would God ask of us, right?

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And Frances Shaffer of course posed that great question, how should we then live? And I’ll pose it to you, uh, I mean, so we walk away from this, a listener or a viewer heard this, they’re really intrigued, they love your accent, (laughs)-

Dr. Guinness: No, I know.

Jim: … but how should we live in order to make this come about?

Dr. Guinness: Let me say a couple of things, Jim. The issue today in a civilizational crisis is ultimate reality. You look at all the stuff about the religious nuns leaving the church, all about church attendance, bible reading, all of that is the human side of, of religious behavior.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: What matters is the reality, do people know the Lord? “Show me your glory, the weightiness of who you are,” Moses prayed. The issue today is reality and ultimate reality, so we need Christians who will know the Lord and know why they know what they believe.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Guinness: The second thing is calling. Each of us in every sphere of our life, everyone, everywhere and everything, if there was a recovery of calling alone as a, a biblical truth, that would make more difference in America than all the Christian organizations put end to end.

Jim: So true.

Dr. Guinness: We are a majority in this country. You think of the influence of our friends, the Jews, who are tiny. We’re a huge majority and we’re uninfluential ’cause we’ve lost the biblical notion of calling. But then I mentioned prayer earlier, you know, my mentor, Peter Berger says, “We live in a world without windows.”

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: In the bible, and in most of the world and the traditional world, the unseen was not unreal, the unseen was more real than the real world. But in the modern world, the unseen is unreal, and that’s why prayer that cracks open the world without windows,-

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Guinness: … we need that, we need an awakening to crack it open.

Jim: So true. Let me ask you, uh, being here in Washington DC, w- one of the disconnects that I see is the influence of scripture on this town, this city, this district that was created. And then you look at the, the founding fathers with all of their, you know, weaknesses and sin, we get that, but they were incredibly devout people. Now, some will argue they were dius, but reading the bible and quoting the scripture was something they did quite regularly.

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And they referred to reliance upon that divine power. In fact, uh, George Washington kept a journal, and he wrote in the journal, uh, incredibly prayers. And I have one here, uh, a little journal entry that I’d love for you to read-

Dr. Guinness: Mm.

Jim: … if you’re willing. Because again, I think… And speak to that history that you know so well about our country, thank you, about that commitment that these people had to the foundation of this nation being built upon scriptural truth.

Dr. Guinness: Well, I was saying that the roots of America are in the Torah, Exodus and Deuteronomy. So 90% of Americans at the time of revolution came out of a reformation background. So it would be a privilege to read this.

Jim: Yeah, take, uh, an example, because I think, again, our illiteracy in the way that these men wrote and spoke is a detriment.

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Then… And we talk about separation of church and state, let’s hear what the founder, George Washington talked about.

Dr. Guinness: Yep. And this is taken from his prayer journal. “Oh mighty God and most merciful father, who commanded the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to you, that thereby they might glorify and praise you for your protection both night and day. Receive, oh Lord, my morning sacrifice, which I now offer up to you. A day which is consecrated to your own service and for your own honor. Let my heart therefore, gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it that I may not do my own works, but wait on you, and discharge those weighty duties you require of me.” He goes on to say, “My sins, remove them from your presence, as far as the East is from the West, and accept of me for the merits of your son Jesus Christ, that when I come into your temple, my prayers may come before you as incense. And as you would hear me calling upon you in my prayers, so give me grace to hear you calling on me in your word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country. Be our God and guide this day and forever, for his sake who lay down in the grave and rose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jim: Man, that’s George Washington’s prayer.

Dr. Guinness: Incredible, yeah.

Jim: What a journal.

Dr. Guinness: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And Os, what a way to end this. Thank you so much for your diligence in writing another great book about this country. And I so respect the way that you love this country, even though you were born in China, you’re, you know, from Europe, but, uh, you have really become a student of this experiment we call America.

Dr. Guinness: Yeah.

Jim: Thank you.

Dr. Guinness: You’re welcome, Jim. I’m a great admirer of this country. My wife is American, my son is half and half. (laughs)

Jim: (laughs) Half and half, that’s so good.

Dr. Guinness: So.

Jim: Thank you. Thank you for being with us.

Dr. Guinness: Thank you.

John: Dr. Os Guinness graciously allowed you, Jim, to, uh, record with him in his home in Virginia for this National Day of Prayer broadcast. That was quite a conversation.

Jim: And what was so good there, John, uh, is how Os encouraged us to remember to pray for our country and for our families, our homes. The bible says, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” So, continue praying for spiritual renewal and awakening in America. And I so appreciate Dr. Guinness’s simple reminder that the strength of the nation relies greatly on the health of the family. I believe that, and that’s why Focus on the Family exists, and I believe that’s why you support this ministry, is to be able to strengthen the family every way we can. And I wanna encourage you to get Dr. Guinness’s book, Zero Hour America. And with a gift of any amount of Focus on the Family to help us provide not only broadcasts or podcasts of this kind of content, but also to be directly engaged with these couples that need help in their marriage or parenting issues that they’re facing, to strengthen the family and reduce divorce, and hopefully help children, uh, come out of the home strong spiritually and strong in every way. So help us today.

John: Mm-hmm. Donate generously as you can and request that book by Dr. Os Guinness, Zero Hour America. Uh, you’ll also, online at our website find out about prayer events and getting involved in this, the National Day of Prayer. And the starting place is focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or give us a call, we’d be happy to tell you more over the phone. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.

Jim: And John, one more important note, uh, here at the close, if you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Os Guinness, we have more to share you in my new podcast, ReFOCUS with Jim Daly. I discuss some of the chaos we see around us here in America today, and kind of an attempt to destroy the country, in my opinion, and the need for each of us to lead our own communities well. Os reminds us that spiritual warfare is real, and if we’re gonna win hearts and minds in the culture, we’ll need to do it through love, respect and friendly persuasion. Uh, check out the podcast, ReFOCUS with Jim Daly to hear more.

John: And we’re really excited about that podcast. To learn more, the details are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.


Today's Guests

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Zero Hour America: History's Ultimatum Over Freedom and the Answer We Must Give

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