Author of the Magna Carta of Humanity Os Guinness Talks Facing Marxism and Escaping Mao’s China

Author of the Magna Carta of Humanity Os Guinness Talks Facing Marxism and Escaping Mao’s China


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Os Guinness to the newsmaker line to discuss cultural Marxism in America today, the stifling of free speech, and surviving Communist China with his parents during World War II.

Leahy: On our newsmaker line, the great Os Guinness, author of The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom.

Let me just read the summary of your book and then get your comment. And Crom Carmichael, who’s a great scholar and reader of history, will also want to comment.

He’s been following the French Revolution, some of the leading books on that of late. We’ve been talking about that, Os. Here’s the summary of your book:

In these stormy times, loud voices from all fronts call for revolution and change. But what kind of revolution brings true freedom to both society and the human soul?

Cultural observer Os Guinness explores the nature of revolutionary faith, contrasting secular revolutions such as the French Revolution and the faith-led revolution of ancient Israel.

He argues that the story of Exodus is the highest, richest, and deepest vision for freedom in human history. It sounds to me as like you’re not a fan of the French Revolution.

Guinness: To put it mildly, to put it mildly. But as you look at what’s flowed out from the French Revolution, people immediately think of Communism.

And that, of course, is classical Marxism. But what we’re facing is not classical Marxism, but neo or cultural Marxism, which comes from Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s.

And it comes to us in the form of postmodernism and political correctness and tribal politics and the Sexual Revolution and so on. And that is what is really endangering the American Revolution today at its best.

Leahy: Crom Carmichael: You have a question for Os.

Carmichael: I was listening to the interview as I was driving in. It was a fascinating, fascinating interview. There was a basis or a way for you in the 60s and the 70s to form the opinions that you’re expressing today.

Do those places or institutions exist today? Are there places for the next generation who thinks, as you do? Are there places for them to learn?

Guinness: Well, that’s a great question. Marxism in the 60s was when hearts and minds were running deep and people were wrestling with issues.

So there was hitchhiking at the crossroads. People would be hitching a lift and reading Nietzche or Siddhartha or C.S. Lewis and passing books around and talking, talking, talking, debating, debating, debating.

And that’s gone. That’s sadly gone now. Obviously, I’m a follower of Jesus, and I hope there should be always those who are thinking like that.

Sadly, that’s much rarer in our day. So you’re right. Much of it is gone. And then, of course, in the culture, we have things like political correctness and the cancel culture, which is stifling free speech.

And this is extremely dangerous, especially coming from the Big Tech companies and so on. We want to keep alive the freedom of thinking.

Carmichael: Do you think all the stifling that is going on and that has been growing over the last 20 years, is there a particular source of that?

For example, I’ll give you a thesis that I think is accurate. But I’d be interested in your opinion. And that is I believe that the Communist Chinese Party is a society that is the opposite of the American society as it was originally constituted and described in the Declaration of Independence.

And I believe that the Communist Chinese Party has been spending tens of billions of dollars insinuating themselves in our academic, cultural institutions, political institutions, and business institutions and has been doing that for 20 years. They have been very purposeful in their investments.

Guinness: No, you’re exactly right. But the point is that all authoritarianism squelches the freedom to think and diversity of opinion.

So you’re right. Chinese Communism. But you look at radical Islamism in the Middle East – say, the blasphemy law in Pakistan used to squelch Christian belief.

Or you look sadly at even Christian authoritarianism in the Middle Ages. The notion that error has no rights. Those are terrible ideas, whether they’re Christian or Muslim or Communist or whatever.

So all of us who love freedom, and certainly Christians should, we should be standing for a diversity of opinion and for freedom and debate.

Leahy: You were born to missionaries in China around 1940 or so.  And you were nine years old during the Chinese Mao Revolution. How did that impact you and your view of the world?

Guinness: Well, I grew up in World War II. Before we lived in the capital Nanking we lived in a part of the country where we are surrounded by a Japanese Army who killed 17 million in their invasion.

The Communists on one side and the Nationalists on the other. And we were caught in a famine in which 5 million died in three months, including my two brothers.

So I was brought up with incredible realism, with death, and violence all around. And then saw the Chinese Revolution and the beginning of the reign of terror.

As soon as Lin Bao and his troops came in, loudspeakers were put up. Trials in the morning, executions in the afternoon. Fear was everywhere.

Children reported against their parents and parents informed against their children. The fear was extraordinary. I was aware of Marxism from a very early age, and I will never be naive.

But many Americans have no first-hand experience of it, either in Eastern Europe or in China. And they’re incredibly naive. And in the name of justice, falsely understood. Many people have drunk the cool-aid.

Carmichael: Have you written a book about those experiences?

Guinness: Well, not really. I’ve actually written for my son but not for the wider public.

Leahy: Can I encourage you to write that book? Tell me about your brothers and their deaths. Did they starve to death? How did they die?

Guinness: Well, they died of dysentery because of the famine. But there was cannibalism and people selling their children for an evening meal.

Couples would embrace in the fields and die in each other’s arms. My mother was a surgeon, but there was no medicine and next to no food.

And it was a dreadful time. I nearly died. My mother nearly died. We eventually got out, and we were able to get out and cross the mountains to India.

Leahy: How did you get out?

Guinness: Well, the first part, my parents walked, and they put me in a handmade cart with former bicycle wheels and so on.

You know the Chinese are rather superstitious about Western doctors. And so I go to her and said, can I come with you? Because I believe I’d be safer with my mother, the great doctor.

And so I survived just on the meager milk of a nearly starved goat that came trembling along with us. But we were part of a refugee stream of 10 million people on the road.

Far worse than anything that you’ve seen in Syria or whatever recently. Ten million people on the road looking for food. And my parents walked through that, and eventually, we made it out.

Leahy: How did you emotionally – and your mom and dad – survive the death of your two brothers?

Guinness: Well, you know, in all those years with the famine, the death of my two brothers – and my grandfather’s buried in China, too – and then the revolution.

And my dad would say to me, God is greater than all, he can be trusted in all situations, have faith in God, have no fear. And I never saw them with anything but a very quiet trust in the Lord.

And my dad was accused falsely by the Communists and a trial that came to nothing because the witnesses couldn’t agree. It was all trumped up and they were eventually allowed to get out.

It was a really terrifying time, in a way, but I never saw them with anything but a quiet trust in the Lord. As Americans, let me put it bluntly, we’ve been rather spoiled. We’ve had it so good for so long.

Carmichael: Other than the books you have written, what books would you recommend to our audience? What are your top three books, setting aside the Bible?

Guinness: Oh my word. This particular book is dedicated to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, his commentaries on the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the (Inaudible talk) are absolutely brilliant.

And the one on Exodus is called Covenant & Conversation Exodus: The Book of Redemption. It is the best understanding of freedom and what gave rise to the American experiment that I’ve ever read anywhere. So that’s one book I’d recommend.

But normally I recommend books after talking to people because a book one year means nothing and the next year it can change your whole life. And so you need to recommend books in terms of where people are on their journey.

Leahy: Let me close our interview with this. Let me encourage you to write a book about your time in China and your escape with your parents from China. I will buy it.

Guinness: That’s very kind of you.

Leahy: People will buy it.

Guinness: Thank you.

Leahy: What a great privilege and an honor. Thank you. Come back again soon, please.

Guinness: Anytime you want. But thanks so much. A real privilege.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Os Guinness” by Os Guinness. 

















Great Thinker and Author Os Guinness Shares His Past and Sustaining Freedom in America

Great Thinker and Author Os Guinness Shares His Past and Sustaining Freedom in America


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed author and thinker Os Guinness to the newsmaker line to talk about what shaped his world view, being part of the L’Abri Community in the 60s, and his admiration for America.

Leahy: And now I’ve been waiting for this interview for years. For about four years. I’ve been waiting to interview this man, a great man, Os Guinness.

Author of The Concept of the Golden Triangle of Freedom and many books. Welcome to the newsmaker line, Os.

Guinness: Well, thanks for having me. It’s a great privilege.

Leahy: I have followed your work, and I have to say you’re one of the greatest thinkers on the American scene today. Reminiscent in my view of the great Alexis de Tocqueville. So my hats off to you for a lifetime of great work.

Guinness: Thank you. That’s a great compliment. I’m unworthy of that one. But a pleasure to be with you.

Leahy: I wrote a book guide to the Constitution and Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students, which we use for our annual National Constitution Bee kind of a Spelling Bee where we give educational scholarships to the winners of secondary school students.

I just want to read from this part of our book:

As Ronald Reagan famously said, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. The founders knew this. And recently, a Chinese-born English scholar who resides in America expressed in very simple terms how freedom is gained.

Why it relies on the virtue of the population and how that virtue is a natural extension of faith.

Faith requires freedom or constitutional liberty to thrive and prosper. How did you come up with the concept of the Golden Triangle of freedom, Os?

Guinness: Well, let me go back a bit. The American experiment is unique in history as free-ordered freedom. And growing up in a Communist country and seeing what the Soviet regimes did in Eastern Europe, I’ve always had an incredible appreciation of the uniqueness of the American experiment.

And yet today many Americans are ignorant of it. So the Golden Triangle came out of talks in Washington. I was trying to show how the challenge not just winning freedom, the revolution or ordering freedom, the Constitution, that’s done.

The challenge today is sustaining freedom. And as you look at the framers’ understanding of that, the Golden Triangle was their answer.

That was the only way you could sustain freedom. Now, my current book actually looks much deeper than that, because you can see the deep divisions in this country now.

And I would argue many people don’t see the depth of them. There is really a difference in those who understand America and freedom from the perspective of the American Revolution, which was rooted through the Reformation in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures.

And those who understand American freedom from the perspective of the errors of the French Revolution. Now, the French Revolution says they have always produced oppression.

They have never worked. And yet you can see the inroads in this country. So we are at an extraordinary civilization national moment in America.

Leahy: Are you optimistic, or are you pessimistic about our future, Os?

Guinness: I would say that I’m hopeful but realistic. Optimism is often circumstantial. Are you bullish or bearish. It’s a glass half full or half empty.

And I don’t think that’s the point. We got to look at the facts in the white of the eye, and they are sobering today. And yet always with hope. And one of the things we need is leadership.

I don’t just mean at the very top level, but certainly at that level, people with vision and enterprise and initiative who can address the big issues in call America back to its best. So I’m hopeful.

Leahy: What would be an example of somebody out there using the kind of leadership that you see we need? Perhaps reminiscent of the leadership of the Founding Fathers.

Is there anybody out there at a local or national or even state level that you can think of who is a good example of leadership?

Guinness: Well, all too few are at the very highest level. You take the former president who talked about Make America Great Again, or the current president talks to restore the soul of America.

Neither of them says what made America great in the first place. In other words, we need leaders on the order of Madison and Hamilton and so on.

You think of the Federalist Papers, that incredible understanding of the system they were devising. And if people want to return, we can’t just ad hoc and politicize everything in today’s issues.

We’ve got to have people who think deeply and widely and richly. And the book ends of history. If you look over, all of history is anarchy on one extreme.

All freedom, no order. And authoritarianism of the other extreme, all order, no freedom. And the American experiment was once magnificent:

Ordered freedom in the middle. That’s what’s being lost. So we got to see what’s last and how to repair it. You can go into specifics.

Leahy: Let me ask you this Os, how significant has your Christian faith been in the development of your political philosophy? And in particular, I want to talk about your experience with Francis Schaeffer and the L’Abri Community.

Many of our listeners have never heard of the L’Abri Community. I’ve been fascinated by it. Tell us about your experience with Francis Schaeffer, I guess, back in the 70s?

Guinness: It was the 60s for me. It was a small community study center. But their purpose was to always give honest answers to honest questions.

So while there was a Christian community, there was always 40 to 50 percent of people who seekers on the road to the East or radicals protesting Vietnam or acid heads or whatever.

We had Timothy Leary come there, gang members, and so on. It was a fascinating place.

Leahy: Where exactly was it now, Os?

Guinness: A little village in Switzerland, in Huémoz just below the ski resort of Vrindaban. So that was what gave me my sense:

You can think about anything and everything as a Christian and think it through Christianity. And, of course, that is what’s behind coming over. I’m not American. I’m a great admirer of this country.

Deeply challenged and sometimes angry. Sometimes sorrowful of the way Americans are suppressing and squandering this great heritage of ordered freedom.

Leahy: What kind of guy was Francis Schaeffer – because he was the leader of this L’Abri Community. And I guess, how did you come to participate in it?

Guinness: Well, I was a student at London then. I was at Oxford later. And we had tremendous teaching. But even a Christian teaching – rich, deep blocks of theology – but no understanding of the culture.

And when I met Francis Schaeffer, here was this unusual little man with a goatee and Swiss knickerbockers and so on. But he connected all the dots and showed how the films and the novels and the philosophy and all of it fit together.

And so he was the one who taught me to think freely about everything as a Christian. Thinking Christianity.

Leahy: Here’s something about your personal story that’s quite fascinating to me. So you are here. You’re an academic. And at this L’Abri Community in Switzerland, you meet a person who would not necessarily be somebody connected to an academic who was born in China and the son of Christian missionaries. You meet a beautiful international model. Tell us about that story. It’s a fabulous love story.

Guinness: Well, I was very privileged. Jenny had been a fashion model in New York on the front cover of Vogue and Ladies Home Journal and many, many magazines.

And through the emptiness and hollowness, she was engaged to a French Baron. Her own age. 21. Very wealthy and handsome. And they were friends with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

And people like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. And one night, they were at an extraordinary fancy dress party in Paris – Salvador Dali had his pet Cheetah.

And it had a gold color and so on. It had been declawed, defanged, and everything, she said. And as she was looking at this, suddenly it seemed a caricature of everything it was created to be.

And then she said, my goodness. So are we. It was as if the floor opened up, and she was looking into an abyss. And she said to her fiance, I’ve got to search for the meaning of life.

She had grown up in an atheist family. And after a year or so of searching, she came to faith. Fortunately for me, she broke her engagement.

And we met later when she came to study at the L’Abri Community in Switzerland. So, enormous privilege. And she’s actually writing a story now.

Leahy: When we come back, we’ll have more with the great Os Guinness.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Os Guinness” by Praxis Circle.