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.
Live from Music Row Monday 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 the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio who further illustrated why school choice is more important as critical race theory dominates government run school curriculum.
Leahy: In studio the original star panelist Crom Carmichael. Crom, during the break, we were talking a little bit about this new book from Os Guinness, the great writer, great Christian political philosopher. He’s the guy who came up with the concept that our country is based on the Golden Triangle of Freedom.
And that Golden Triangle is the following: Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom. And it’s an ongoing circle. That was the character of America when we were founded. The problem is that character is being assaulted in our schools every day. And particularly through critical race theory.
Carmichael: And being assaulted by the government every day in states across the country and cities across the country where they’re trying to make it almost impossible for somebody to go to church or so uncomfortable to go to church, that people don’t go to church. And I think that they are doing that. That’s intentional.
Leahy: Os Guinness has a new book out called The Magna Carta of Humanity. We’re trying to get them as a guest. I think we’ll get him as a guest in the future. And I’m going to try to get them on a day that you’re here Crom because I think you enjoy talking with him.
Carmichael: Sure. There are two or three articles that are all about education and as I was driving in I was listening to your interview of Gabrielle Clark.
Leahy: Right. The biracial mom whose child refused to comply with an assignment in which he was compelled to admit that he was an oppressor as a mostly white person.
Carmichael: Here’s what was interesting about listening to that interview. She says that we have to stand up and fight. It cost her $200,000.
Carmichael: If you go to a restaurant where your service is bad, you don’t need to go hire a lawyer. What do you do?
Leahy: You don’t leave a tip.
Carmichael: And you don’t go there anymore.
Leahy: You do a Yelp review.
Carmichael: And you don’t go there anymore. But the reason that she has to stand up and fight is she’s being forced. Her child is being forced to go to a particular school and to have a particular curriculum with which she disagrees. And this is what’s fundamentally wrong with our educational system.
We don’t have a choice. And if you had school choice and then the kids who attend the charter schools here in Nashville on balance do much better than the kids who go to what I’m going to call the regular government-run schools.
Our magnet schools may be pretty good, but our magnet schools operate actually more even like private schools because the charter schools can’t be selective and of who gets to go there. The magnet schools get to be selective on who gets to go there, and they get to be really selective on who gets to stay there. But in California.
Leahy: Uh oh. I know this is going to be a crazy story already. I don’t know what the story is.
Carmichael: It’s a sad story. California had gone for a number of years where they had worked seriously at improving the math skills of students who attended the government-run schools in California. At one time, I’m quoting from the article here in The Wall Street Journal.
‘At one time, California took the goal seriously and made immense progress. California Department of Education data shows that while only 16 percent of students took algebra by the eighth grade in 1999 by 2013, it was 67 percent. Almost four times as many.
Leahy: That’s surprising that they made progress from 1999-2013. That’s interesting.
Carmichael: But then that’s when things started to unravel across the state. And so they also had gifted classes, kind of like AP classes. And now they want to do away with all those because they’re claiming they’re racist.
And you have the schools for the gifted which they are strongly considering doing away with completely. And then changing the math curriculum so that it is almost impossible to fail (Leahy laughs) because they’re actually claiming that math is not something that needs to necessarily be specific.
Leahy: Try building a car with a non-specific specialization.
Carmichael: What’s Caltech going to do if kids coming out of high school are not proficient. Even the top ones are not proficient.
People who have the money to attend private schools their children are going to have an opportunity that the children who are going to the government and schools don’t have. And this is along those same lines. It’s not academically, but it’s about a school board. This is in Monroe County, Indiana.
Leahy: Monroe County, Indiana?
Carmichael: The school board passed a resolution that says that the school resource officers cannot carry a gun.
Leahy: What are they supposed to do, just point their fingers?
Carmichael: That’s a great question because one person said there’s no evidence ever that a resource officer ever had to use their gun.
Leahy: If you have a gun you may not need to use it.
Carmichael: As it turns out, that statement itself is false. And so there are instances where the resource officer had to use his gun to disarm a student that was identified as having a gun. But if nobody in the school is going to have security, that flies in the face of logic, because every place else where security matters. If you want to go into the Nashville courthouse, don’t you have to pass through security? Aren’t the security people armed? Yes.
Carmichael: Please go ahead.
Leahy: Would you like to hear the rest of the story?
Leahy: Guess where Monroe County is.
Leahy: Bloomington. Home of the University of Indiana.
Leahy: Explains it all.
Leahy: These are all probably a bunch of college professors on the board.
Carmichael: Could could be.
Leahy: Good news. Our listeners have been listening for, like, two and a half hours to get the first bit of good news.
Carmichael: No, we’ve had some other good news that we’ve talked about. But this is good news. In the state of Florida, a teacher was fired for not honoring the ban on teaching critical race theory. This teacher just ignored the ban and kept teaching it and enforcing it. And bam!
Carmichael: Gone. Got fired.
Leahy: Governor DeSantis is not fooling around.
Carmichael: If the CEO of a company puts out an edit, that is a logical edict and lawful and some employee essentially gives the CEO the middle finger…
Leahy: Boom! They’re gone.
Carmichael: And nobody questions it.
Leahy: Now, let me tell you what the potential difference may be here in Tennessee. We have a state law that the bill that the General Assembly has passed that would prohibit, in essence, the teaching of critical race. There. 14 tenants. Sources tell me that Governor Lee will sign that bill.
We’ll find out. There’s some time to see on that. But if it becomes law, it has a certain provision in it. And that provision says that if a school district continues to teach critical race theory, the Commissioner of Education has the authority to withhold state funds from them.
Something is about to be set up because our lead story at The Tennessee Star is Memphis City Council adopts a resolution opposing state band on critical race theory. So Memphis and Shelby County schools, I can tell you right now if the governor signs this bill, they will defy it.
Carmichael: Let me ask you a question. You said two things there. You said Memphis and Shelby County.
Carmichael: Will they both, or will it be just the Memphis schools?
Leahy: This is from the City Council.
Carmichael: Memphis is in Shelby County.
Leahy: But it’s separate.
Carmichael: But there’s a lot of Shelby County that’s not Memphis.
Leahy: There’s a similar resolution before Shelby County. And sources tell me that it’s likely to pass. Memphis in Shelby County, I think, will be on the Shelby County and school directors already said I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna stop teaching critical.
Carmichael: Then the Commissioner can do what?
Leahy: Under the bill, the Commissioner will have the authority to do withhold state funds from Shelby County schools.
Carmichael: And that’s it. They can’t fire them?
Leahy: They can’t fire, but they can withhold state funds, which, in essence, would cripple the schools. Asterisk, many people are worried about Penny Schwinn. Many people are worried that she will not enforce that rule and that the Shelby County schools are going to say we’re going to teach it anywhere anyway. We’ll see how that turns out.
Carmichael: If they stick their finger in her eye we’ll see if she blinks. (Laughs)
Leahy: Yeah, I think she’ll blink. But we’ll see. Maybe give her the benefit of the doubt until it happens.
Carmichael: Absolutely we should do that.
Leahy: You are much nicer than I am.
Listen to the full show 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 “Crom Carmichael” by Crom Carmichael.