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Author Os Guinness speaks at Warner Memorial Library

Last Thursday evening, February 17, Eastern University had the privilege of hosting author and intellectual Dr. Os Guinness. Students, faculty and members of the community gathered in the Warner Library Atrium to hear his lecture and engage in conversation. The event was co-hosted by the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, the Office of Student Development and the Templeton Honors College.

Great-grandson of the famous brewer, Guinness was born in China to missionary parents. He lived there until 1951, when communists forced many foreigners to leave. Guinness attended the University of London for undergraduate studies and completed graduate work at Oxford University where he received his Doctorate in Philosophy.

In the brilliant scholarly career that has followed, Guinness has written and edited over 25 books and has been awarded a number of fellowships and scholarships.

The lecture was entitled “A World Safe for Diversity: Living with our Deepest Differences in an Age of Pluralism.” It addressed the issues of globalization and the immensity of the public square, what these mean for civic society and what we should do about the situation.

Guinness’s lecture was based on the concept of globalization: the increasing interconnectedness of the world. An everyday phenomenon for most people, this situation has been brought about largely by advances in transportation and communication technologies, as well as by corporate and governmental policies.

As Guinness pointed out, globalization has allowed people with deep differences to live in a conglomerate society, leading to cultural wars between religious groups and secularism. In the midst of these battles, it has become necessary to provide a framework in which people are free to think and exercise their freedoms of religion, speech and conscience. This same framework should also promote public discourse in an effort to head these wars off at their source.

According to Guinness, the so-called American experiment is a good hunting ground for solutions to this problem. Although the Founding Fathers did not get everything right, he says, they certainly did advocate for civility in the public square. This concept has been either misunderstood or poorly carried out by many members of society today.

Guinness’s most recent book, “The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends On It,” addresses these issues. It tells the story of a world torn by religious extremism on one hand, and by strident secularism on the other.

Guinness is currently a Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum and will be teaching at the graduate level at Oxford University this fall. He looks forward to travelling throughout Europe.

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