Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
The Global Public Square
Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity
By Os Guinness

Book Excerpt

The Crunch Generation

"If you could be born in any generation other than your own, which would you choose?" I was first asked that question at Stanford University, and I hesitated before replying. What did the questioner have in mind? My family is Irish, but I was born in China and spent my first ten years there, and since then I have lived in Europe and North America and visited many other parts of the world in both hemispheres. Possible responses flashed through my mind, ranging from the Athens of Pericles to the Rome of the Emperor Hadrian, to the China of the Tang or Ming dynasties, to the Florence of Lorenzo de' Medici, to the America of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison, and the England of

William Pitt and William Wilberforce. But almost instantly I knew my answer before I had time to debate these other periods.

"Your generation," I said. "I would like to be a member of your generation because in your lifetime you will witness some of the most crucial years humanity has ever navigated."

The present generation now rising to its early adulthood across the earth can

be described as "the crunch generation" because of the present state of the global era and the many crucial issues converging to challenge humankind. In his last speech to the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill asked the question "What if God tires of the human race?" He was referring to the apocalyptic possibilities of the nuclear issue in the 1960s. Today, a generation later, a wide raft of issues—economic, technological, demographic, social, political, medical, environmental, as well as nuclear—is crowding in to menace the horizons of the world that is almost at the door.

If the coming generation answers these issues responsibly and well, the world can look forward to calmer sailing. But if they are answered badly or not at all, the prospects for the future and for the future of humankind are turbulent.

What then do we face? An inspiring new era for global humanity, a new dark age for the earth or a period of muddling through that lies somewhere in between? Only God knows the answer. Futurism is a murky science that often pretends to know far more than it does, but there are certain issues and certain problems that are clear beyond dispute. This book is about one of the biggest of them, the challenge facing all of us as the earth's now billions of citizens: Soul freedom for all and its answer to how are we to maximize freedom and justice and learn to live with our deepest differences, especially when those differences are religious and ideological—and in particular the answer to how are we to negotiate those differences in public life, and so create a global public square that is worthy of our heritage as members of free and open societies.

From chapter one, "The Golden Key: Soul Freedom for All"