Os Guinness: Liberals and Conservatives Are Getting Religious Freedom Wrong
You cite several contemporary challenges to soul freedom, including the growing tension between the rival claims of religious liberty and sexual equality. How does a commitment to soul freedom help citizens navigate that tricky terrain?
Homosexual rights are now an established civil right in much of the West. But a civil right (which is conferred by some society) should never trump a human right like religious liberty (which is inherent in human nature). When that happens, the effect is to undermine all rights altogether, and turn politics into a mere power struggle. Not all homosexual activists have made this mistake, but those who do have fallen for one of the oldest pitfalls in the advance of human rights—the way in which (to put it in Roger Williams's terms again) those who were once "under the hatches" of the ship of state behave differently when they are "at the helm." The alternative way forward, when rights clash as they do now, is to seek for "reasonable accommodation" of differing rights, a very different procedure than the zero-sum policy currently being pursued.
Your subtitle ("Religious freedom and the making of a world safe for diversity") is a play on Woodrow Wilson's call to make the world "safe for democracy." Wilson is often accused of utopianism. Is making the world safe for diversity just another form of utopianism?
Such are the oppressions and convulsions around the world, and the polarization and gridlock in Washington, D.C., that any constructive proposal can be dismissed cheaply as utopian! That said, where would the U.S. be if such founders as James Madison had not learned from the 1,500 years of bad European precedents and dared to find a new way of relating religion and public life? But I am no Pollyanna. The global conflicts and bloodshed are tragic, Europe's commitment is floundering, the U.S. is carelessly throwing away its heritage, and there are no statesmanlike leaders addressing the issues, whether in the U.S. or anywhere.
The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Any assessment of where we are now would have to be very sober. In the present political climate, we could not even pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Marxist nations would oppose it from one side and Muslim nations from the other, and the Western world has lost the urgency and the moral authority it had in 1948, when the Declaration was drafted after the defeat of the Nazis. But my goal in the book is to be hopeful as well as realistic.