In an age of moral outrage and endless Twitter war, a more refreshing and hopeful vision of America’s future is a rare and welcome blessing.
A new book, “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation,” by Timothy Goeglein and Craig Osten is just such a blessing, and it comes at an opportune time, having just celebrated our nation’s founding.
A History Channel TV series—also coincidentally called “American Restoration”—tells stories of antique-restoration experts from across the country “as they not only restore pieces of America’s history, but create new and awe-inspiring works from vintage items.”
In much the same way as these antique hunters apply their craft to uncover the underlying beauty of pieces from our cultural past, Goeglein and Osten reintroduce readers to the treasures—some all but buried—of self-governance, civil society, and personal virtue that our Founders left us, presenting these treasures in their original brilliance with a bright finish for tomorrow’s retelling.
While the authors don’t completely avoid “back in the good old days” sentimentality, they do openly acknowledge and lament the sins of our country’s history, many that linger still today.
This balance allows two deeply patriotic men, who rightly see our country as a force for good, to urge readers to look ahead, rather than behind, and to re-embrace the ideas that have sustained history’s longest-surviving experiment in liberty without being shackled to a sanitized retelling of our past.
Each succinct chapter offers a panoramic flyover of some of the crucial cultural, political, and spiritual issues facing our country.
Most of the warnings are familiar—about dwindling respect for religious freedom, free speech, and the sanctity of life, along with a crumbling education system and an unraveling of America’s Judeo-Christian consensus—but are foundational in understanding what problems the authors mean to help us solve and how.
The strength that sets “American Restoration” apart from other offerings in the genre is its simple and practical advice. Instead of a garment-rending rehearsal of all that ails us, the authors instead elegantly and accessibly identify big problems and guide the reader to “own” their part in the American restoration.
Recalling former House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill’s famous maxim that “all politics are local,” the authors insist that all politics are really, really local.
While they do believe that massive structural, spiritual, and cultural change is needed, Goeglein and Osten appeal to the reader to start from the inside, to inculcate virtue and character in the home with one’s own family, to love and fellowship with one’s neighbors, and to perform acts of service and mercy in one’s community.
Instead of a revolution that razes existing institutions from the top down, the authors envision a restoration that raises future generations to make change for good from the bottom up.
The authors offer numerous examples of Americans who have transformed their esteem for our republic into actions intended to “keep it”—some quietly in their communities in small ways and some at great personal and professional risk on the national stage.
The authors themselves take some risks, as their proposed remedies are truly countercultural.
They warn that radical individualism and demands for the customization of everything will not create a nation of contented citizens who have gotten exactly what they want. They argue that this continued trend fosters greater division and feeds contempt for those outside the “tribe.”
To say in a most narcissistic age that self-fulfillment is not the ultimate end, but rather a toxic pursuit, may be a new and dangerous idea for a generation brought up on the idea that its every thirst must be slaked—and now.
Goeglein and Osten urge readers to look inside themselves not to inquire of their appetites, but to subordinate them in favor of seeking good for their neighbors. We should restore virtue. We should even raise our boys to be gentlemen.
“Virtuous people are those who have learned to put the needs of others above their own, while moderating their behavior in a manner that keeps them from making poor moral choices that would not only negatively impact them, but would impact society as a whole,” they write.
Virtuous people, the authors say, are the key to inaugurating the restoration of community, cohered by the “little platoons” represented by strong families.
And this is where the authors say that Christians should play a leading role.
Regular attendees of biblically orthodox churches have not abandoned the model of family life that nurtures virtue.
Additionally, churches represent some of the last remaining strong community-centric institutions. So, churches and their members have a special responsibility to reintroduce these blessings to a hurting world that desperately needs such a witness.
In the final analysis, “American Restoration” is so hopeful because the authors’ “it starts with you” advice for cumulative cultural change at the most local level is so doable.
And if enough Americans in their homes, churches, communities, and civic organizations make it their mission to reignite the spirit that made our nation that “shining city on the hill,” Goeglein and Osten are optimistic that we will indeed see an American restoration.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal