The Search for God and Guinness

October 11, 2009

activism / books / business

Through the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers program, I got to read The Search for God and Guinness, by Stephen Mansfield. I love Guinness – a well-poured Guinness in a bar with a friend is one of my favorite things, so I was excited to read this.

The book discusses the history of Arthur Guinness, his beer, and his descendants – especially the line that managed the brewery until 1986, and the other line that lived in ministry and missionary work, both in Ireland, England, and China. So really, it looks for God in the story of Guinness, and it does a great job. It tells fascinating stories of the social good that the wealth of the company accomplished for its own employees, the city of Dublin, and the British Isles, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Parts of the book trace stories of people connected to the Guinnesses or the company and are hard to follow, but overall the story flows well and is one of the most inspiring examples of capitalism – serving, and in many cases living among, the poor and downtrodden as well as its own employees and neighbors – that I have ever seen.

This should give us hope for a sustainable capitalism that is not consumed by prosperity at any cost, but seeks to take care of its neighbor and do good for the world, even while selling and marketing a product that people really love. This is not to say that there are not problems in the Guinness history, and the book doesn’t gloss over these and there are, at times, disagreements that I have with the author’s views, or the characters’ views, on society or things of God.

But I want to strongly recommend the book to anyone who loves a good pint of Guinness, and also anyone who wants to see an example of this kind of company, that at times reaches into outlandish territory in serving the world.