Review of Stephen Mansfield’s The Search for God and Guinness

“[Guinness] did not drain a man and then expect the church or the state to rebuild him again. They invested… They did this because it was the right thing to do, yes, but also because it made their firm more successful than those who did not understand this vital kind of investment.”

Coming from a teetotaler upbringing and culture where any alcoholic beverage was a terrible evil and it was wrong to imbibe; and also from a family (both sides) where alcoholism is/was part of its fiber, I approached this book with a mixture of fear and interest in the subject of how a family, with strong evangelical leanings, could make beer and create a cultural and corporate climate of holistic caring and missionary impact. I was pleasantly surprised and… pleased with the result.

While Mansfield traces the history and development of beer in this book, this book is really about one family, who happened to brew beer in response to the terrible social and health climate of their native country of Ireland. And, it was done as an expression of their Christian faith and the compassion for their employees and countrymen who needed a healthy drink to save their life from poor water and hard liquor.

The Search for God and Guinness is not a book about beer, per se, but about a company (really a family) who, as the first paragraph of this review indicates, invested in its employees to improve their welfare and station in life. It is a book about the kind of corporate development and citizenship that needs to be again practiced in our time and place. This is a book about business, faith, values, and corporate responsibility.

Even in tone and appropriately broad in scope (you learn, for instance, about the origin of the Guinness Book of World Records), The Search for God and Guinness takes the reader on an historical, religious, and social journey from the 18th century to the present with this Dublin family. A family, whose devout faith and strong social conscience creates not just a company, but a culture of empowerment and compassion. Mansfield, with respect and dignity for each member, introduces us to the diverse personalities of the Guinness’ family down through the years. Some of them worked in the family business; others become a part of the Christian Church and mission that swept the world in the late 1800’s but also supported those who became legendary missionaries. Others distinguished themselves in business and politics.

A key theme to the book is the Guinness belief that work is more than a way to earn money. Work, the reader is told, is about honoring God in the day-to-day life of living and has immense spiritual implications.

Instructive and inspiring, The Search for God and Guinness, is a book that reminds us that work and business is about more than profits and bail outs. It is also about values and empowerment for people who work… everyday.

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