A heartfelt and perceptive analysis of what Guinness (Visiting Fellow/The Brookings Institute; The Gravedigger File, 1983, etc.- -not reviewed) sees as the cultural crisis facing America today. Americans, says Guinness, view their country as much as a sacred creed as a physical place--but this creed, he contends, is dividing the nation much as slavery divided it during the Civil War. ``At a certain point,'' Guinness says, ``the dissolution of faith's authority and disappearance of any positive force for truth and goodness turns into a high-density, negative, and devouring force for evil--in short, nihilism.'' The author outlines the breakdown during the 60's of the previous decade's cultural consensus, and the reaction to this breakdown--selfishness and unproductive greed--during the 70's and 80's, calling for a reforged covenant, ``a modern form of `federal liberty' that combines the best, and avoids the worst, of the libertarian and communitarian visions.'' Guinness's blend of erudition--he quotes sources from Paul ValÇry to The Congressional Record--and insight are thought-provoking: He suggests, for instance, that the radicalism of the 60's was not so much a reaction to conservatism as a response to the failure and illusions of mainstream liberalism. Guinness vividly portrays the anomic state of the nation today and projects the future role of religion. But ``this is not a how-to book,'' he notes. Quite so: His brief prescriptive remarks, gathered under the rubrics of ``remembrance,'' ``repentance,'' ``resolution,'' ``responsibility,'' and ``realism,'' are unconvincing. At best, a sophisticated analysis of a very real crisis, and an earnest plea for America to face some home truths; at worst, an experience akin to suffering from the blur of a 350-page Op-Ed piece.