At this moment in history, let’s remind ourselves of all we stand to lose if we turn away from tradition and the profound ideas that made the American experiment so successful. Mike Huckabee and Steve Feazel’s new book, “The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism, and the Constitution,” does this for us.
Mike Huckabee is a Christian minister and a political commentator who served as governor of Arkansas. He was also twice a Republican presidential candidate. Steve Feazel, a retired ordained minister, has produced three award-winning, faith-based documentaries.
“The Three Cs” is a thoroughly researched book, with so much information that I recommend not rushing through it. Read each section separately to allow time to absorb what is said.
Christian Heritage and Religious Liberty
The authors feel that America’s greatness rests with its deep relationship with God. The morality of America’s Christian heritage significantly influenced every aspect of colonial life and was at the heart of many of the laws beginning in the colonial days and continuing to today.
Other nations have looked to America as a beacon of hope, the authors remind us. Examples include the French during World War II, the Holocaust survivors when our troops freed them from Hitler’s death camps, and today as people all over the world await a lifesaving drug to be created in the United States for COVID-19.
In covering how Christianity developed in the colonies, the authors focus on the religious fervor of early colonists, the charters of the different colonies, the religious ideas of the Founders, and so much more. We may have a general idea of religious life in the colonies, but reading the rich details included here leads to greater understanding of ideas we have today.
The authors contrast how Christianity was practiced in the old country with how it was practiced in the colonies. In Europe, the idea persisted that all people’s religious beliefs must be the same, and this led to religious persecution for all those whose beliefs differed. Because of this, many of the colonists sought to establish their own unique relationship to God by escaping from Europe’s tumultuous political climate. They were willing to risk everything for this freedom.
In thinking about our laws regarding religion today, the authors stress the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause was not written to diminish Christianity’s influence, but only to make sure that one denomination would not be favored over another. This was quite different from the way it was done in Europe, where there had been official state churches.
Many believe that separation of church and state is stated in the Constitution. It is not, the authors remind us. What is meant by that phrase is not that religion cannot be a part of government but that government cannot encroach into religion.
The authors conclude this section by saying that religious freedom is being chipped away one small bit at a time. Readers will likely agree, as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. does; he recently echoed this thought when he said, “In certain quarters religious liberty has fast become a disfavored right.”
At the heart of establishing the colonies was capitalism. The settlers were escaping feudalism, common throughout Europe, where the king owned and dispensed land to his nobles, who in return gave the king political security. Peasant farmers worked on the noblemen’s estates but did not own the land. Land was the key to wealth, and the ordinary citizen had little or no hope of owning it or gaining his own wealth.
In America’s early days, land was still the prerequisite for generating wealth, and the settlers of colonial America, hoping to escape the intrusive hand of government, were now able to own it. When the Revolutionary War left the United States hugely in debt to France, George Washington’s first administration offered western land at one dollar an acre to help pay that debt. The cheap land had to be used or developed by those who purchased it. Also, the new nation did not have funds to pay the soldiers who won its independence, so instead of cash, the soldiers were paid in land grants.
Capitalism grew, and soon land was not the only means to wealth. The authors not only explain how this became a dynamic force in America but also cite how America overcame some of capitalism’s imperfections over the years.
The most interesting part of this section puts a personal face on this dynamic with the stories of individual entrepreneurs: Cornelius Vanderbilt, Sam Walton, Alexander Graham Bell, Rush Limbaugh, Frederick W. Smith, and so on.
The quote by the authors says much about capitalism: “More people have been lifted out of poverty by capitalism than any other economic system ever to appear in the history of the world.”
The Constitution of the United States begins with the words “We the People.” These three words proclaim that the Constitution would be founded for the benefit of its people and not for those who would govern them.
“This was revolutionary at the time because most nations were ruled by a monarchy,” the book states. “The Constitution of the United States is the oldest active constitution in the world and one of the shortest in volume.”
The authors contend that most Americans today likely have no idea how precarious the situation was for our young nation during the summer of 1787. The 13 colonies had become states, united together to declare independence, and had fought a war together. But could it be guaranteed that all 13 would remain one nation? What if states of a particular region would want to form their own nation?
The idea behind a constitution was to have a foundation upon which the rest of the country’s laws would be built. But the challenge in forming a new government through a constitution was that it had to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without too much power that might put fundamental rights at risk. The Founders knew government was a necessity, but they were suspicious of its becoming so big and so powerful that it would jeopardize individual liberties. They did not wish to create a government that would be a homegrown version of the one they had once suffered under.
Today, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution) are regarded as one entity that works to protect the liberties of the people by restraining the power of a centralized government.
At the end of the book, the authors have a section called “Corruption,” which among other things exposes the current corruption in government and our culture and shows the reader how the Constitution is being undermined.
So far, the Constitution has withstood the test of time, but can it continue to do so? John Adams said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
‘The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism, and the Constitution’
Mike Huckabee and Steve Feazel
Trilogy Christian Publishing, Inc.
Aug. 28, 2020
Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher with 45 years’ experience teaching children. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at LWiegenfeld@aol.com