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Real Leadership Spotlight

The Real Doctrine

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logo-circle-blue.pngIf we are to Renew American Leadership, it’s vital to understand how this magnificent country began and developed. The history of the United States offers literally hundreds of lessons for how a free society may be launched, developed, corrected, and then move to new levels of prosperity and leadership. Recapturing an appreciation of America’s past is the key to our future.

What Makes America Exceptional?

First we need to ask what has allowed this young nation to outperform so dramatically all the older nations on earth? What allowed the United States, in less than 250 years, to become an economic, cultural and military colossus that dwarfs every other country in recorded history? It’s certainly not our size. Russia and Canada have more land. China and India have more people. It’s not the length of our history. Nor is it our DNA. Americans are a composite of all races.

The answer is that America is exceptional because of the depth and breadth of our God-given freedom. Never before has a nation been conceived in liberty and then overcome so many obstacles to retain so much freedom for its citizens. The founding fathers gave America an amazing legacy of freedom and opportunity. America is exceptional because later generations eagerly accepted the founders’ gift and forged a unique American culture from it.

British-born Professor Patrick Allitt, of Emory University, has compiled an insightful list of nine distinctive characteristics that reveal the American character:

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1. A lack of fatalism. The fates don’t rule here. If it’s broken, we must fix it.

2. A highly energetic approach to problem solving

3. A strong commitment to human equality and democracy

4. Belief in the boundless possibilities of economic growth

5. A strong dedication to mass education and literacy

6. A high expectation of progress—things will get better

7. A continuing desire to live up to our ideals

8. A potent blend of both practicality and idealism, and

9. A belief in equality of opportunity over equality of outcome[i]

The Triune Role of Freedom, Free Enterprise and Faith

A scholar who has shed great light on the American system is Michael Novak. In his classic work
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,
Dr. Novak argues convincingly that democratic capitalism in American society can only be understood as an interdependent interweaving of free market economics, democratic political structures, and pluralistic moral-cultural institutions like the press, the universities, the church and voluntary associations. This “triune” system has generated more freedom, opportunity, and wealth for more people than any other in history.[ii]

The Great Awakening Forges America’s Character and Begins the American Revolution

When the Declaration of Independence holds it “self-evident” that “all men are created equal,” we seldom stop to realize what a radical idea this is. In the 18th Century, outside of America, hardly anyone believed all people are equal. Large parts of the world dispute that idea to this day. Yet in America there was such a consensus on human equality that the colonies first adopted the Declaration and then ratified a revolutionary new Constitution founded on the idea that “We the people” are not only equal, but entitled to govern ourselves. How did that happen?

Human equality is a Christian idea. In parables like the Sheep and the Goats,[iii] Jesus taught that a day of judgment is coming when everyone will be judged by the same standard, according to his or her actions in this life. With his “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,”[iv] Jesus also taught that faith and government are two separate spheres. But state-run Churches had intermixed the role of Church and state in the West since the 4th Century AD. The established Churches taught that God had ordained static “natural orders” comprised of the monarch, the aristocracy, the Church, and the people, with due deference owed to ones “betters.”

The turning point occurred in the 1730s and 40s when a firestorm of Christian revival, later called The First Great Awakening, swept through all the North American colonies. The Great Awakening was a historically verifiable outpouring of the Holy Spirit that made America a new and separate nation. It was the true beginning of the American Revolution.

The Great Awakening led to the rise of hundreds of egalitarian, independent Christian sects and decisively ended the dominance of government established churches in colonial America. In the northern and middle colonies it largely erased the social stratification that had been imported from Europe. The revival was a powerful, shared experience that led thirteen colonies to think of themselves as a single nation for the first time. It also ignited America’s distinctive enthusiasm for education as the key to social advancement and prosperity. And finally, the new spirit of equality fostered by the Great Awakening led the founding fathers to organize America’s new government by function into executive, legislative and judicial branches, rather than basing it on a British-style “balance” between the “natural orders” of king, elite and commoners.

The Great Awakening taught Americans that birth was no longer destiny. The circumstances of a person’s birth neither automatically conferred nor prevented their advancement in life.

The Significance of the American Revolution

The success of the American Revolution, against the greatest world power of the 18th Century, was improbable at best. That military victory was followed by an the even more unlikely feat of constructing a unique new form of government that could inspire, unify and energize the polyglot citizens of thirteen very different colonies. The Revolution and the Constitution generated a strong sense, both here and abroad, that God was indeed blessing America.

But the socialism that grew out of the French Revolution provided an alternative model that has been just as hostile to free enterprise and Judeo-Christian morality as the American Revolution was friendly. These two competing worldviews have waged a war of ideas for hearts, minds and economies around the world ever since.

An External Standard of Truth

Reformation Christianity treated the Bible as an external standard of truth, which trumped the decrees of earthly kings if they violated God’s law. The American founders secularized that idea for the world’s first written national constitution. The U.S. Constitution provided an external standard of truth that would be used to guarantee the rights, liberties and republican governance of the citizens of the new nation, as well as the states that were entering into the new covenant.

The Unprecedented Success and Prosperity of the American Republic

In his History of the American People, historian Paul Johnson explains the success of this unique combination of freedom and opportunity. “Up to the decade of the Civil War, the United States, though already the wealthiest country in the world, in terms of the living standards of most of its inhabitants, was in many ways what we would now call a Third World country—that is, it exported primary products, such as cotton and tobacco, and imported most of its manufacturers. The Civil War, by giving a huge impulse to American industry, changed this position dramatically, and the United States became largely self-sufficient. Between 1859 and 1914, America increased its output of manufactured goods in value, no less than eighteen times, and by 1919, boosted by World War One, thirty-three times.”[v]

Anti-Americanism Comes With the Territory: Foreign Critics

Since a majority of Americans rightly view their country as the most moral, prosperous, generous, and enlightened nation on earth, the fact that there are so many noisy voices contesting that view is understandably disturbing. The question “Why do they hate us?” has been troubling Americans since well before the republic was founded.

The fundamental answer is that America has always been very different from every other nation on earth. The “otherness” of America’s exceptional culture and government—and its manifest success—has posed a serious challenge to every other country and culture—especially those ruled by force. It has made us a target.

American Culture as a Source of Unwanted Demands for Change

In their valuable historical study of Anti-Americanism, Barry and Judith Rubin trace the major, recurring themes of anti-Americanism from the colonial period down to the Iraq war. The Rubins find the roots of much anti-Americanism lie in the indirect influence our model has had over less effective systems. This influence is exactly what is feared —and has been for two centuries, even before the Revolution—by those who govern European culture and society.[vi]

The Rubins quote Arthur Koestler, who suggested in 1951 that America ultimately represents free choice at work. “But who coerced us into buying all this? The United States do not rule Europe as the British ruled India; they waged no Opium War to force their revolting “Coke” down our throats. Europe bought the whole package because Europe wanted it.”[vii]

The Anti-Americanism of American Intellectuals

Feeling a need to differentiate themselves from the “commonness of the common man,” since the 1840s, many American intellectuals have consciously stood outside the American ethos.[viii] From the early 1930s, the intellectuals, carrying with them a predominant part of academia and the media, moved even further, into a position of criticism and hostility towards the structural ideas of the American consensus: free markets, capitalism, individualism, enterprise, independence, and personal responsibility.

The Cynical Exploitation of America’s Idealism to Erase America’s Freedom

A common thread that runs through much of today’s anti-Americanism is the charge that America has failed to live up to its ideals on any number of topics. The critics hold the United States to a utopian standard of perfection that has never been achieved in any country—and not surprisingly—find that it fails. The next step in the critics’ logic is to assert that the only way to redress the problems flowing from America’s alleged imperfection is more government and less individual freedom.

This tactic flows from the Enlightenment’s unsupportable assertion that human nature is inherently good, and whatever flaws an individual may carry can be educated-away by government. The quest for the perfected “New Man” led directly to the statist totalitarianism of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, and Mao, and the unprecedented horrors of two world wars. After the 20th century, hardly anyone in Europe or the former communist bloc still holds this tragic belief. But it continues to provide a cynical tool for old world intellectuals to manipulate naïve American liberals and progressives who look abroad for their validation.

The “imperfect America” ploy preys on the fact that, unlike the citizens of almost any other country in the world, Americans continue to believe their country can and should strive to attain its high ideals. America’s faith in itself, however, stems from the founders’ recognition of man’s fallen nature, and the necessity of restraining government to leave space for freedom and virtuous individual initiative.

How To Renew American Leadership

So what should Americans who love their country, and believe in its ideals, do to reclaim the vision so ably constructed for us by the founding fathers and every legal immigrant who has come here to achieve the American Dream? Our initial prescription for Renewing American Leadership can be summarized in four points.

  1. It is imperative to teach Americans the truth about the greatness of their country.
  2. It is imperative to return to limited government by restoring our system of constitutional checks and balances.
  3. It is imperative to protect and encourage the free exercise of religion in America.
  4. It is imperative to take control of our borders, and reform our immigration system to admit people able to contribute the skills and the values we need for America’s future.


[i] Patrick Allitt, The American Identity, The Teaching Company, 2005

[ii] Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Touchstone Books, New York, 1982

[iii] Matthew 25: 31-46, see also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

[iv] Matthew 22:21

[v] Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, Harper Collins, NY, 1997, pg 531

[vi] Barry & Judith Rubin, Hating America, A History, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004, pg 194

[vii] Barry & Judith Rubin, pg 235

[viii] Daniel Patrick Moynihan, quoted in Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism, A  Double Edged Sword, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1996, pg 178


Download the ReAL Core Doctrine

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1. The Intersection Between Enterprise & Faith

5. The Long History of Anti-Americanism

2. The Founding Fathers' Remarkable Legacy

6.The Suppressed Infamy of the Progressives

3. Founding a Republic of Virtue

7. How to Renew American Leadership

4. American Exceptionalism  


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