Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, not cancer or COVID, lightning strikes or earthquakes. It is a killer of our own making; it’s the killer we allow in our lives when we’re literally doing nothing else.

There are exceptions, but for the most part heart disease is the selfish death we give ourselves. Of course, I’m not writing today about the disease doctors diagnose in the context of medicine, but rather a disease killing our republic.

As it turns out, liberty dies from heart disease, too.

In the late 1940s, a businessman named Henning Prentis noticed a pattern in history that leads from bondage to self-governance back to bondage. The so-called “Prentis Cycle” was developed in a series of speeches and essays. It goes like this:

“From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to freedom; from freedom to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to fear; from fear to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.”

One probably couldn’t better summarize the 400-year period of biblical history covered in the Book of Judges, not to mention all that came after.

If we are honest, we can find America’s place in that cycle. But like the fat man who puts down the snacks and picks up some walking shoes, the cycle isn’t necessarily a fait accompli. The damage is irreversible only to the extent we allow ourselves to continue wallowing complacently in the mire created by our lazy and selfish mistakes.

But it requires that each of us – every man and woman – turn from our “wicked ways” (to borrow from 2 Chronicle 7:14), love God, and serve each other. That requires we get off the couch and get to work. We must rise up from our abundance-laden complacency. We must set aside our sense of entitlement and exercise the muscles of freedom. We must shrug off apathy and embrace our responsibility as citizens.

Liberty will die on these shores only after we have killed it in our hearts. And so it is only by turning our hearts back to self-governance that we can save our republic.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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