No concept in human history, save perhaps that of eternal salvation, is as radically revolutionary as that of self-governance. And, like salvation itself, self-governance is a benevolent gift from the Almighty that is hated and despised by all those who see themselves as gods.
Self-governance as a concept arose in Scripture, where God wanted His people to govern themselves under His precepts and law. Samuel correctly predicted their future, “you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
In what could be considered the first national election in recorded history, found in the book of First Samuel, the people chose to reject God and embrace a human king – knowing it would lead to misery.
Self-governance, as it turns out, means living personally with the consequences of your actions and inactions – even when you are one voice among the many deciding the affairs of state.
Because this is the uncomfortable truth: self-governance demands that we first govern ourselves. That was, of course, the lesson God was giving His people. That is, of course, the lesson we still find ourselves needing to learn generation after generation.
Self-governance as a broad, overarching concept in a republic can work only when the people literally govern themselves in their daily actions and affairs. This was the common view of our nation’s Founding Fathers
John Adams said it best. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Government is downstream from culture, which is itself a reflection of the collective morality of the people. When one defines culture as “what is honored, shamed, and tolerated,” we quickly get a sense of why government writ large is in shambles today.
As individuals we tolerate the disintegration of the family, while mock fathers who seek to protect their children from vice. We honor greed, reward debt, and subsidize laziness. Social media “influencers” are depicted as the pinnacle of achievement, while those who labor in the trades are treated as invisible serfs.
All of this benefits those who seek to exalt themselves, who determine themselves fit to rule over the rest of us. When we refuse to govern ourselves, we open the door to those who would rule over us. When we refuse to control our passions, we find ourselves controlled by those who will.
Advancing self-governance as a framework for civic life requires that each of us govern ourselves. Restoring our republic begins, quite literally, in the heart of every man and woman. And we shrug off tyranny by embracing God.