Reflections on Life & Liberty
Governing Ourselves

No notion in the history of government is as radically revolutionary as that of self-governance. The idea that commoners can be entrusted to rule a republic is hated and despised by those who would prefer to be our benevolent masters.

Self-governance was first described in Scripture, with God instructing His people to govern themselves under His precepts and law.

In what could be considered the first national election in recorded history, the people chose to reject God and embrace a human king, despite knowing it would lead to misery. You can read about it in the book of First Samuel.

Put simply, self-governance is defined as a system in which people manage their own affairs. They are not ruled by a distant foreign potentate, a local monarch, or any other strong man in between.

But self-governance also means living personally with the consequences of your civic actions and inactions – even when you are a lone voice among many deciding the affairs of state.

This is the uncomfortable truth: To be a self-governing republic, we as individuals must first govern ourselves. That was, of course, the lesson God was giving His people. It is a 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.”

This is why government is downstream from culture, which is itself a reflection of the collective morality of the people. When one thinks of 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 mocking 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 like invisible serfs.

The dissolution of society benefits those who seek to exalt themselves. By not taking seriously our civic duties, we open the door to those who would rule over us. When we refuse to exercise self-control, we will find ourselves controlled by those who will.

Advancing self-governance as a framework for civic life requires that each of us first govern ourselves. We can only shrug off tyranny when we first embrace God. Restoring our republic begins, quite literally, in the heart of every citizen.