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The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers. For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of "soft" totalitarianism cropping up in America--something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eig The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers. For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of "soft" totalitarianism cropping up in America--something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life. Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to "safety". Progressives marginalize conservative, traditional Christians, and other dissenters. Technology and consumerism hasten the possibility of a corporate surveillance state. And the pandemic, having put millions out of work, leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulation. In Live Not By Lies, Dreher amplifies the alarm sounded by the brave men and women who fought totalitarianism. He explains how the totalitarianism facing us today is based less on overt violence and more on psychological manipulation. He tells the stories of modern-day dissidents--clergy, laity, martyrs, and confessors from the Soviet Union and the captive nations of Europe--who offer practical advice for how to identify and resist totalitarianism in our time. Following the model offered by a prophetic World War II-era pastor who prepared believers in his Eastern European to endure the coming of communism, Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance: - SEE: Acknowledge the reality of the situation. - JUDGE: Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true. - ACT: Take action to protect truth. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said that one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming totalitarianism can't happen in their country. Many American Christians are making that mistake today, sleepwalking through the erosion of our freedoms. Live Not By Lies will wake them and equip them for the long resistance.


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The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers. For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of "soft" totalitarianism cropping up in America--something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eig The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers. For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of "soft" totalitarianism cropping up in America--something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life. Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to "safety". Progressives marginalize conservative, traditional Christians, and other dissenters. Technology and consumerism hasten the possibility of a corporate surveillance state. And the pandemic, having put millions out of work, leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulation. In Live Not By Lies, Dreher amplifies the alarm sounded by the brave men and women who fought totalitarianism. He explains how the totalitarianism facing us today is based less on overt violence and more on psychological manipulation. He tells the stories of modern-day dissidents--clergy, laity, martyrs, and confessors from the Soviet Union and the captive nations of Europe--who offer practical advice for how to identify and resist totalitarianism in our time. Following the model offered by a prophetic World War II-era pastor who prepared believers in his Eastern European to endure the coming of communism, Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance: - SEE: Acknowledge the reality of the situation. - JUDGE: Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true. - ACT: Take action to protect truth. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said that one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming totalitarianism can't happen in their country. Many American Christians are making that mistake today, sleepwalking through the erosion of our freedoms. Live Not By Lies will wake them and equip them for the long resistance.

30 review for Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt Pitts

    When I first heard that Dreher's new book was about resisting soft totalitarianism I thought the idea was a little over the top, but the events of this spring and summer changed my mind and I eagerly preordered the book. I was even more excited when I was given a pre-pub ebook to read and review (and of course I was not required to provide a positive review). The premise of the book is that we in the west can learn much from those who survived totalitarianism in the east that may help us survive When I first heard that Dreher's new book was about resisting soft totalitarianism I thought the idea was a little over the top, but the events of this spring and summer changed my mind and I eagerly preordered the book. I was even more excited when I was given a pre-pub ebook to read and review (and of course I was not required to provide a positive review). The premise of the book is that we in the west can learn much from those who survived totalitarianism in the east that may help us survive and even thrive as our culture grows increasingly hostile not only to religious liberty but to liberty in general. Dreher is careful to distinguish between the hard totalitarianism of the 20th century and the growing soft totalitarianism of the present. Even if you don't think soft totalitarianism exists, the stories of those who survived the horrors of totalitarianism are reason enough to read the book. But if you read it, I suspect that before you are more than a third of the way through the book you'll be convinced Dreher is right. This is the third of Dreher's books that I have thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend, not because I agree with everything he says, but because his books never leave me unchanged. 4.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    Rod Dreher begins his introduction to “Live Not By Lies” by quoting Alexander Solzhenitsyn, survivor of and writer concerning the Soviet gulags. Solzhenitsyn writes, “There is always this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’ Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.” (p. ix) With this premise asserted in the very opening pages of the book, Dreher then documents three things. First, the totalitarianism of the Sovie Rod Dreher begins his introduction to “Live Not By Lies” by quoting Alexander Solzhenitsyn, survivor of and writer concerning the Soviet gulags. Solzhenitsyn writes, “There is always this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’ Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.” (p. ix) With this premise asserted in the very opening pages of the book, Dreher then documents three things. First, the totalitarianism of the Soviet block countries is advancing in the west—specifically in America. Second, the book spends a great deal of time recounting the lives of those that survived the communist totalitarian regimes. And finally, the book applies the knowledge and experience of the communist survivors to how Christians might survive what is coming in America. Part One of the book is “Understanding Soft Totalitarianism.” These four chapters are meant to awaken American readers to the reality of the growing ‘soft’ totalitarianism we face, rather than the ‘hard’ that was in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. Dreher uses Hannah Arendt when. Building his definition of totalitarianism. He writes, “a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is.” The difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ totalitarianism is centered upon the way it is enforced. Rather than being enforced by ‘government decree’ as in ‘hard’ totalitarianism, ‘soft’ totalitarianism is enforced by ‘the persuasiveness of consumer capitalism.’ (p. xv) Dreher argues that “Many conservatives today fail to grasp the gravity of today’s threat, dismissing it as mere ‘political correctness’—a previous generation’s disparaging term for so-called ‘wokeness.’” (p. 8) Conservatives fail to see that this ideology has begun to establish itself in ‘corporate America’, having graduated from college campuses. Dreher writes, “Today…dissenters from the woke party line find their businesses, careers, and reputations destroyed.” (p. 8-9) This is the way ‘soft’ totalitarianism has become, and is being established into mainstream America. It “masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of ‘victims’ in order to bring about ‘social justice.’” (p. 9) Dreher argues that “The public will support, or at least not oppose, the coming soft totalitarianism, not because it fears the imposition of cruel punishments but because it will be more or less satisfied by hedonistic comforts.” He says, “people will surrender political rights in exchange for guarantees of personal pleasure.” (p.10-11) He goes on to say that “Christian resistance…has been fruitless… Because the spirit of the therapeutic has conquered the churches as well—even those populated by Christians that identify as conservative.” (p. 13) In short, Christians are unprepared to suffer for their faith because “the idea of bearing pain for the sake of truth seems ridiculous.” (p. 13) Throughout these arguments, Dreher brings in anecdotal evidence from those that lived under totalitarian regimes. Those that once lived under the heavy hand of totalitarian governments have been warning those willing to listen for years, that totalitarianism has come to America. Is Dreher an alarmist? Perhaps, but even those, like myself, well acquainted with the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Richard Wurmbrand, Orwell, and Huxley—we see signs all around us that we’re already waist-deep in soft-totalitarianism. It has happened hard and fast—becoming especially apparent with the MeToo movement, and most of all in the horrific year that has been 2020. I’ve spent most of this review in the relatively brief first part of “Live Not By Lies” because this is what is ncessary to grasp the importance of this book. But the true and lasting value of the book will be in the “how-to” portion that is most of the rest of the book. This truly is a “Manual for Christian Dissidents.” This book distills the best of what is most needed from the lives and legacies of those that survived the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. If you have time, read those works as well. But at least begin with this book. This will begin the process of preparing to “Live in Truth” as Dreher puts it. Christians must begin preparing now, or we will not be prepared for what is coming. We need to prepare our hearts and souls to survive what is designed to destroy us. But God reigns. He brought a remnant out of the 20th century, and he will bring a remnant out of this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    T.

    Alan Jacobs on “Learning from Rod Dreher” (https://blog.ayjay.org/learning-from-... My buddy Rod Dreher has a book coming out soon called Live Not By Lies, and it’s about what American Christians can learn about living under an oppressive regime by studying what believers did under the old Soviet Union. I think this is a story that Christians ought to be interested in, whether they agree with Rod’s politics or not. Every thoughtful Christian I know thinks that the cause of Christ has powerful cul Alan Jacobs on “Learning from Rod Dreher” (https://blog.ayjay.org/learning-from-... My buddy Rod Dreher has a book coming out soon called Live Not By Lies, and it’s about what American Christians can learn about living under an oppressive regime by studying what believers did under the old Soviet Union. I think this is a story that Christians ought to be interested in, whether they agree with Rod’s politics or not. Every thoughtful Christian I know thinks that the cause of Christ has powerful cultural and political enemies, that we are in various ways discouraged or impeded in our discipleship by forces external to the Church. Where we differ is in our assessment of what the chief opposing forces are. Rod is primarily worried about the rise of a “soft totalitarianism” of the left, what James Poulos calls a “pink police state.” Other Christians I know are equally worried, but about the dangers to Christian life of white supremacy, or the international neoliberal order. For me the chief concern (I have many) is what I call “metaphysical capitalism.” But we all agree that the Church of Jesus Christ is under a kind of ongoing assault, sometimes direct and sometimes indirect, sometimes blunt and sometimes subtle, and that living faithfully under such circumstances is a constant challenge. Why wouldn’t we want to learn from people who faced even greater challenges than we do and who managed to sustain their faith through that experience? Isn’t that valuable to all of us? I felt the same way about The Benedict Option, which was mostly not an argument but rather a job of reporting, reporting on various intentional Christian communities. I read the book with fascination, because I was and am convinced that the primary reason American Christians are so bent and broken is that we have neglected catechesis while living in a social order that catechizes us incessantly. What can I learn from those communities that would help me in my own catechesis, and that of my family, and that of my parish church? I read The Benedict Option with the same focus I brought to my reading of a marvelous book by another friend of mine, Charles Marsh’s The Beloved Community. Charles’s politics are miles away from Rod’s, but their books share an essential concern: How can the church of Jesus Christ, how can Christ’s followers, be formed in such a way that they can flourish in unpropitious conditions? That’s exactly the right question, I think, and both The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies introduce me to people who help me — even when I don’t agree with their strategies! — to think better about what its answers might be. (And The Beloved Community as well. Christians under Marxism and the Black church under Jim Crow offer remarkably similar kinds of help to us, a point that deserves a great deal more reflection than it is likely ever to get in our stupidly polarized time.) Often when I make this argument people acknowledge the force of it but tell me that Rod is the “wrong messenger.” I understand what they mean. Rod is excitable, and temperamentally a catastrophist, as opposed to a declinist. (That’s Ross Douthat’s distinction.) Like the prophet of Richard Wilbur’s poem, he’s gotten himself “Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,” and I often think that if he writes the phrase “Wake up, people!” one more time I’m gonna drive to Baton Rouge and slap him upside the head. Also, when Rod rails against “woke capitalism,” he clearly thinks that “woke” is the problem, without giving real assent to the fact that Christians are susceptible to woke capitalism because they were previously susceptible to other kinds. He perceives threats to the Church from the Right, from racism and crude nationalism and general cruelty to whoever isn’t One Of Us, and writes about them sometimes, but they don’t exercise his imagination the way that threats from the Left do. I can see why people whose politics differ from Rod’s don’t what to hear what he has to say. But, you know, Jonah was definitely the wrong messenger for Ninevah — he even thought so himself — and yet the Ninevites did well to pay attention to him. And if you think Rod has a potentially useful message but is the wrong conveyer of it, then get off your ass and become the messenger you want to see in the world. Lord knows we need more Christians, not fewer, paying attention to the challenges of deep Christian formation. Wake up, people!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charles J

    A disease is going around. No, not the Wuhan Plague. This malady only affects the Right, and I name it Scrutonism. The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor-sharp ability to identify one’s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us, combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated. For a sufferer of this disease, his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear, in varying proportions—mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton’s case, mostly the A disease is going around. No, not the Wuhan Plague. This malady only affects the Right, and I name it Scrutonism. The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor-sharp ability to identify one’s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us, combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated. For a sufferer of this disease, his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear, in varying proportions—mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton’s case, mostly the latter in Rod Dreher’s case. Scrutonism’s harm is that it makes sufferers ignore the only question that matters for the Right today: what are you willing to do, given that your enemies are utterly committed to destroying you and yours? I used to be a Dreher fanboy, until he lost the plot with the Wuhan Plague and, more generally, descended into constant unmanly maundering. I’m still a fan, however (to steal a line from Aaron Renn, though he was talking about Tim Keller, not Dreher). And Live Not by Lies has partially restored my opinion of Rod Dreher as a pillar of today’s Right. It is an outstanding book, tightly written and tightly focused. That does not mean it is complete, for reasons I will lay out today, but it is good for what it is—the sharp diagnosis of the ways, means, and ends of our enemies. The outline of the book is simple. Dreher shows how life in America (and more broadly much of the West, though America is his focus) is swiftly becoming indistinguishable from life under totalitarian Communism, in its essence, if not yet all its externals. The Left, now as then, will do anything to impose its evil will across all society. (This is obvious on its face and established in detail in many of my other writings, and also at enormous length on Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative.) The Left’s political vision is wholly illusory while at the same time utterly destructive. A necessary part of their plan, again now as then, is suppression of all dissent, especially religious dissent, through controlling all aspects of every citizen’s life. This plan is already largely implemented for many sectors of American society, although Dreher claims this is a “soft” totalitarianism, different in degree from the “hard” totalitarianism of Communism at its height. He talks of Czesław Miłosz and the pill of Murti-Bing, of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, of Hanna Arendt. He deftly draws parallels between the rise of Communism in Europe and our present situation. He identifies the appeal of the Left, and of its totalitarian ideology. He talks of progressivism as religion and of the cult of social justice. He talks of woke capitalism and the surveillance state built by the Lords of Tech. He talks of the oppressive social credit system in China (under the funny heading, “The Mark of the East.”) These chapters are uniformly excellent and I strongly recommend them to anyone not already familiar with these truths. But my purpose here today is not to summarize what is happening now. Many others have summarized this book well. And to be clear, as with most of my book reviews, I am not actually reviewing Dreher’s book. Rather, I am delivering my own thoughts. If you don’t like that, well, you’re in the wrong place. A crucial internal ambiguity pervades this entire book. Dreher’s frame is totalitarianism. He channels men and women who suffered under the most evil regimes the world has ever known. He paints a picture that offers gruesome tales of torture as a regular instrument of state control. The epigraph he uses, from Solzhenitsyn, says such evil “is possible everywhere on earth,” and Solzhenitsyn was not talking about a social credit system, but real torture and death. Yet Dreher disclaims, repeatedly, that this might happen here. Instead, he suggests a Huxley-ite future, or Murti-Bing, or Shoshana Zuboff-ite/PRC-type consumerist monitoring. At the same time, though, he talks about ever-growing state and, more, private corporate actions that are not yet physical torture, yet are meant as severe punishment, such as job loss and social ostracism. The reader is confused. What, precisely, is the future Dreher is predicting, and why? The question remains unanswered. Dreher does, however, offer a type of solution. In the face of these poisonous headwinds he prescribes spiritually-centered private organizing, in essence his famous Benedict Option. “[The Christian dissident] needs to draw close to authentic spiritual leadership—clerical, lay, or both—and form small cells of fellow believers with whom [he] can pray, sing, study Scripture, and read other books important to their mission.” He must be prepared to suffer, because in the new dispensation, he will suffer, if he refuses to worship the new gods. Dreher, in short, recommends the “parallel polis,” with a strong religious component. He has discussed this before. I have also discussed this before, more than once, and that it will not be allowed, because our enemies have learned from their earlier defeats, and as Dreher himself repeatedly says, they have vastly more powerful tools than their Communist forbears did. Thus, for example, he is correct that families are resistance cells—but our enemies see this too, which is why families will not be allowed to be resistance cells, but will be forcibly broken up if parents dare to instruct their children aright. No, the parallel polis will be of short duration, if indeed it can be set up at all, and the Benedict Option, without an armed wing, is dead on arrival. Dreher does not offer any non-passive mechanism for success (but I will—just wait a few minutes). Dreher recommends Christian witness such as that of Václav Benda and his family. He recommends retaining cultural memory, and accepting suffering. But nothing succeeds like success. We know about the Bendas because Communism fell. And Communism fell both because of its internal contradictions and because it faced massive external pressure put on it by the West. Dreher is unclear as to what exactly he expects the future to bring to people of today situated like the Bendas. In essence, his argument seems to be that it ultimately worked out for dissidents under Communism, so it will, someday and in a manner yet to be shown, work for us. Maybe. Or maybe not. In other words, Dreher seems to think that the parallel polis is self-executing, as long as strong religious faith is kept. Moreover, whether Dreher sees it or not, we are indeed heading to hard totalitarianism, not merely soft totalitarianism. To our enemies, justice delayed is justice denied. That inescapable inner logic, combined with Girardian scapegoating, means soft totalitarianism will never be enough for them. We already have soft totalitarianism, for any white collar worker, and anybody can see that the demands for compliance are accelerating, not slowing down. The reader sees no reason at all we’re not heading to “prison camps and the executioner’s bullet,” because Dreher doesn’t give one, while at the same time talking a great deal about the Gulag, the Rumanian torture camp at Pitesti, and so on, continually recurring to such history. Then he says “American culture is far more individualistic than Chinese culture, so that political resistance will almost certainly prevent Chinese-style hard totalitarianism from gaining a foothold here.” This is whistling past the graveyard—how has this supposed individualism slowed down our enemies even a whit? Soft totalitarianism may lie on the far side of hard totalitarianism (as it was with late Communism), but it will get worse long before it gets better. The reader gets the impression Dreher is pulling his punches, afraid of being seen as too extreme, too “out there,” in our controlled political discourse. Hope is not a plan. Dreher should see that; he even quotes a Slovak dissident, “If they had come at us in the seventies, they might have succeeded. But we always remembered that the goal was to turn our small numbers into a number so big they could not stop us.” Dreher doesn’t acknowledge that getting those big numbers is crucial to success, along with a will to action (used in later Communism for mass demonstrations), and he has no plan for getting them. “Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist.” True enough—but what is “solidarity” here? Is it meeting in the catacombs to pray for a better day? Or meeting to plan action? Apparently only the former. Yes, Dreher offers some legislative solutions. They make sense. But, as Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible. He meant compromise is necessary, but if your enemies have all the power and no need to compromise to get everything they want, what is possible of what you want, is nothing. Nobody with actual power will even associate his name in public with Dreher’s legislative proposals, because they are cowards, and they refuse to be seen opposing globohomo. Political proposals in the current frame will not come to fruition; they will die like the seeds in the Parable of the Sower, either among the brambles, or fallen on rocky ground. Legislative proposals are not a mechanism for success. Scrutonism, of which as you can see Dreher has a bad case, is a call to be a beautiful loser. But you can’t inspire anyone with a program that offers being a loser. People cowering under fire want a plan; they want a leader to point not only to what Christ would do, but how that will help them, and more importantly their children, come out the other side, cleansed and victorious. What Dreher offers instead is a call to martyrdom. This is theologically sound, but not politically. And unlike Communism, the modern Left, globohomo, faces no external pressure. This is a strategic question, of passivity versus aggression. When I think of 1453, I think not only of the priest, celebrating the Divine Liturgy as the Turks tore into the Hagia Sophia, turning to the eastern wall and walking into it, from whence it is said he will return when the Turks are expelled (which will hopefully be soon). I think also of Constantine XI Palaeologus, the last Emperor, cutting off his imperial ornaments and rushing out to die with the common soldiers. How about some of that? Dreher talks very often of the Bolsheviks. He never mentions the Whites, who after all could easily have won, or other heroes who actually did defeat Communism, such as Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet. My point is not that we need to encourage violence, though I am not opposed in the least to violence in the right circumstances—quite the opposite. My point is that people need positive, active heroes, not just heroic sufferers. No man is an island, in the John Donne cliché, but that means that very few have the internal resources to passively suffer. They need inspiration about how the future will be better, both in this world and the next. Dreher does not offer it. He instead offers a variation on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, a book I read (said to be second only in popularity to the Bible), and thought was depressingly passive and navel-gazing. People like me may go to the back of St. Peter’s line—or maybe not, since we did not take what we were given and bury it in the ground of personal introspection, but rather grew it. So, if you do not have enough people or enough power at this moment to impose precisely your vision of the world, where do you start? You form alliances with those who have similar goals. Yet Dreher never talks about alliances, except briefly in connection with Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. As Dreher mentions, most of Charter 77’s participants weren’t Christian, and some were radical Marxists. But he suggests no equivalent for the religious Right today, alliances with those with alien views who, together with us, oppose the totalitarianism of the Left. Why? Because he has been instructed that policing one’s rightward boundary is what he must do, before anything else. (There are no possible leftward alliances for us; what are sometimes called “good faith liberals” are merely willing dupes in the Left’s totalitarian agenda, and of no use in this fight.) This policing has, for many decades, been the original flaw of the Right, for which William F. Buckley bears most of the responsibility—hobbling ourselves by permitting our enemies to dictate with whom we may ally. Dreher may not even realize it, but his enemies have crippled him before he can leave the gate. I’ll give Dreher a short break here, for this problem is not his alone, but general. A few months ago the generally excellent Sohrab Ahmari, who is much more aggressive than Dreher, was hyperventilating, on his own initiative, that VDARE (a racially-tinged anti-immigrant front in which John Derbyshire is prominent) was absolutely, unequivocally, beyond the pale and nobody at all should have any interaction with it. (He was complaining that Trump advisor Stephen Miller had shared VDARE links years ago while at Breitbart.) His support for this was, I kid you not, an article from the far-left Guardian newspaper, a British paper, extensively quoting the odious so-called Southern Poverty Law Center, a noted hate group. This shows that, still now, even the dissident Right of men such as Ahmari voluntarily debilitates itself by letting the Left set limits for it on what is acceptable discourse and what are acceptable alliances. This is no way to win. Utterly smashing the SPLC is the way to win. Does that mean I think we should ally with racists and the like? Yes. Yes, it does. Absolutely. Six days a week and twice on Sunday. We should ally with anyone who will help us win. I resisted this obvious conclusion for a long time, but . . . [Review continues as first comment.]

  5. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    I might write a longer critique later, but there are a few things to note about Rod Dreher's work here. There are two parts of this book consisting of unequal quality. The first part is an analysis of contemporary American cultural and political trends given from a Christian perspective that I consider to be an exercise in catastrophic thinking. Dreher has laid out all the reasons that he believes a historic persecution of Christians is about to happen in America, waged by liberals and using the I might write a longer critique later, but there are a few things to note about Rod Dreher's work here. There are two parts of this book consisting of unequal quality. The first part is an analysis of contemporary American cultural and political trends given from a Christian perspective that I consider to be an exercise in catastrophic thinking. Dreher has laid out all the reasons that he believes a historic persecution of Christians is about to happen in America, waged by liberals and using the tools of modern surveillance technology. The worst possible outcomes of progressive thought for Christians are laid out here and Dreher evidently is preparing himself for them, in line with his previous works calling for Christians to withdraw from society into monastery-like seclusion. I have as little predictive power as anyone else (including him) and cannot entirely dismiss the fact that this might happen. But it strikes me as unlikely for a number of reasons, even if, having lost the culture war, American Christians are likely to become more marginal to the country than they have been historically. The second part of the book is more compelling, due to the fact that it has little to do with America. Dreher spends much time interviewing Christian dissidents living under the Soviet Union who really were persecuted in horrific ways. The gruesome details of these persecutions were largely unknown to me. But they remind of teachings from Islam and Stoic/Neo-Platonic thought about how to bear suffering and even appreciate it as a beautiful and necessary part of life. Against the false promises of the therapeutic state these are worthwhile reminders: life is about overcoming suffering rather than chasing the mirage of a life freed from it. Dreher seems to have taken his interviews with Soviet dissidents and projected a future America based on the Soviet model. These interviews were valuable and often moving on their own. But he fails to connect them with the eye-brow raising claim that anything like that is about to happen in the United States. Rather than darkly ruminating over future hypothetical injustices one might be called to address the many real and existing injustices plaguing society today. These include the incarceration of millions in brutal conditions, endless wars abroad that destroy whole societies, human trafficking, environmental destruction and more. These actual bad things get literally no mention in this book, which instead is concerned with hypothetical crimes that may be inflicted by a future police state. Perhaps if we focused more on reality rather than fears of a terrible future, the future might not end up being so terrible in the first place.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Huston

    As I finished reading this book, my mind rung with this infamous line from Cardinal Francis George: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." Live Not By Lies is a spiritual sequel to Dreher's earth shattering bestseller The Benedict Option, and as such, it illustrates the kind of As I finished reading this book, my mind rung with this infamous line from Cardinal Francis George: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." Live Not By Lies is a spiritual sequel to Dreher's earth shattering bestseller The Benedict Option, and as such, it illustrates the kind of cycle that George had in mind, first by pointing out the red flags in our midst (as The Benedict Option did), but then, even more powerfully, by giving us dozens of vignettes from the lives of Christian heroes who endured and even thrived under the yoke of Soviet oppression. The first few chapters are fairly standard stuff--if you read Dreher's blog (which you should), it's the kind of reporting and commentary we're used to--and I wondered if the whole book would be like that: the kind of tome that wants to convince us that the sky is falling because it has fallen elsewhere before. Dreher is just setting the stage, however, and I hasten to add that even in this preliminary section, there's one chapter about corporate surveillance under woke capitalism that was absolutely terrifying. Literally, I got goose bumps. Stephen King could write an effective thriller based on that chapter! Once Dreher gets to the main event, though...this book is as powerful as anything you'll read this year, or this decade. This is one of those books that has the ability to change lives. Dreher knows that, and openly wants it to. Generously illuminated with scores of interviews and anecdotes from the last half century, Live Not By Lies turns out to be something akin to Foxe's Book of Martyrs meets Schindler's List: a monument to those who suffered insane inhumanity in recent history, presented as a guide to enable us to continue their tradition; if we can't prevent future atrocities from repeating, then we can at least endeavor to carry on the noble example of those who have carried the fire before us. This is an important book. I was lucky enough to be given an advance electronic copy by the publisher, but as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I want to buy a bunch of copies for all the leaders in my church! Dreher's focus on preserving faith traditions through generations of family life, by living our religious traditions seriously and fully, even in the face of dwindling liberty, is a theme that resonates strongly among the "Mormon" people, whose founding scripture is obsessed with remembering the past and learning from it. On behalf of Latter-day Saints everywhere: Mr. Dreher, thank you for this added guide to joyful discipleship in a darkening age. And it is a surprisingly hopeful book! Though Dreher tells stories of the most gruesome tortures, he always includes the light that shone from each of these heroes. They all said that is was worth it. Their legacies survive. They won. Those of us who have read about the dissident resisters against Soviet communism know great names like Solzhenitsyn and Havel, and our various churches all have their own prophets and martyrs...but if we want our children and our civilization to make it through the 21st century, we would do well to learn other names, too, amazing and inspiring names like Calciu, Krčméry, Ogorodnikov, Benda, and Kolaković. I have seven children, five of whom are still at home. Every Monday night, my family gathers for stories and songs and prayers and games and treats--an evening of family worship and fun. We take turns performing different roles, and in two weeks it will be my turn to give a spiritual lesson again. My next message to my family will be about Live Not By Lies--the history and the examples and the warnings and the victories, the scary and uplifting and crucial lessons it holds for us all. I hope that mama and papa Benda would be proud.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Steele

    When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was annexed from the country he loved, he published a parting message to the Russian people. “Live Not by Lies” was a bold challenge to the brutal totalitarian system that raved countless thousands of people. Rod Dreher picks up where Solzhenitsyn left off in his new book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. This riveting work helps readers discover what it means to live not by lies. The author interviews Christians who endured the days of totalitarian When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was annexed from the country he loved, he published a parting message to the Russian people. “Live Not by Lies” was a bold challenge to the brutal totalitarian system that raved countless thousands of people. Rod Dreher picks up where Solzhenitsyn left off in his new book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. This riveting work helps readers discover what it means to live not by lies. The author interviews Christians who endured the days of totalitarianism behind the Iron Curtain and gains a wealth of information that both inform and inspire us today. Part One: Understanding Soft Totalitarianism Part one explores the underbelly of what Dreher refers to as soft totalitarianism. “A totalitarian state,” according to Hannah Arendt, “is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rules decide it is.” Mussolini defined totalitarianism as, “Everything within the state, nothing outside the sate, nothing against the state.” Wherever this worldview reigns, mankind declines, and decays. The author explains the essence of soft totalitarianism: Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic - and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit. A cursory glance at culture reveals the rise of social justice, the “woke revolution,” radical environmentalism, acceptance of sexual deviancy, reverse racism, and identity politics. Soft totalitarianism includes educational propaganda like the “1619 Project,” an attempt to brainwash students and cause them to abandon the principles that help birth the United States of America. The list goes on and on. Yet more and more people are willing to accept this radical ideology for the sake of convenience. Dreher adds, “And this is the thing about soft totalitarianism: It seduces those - even Christians - who have lost the capacity to love enduringly, for better or for worse. They think love, but they merely desire. They think they follow Jesus, but in fact, they merely admire him.” The author warns that Christians who refuse to speak up and resist soft totalitarianism will pay a heavy price. Literary critic and poet, Czeslaw Milosz agrees: “Their silence will not save them and will instead corrode them.” Part Two: How to Live in Truth Part two helps readers respond biblically and decisively. It shows them how to “live in truth.” The principles that Dreher shares are invaluable and will be a great encouragement as Christians navigate their way through the social sludge. Dreher encourages readers to fight for and defend free speech. “To grow indifferent, even hostile to free speech is suicidal for a free people,” writes the author. He encourages truth-telling that is wisdom-based and prudent. Dreher admonishes readers to foster cultural memory. He says, “Everything about modern society is designed to make memory - historical, social, and cultural - hard to cultivate. Christians must understand this not only to resist soft totalitarianism but also to transmit the faith to the coming generations.” The author urges Christians to cultivate strong family units. “Christian parents”, writes Dreher, “must be intentionally countercultural in their approach to family dynamics. The days of living like everybody else and hoping our children turn out for the best are over.” Fathers, in particular, must lead their families and help them exercise biblical discernment. They must fight for the truth. Dreher promotes religion as the “bedrock of resistance.” He continues, “This is the uncompromising rival religion that the post-Christian world will not long tolerate. If you are not rock-solid in your commitment to traditional Christianity, then the world will break you. But if you are, then this is the solid rock in which that world will be broken. And if those solid rocks are joined together, they form a wall of solidarity that is very hard for the enemy to breach.” We must stand in solidarity. “Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist,” says Dreher. He adds: And this is the thing about soft totalitarianism: it seduces those - even Christians - who have lost the capacity to love enduringly, for better or for worse. They think they love, but they merely desire. They think they follow Jesus, but in fact, they merely admire him. Each of us thinks we would be like that. But if we have accepted the great lie of our therapeutic culture, which tells us that personal happiness is the greatest good of all, then we will surrender at the first sign of trouble. Conclusion There is much more to explore in this fascinating book. I challenge readers to dig deeply into this “treasure chest.” In the end, both varieties of totalitarianism enslave people. Dreher reminds us, “Hard totalitarianism depends on terrorizing us into surrendering our free consciences; soft totalitarianism uses fear as well, but mostly it bewitches us with therapeutic promises of entertainment, pleasure, and comfort.” It is to this end that we must resist soft totalitarianism with all our might or we, along with the proverbial frog in the kettle will slowly boil in a kettle that appears safe but will, in the final analysis, result in a grizzly death. Live Not By Lies delivers a powerful and unforgettable message. The price of liberty is costly. This much is true. “There is no escape from the struggle,” writes Dreher. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance - first of all, over our own hearts.” Live Not By Lies is a must-read book for freedom-loving Christians. To ignore the principles that Dreher sets forth would be foolhardy at best. Heeding the warning of the author will help pave the way for fruitful discussion and greater liberty in the coming days. Highly recommended!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tom Marshall

    Historians are going to have a wealth of events to study from 2020.  Perhaps more than the year 1968. No doubt one thing they will analyze will be the unabashed rise of totalitarianism in the West, which is the topic of Rod Dreher’s new book Live Not By Lies. Dreher analyzes the rise of what he calls “soft totalitarianism” in the US by talking to people who lived through totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc. As he did in his book The Benedict Option, Dreher focuses on how Christians can preserve t Historians are going to have a wealth of events to study from 2020.  Perhaps more than the year 1968. No doubt one thing they will analyze will be the unabashed rise of totalitarianism in the West, which is the topic of Rod Dreher’s new book Live Not By Lies. Dreher analyzes the rise of what he calls “soft totalitarianism” in the US by talking to people who lived through totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc. As he did in his book The Benedict Option, Dreher focuses on how Christians can preserve their faith during these troubling times.    If you’re wondering what totalitarianism is— According to Hannah Arendt, the foremost scholar of totalitarianism, a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is. As Arendt has written, wherever totalitarianism has ruled, “[I]t has begun to destroy the essence of man.” I grew up in the 1980s during the Cold War. It seems bizarre to me to even need a discussion on the dangers of totalitarianism; yet, here we are. From cancel culture having people fired for differing opinions on Twitter to mobs screaming at passive diners to raise their fists in solidarity at restaurants, totalitarianism is being accepted. Let’s be honest. It’s even being celebrated by some. I realize that not everyone will agree with that statement. Many will not agree with Dreher’s conclusions in Live Not By Lies, but it’s very difficult to ignore the facts. Dreher interviews Christians who lived through brutal totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc, and here’s what he found: What makes the emerging situation in the West similar to what they fled? After all, every society has rules and taboos and mechanisms to enforce them. What unnerves those who lived under Soviet communism is this similarity: Elites and elite institutions are abandoning old-fashioned liberalism, based in defending the rights of the individual, and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards justice in terms of groups. It encourages people to identify with groups—ethnic, sexual, and otherwise—and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among the groups. A utopian vision drives these progressives, one that compels them to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice. These Christians survived absolutely brutal persecution. Dreher describes horrific torture methods used by the Soviets. Many of the people he interviews or their family members spent decades in prisons or gulags. As Dreher examines how they maintained their faith, it’s obvious that there are differences in the totalitarianism we face. In some ways, what we face is even scarier. Dreher writes: To be sure, whatever this is, it is not a carbon copy of life in the Soviet Bloc nations, with their secret police, their gulags, their strict censorship, and their material deprivation. That is precisely the problem, these people warn. The fact that relative to Soviet Bloc conditions, life in the West remains so free and so prosperous is what blinds Americans to the mounting threat to our liberty. That, and the way those who take away freedom couch it in the language of liberating victims from oppression. Live Not By Lies starts with a brief history of the rise of totalitarianism in Russia. He looks at the sources and the parallels with what is happening in the US today. Dreher analyzes what he considers the two factors driving “soft totalitarianism” today: the social justice movement and surveillance technology, which has become a huge part of our consumerist culture. The second part of the book examines forms, methods, and sources of resistance. Dreher attempts to answer the following questions by examining exactly what the Christians in the Soviet Bloc did in order to survive: Why is religion and the hope it gives at the core of effective resistance? What does the willingness to suffer have to do with living in truth? Why is the family the most important cell of opposition?... How did they get through it?... Why are they so anxious about the West’s future? Obviously, this is a contentious topic. Live Not By Lies discusses some difficult topics. Dreher has already been attacked and criticized. He doesn’t seem to accept the media-driven narrative of the death of George Floyd and the social justice movement. How exactly does he describe the soft totalitarianism affecting the US? Dreher writes: Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic—and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit... Today’s left-wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger, specifically the hunger for a just society, one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression. It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of “victims” to bring about “social justice...” This is what the survivors of communism are saying to us: liberalism’s admirable care for the weak and marginalized is fast turning into a monstrous ideology that, if it is not stopped, will transform liberal democracy into a softer, therapeutic form of totalitarianism. For Christians, therein lies the rub—“liberalism’s admirable care for the weak and marginalized.” Aren’t Christians supposed to care for the weak and marginalized? The answer is yes. Christians should and do care for the weak and marginalized. The problem is ideology in these movements is king, and the ideology is ultimately atheistic and therapeutic. Christianity is allowed as long as it bends to the ideology, not the other way around. These movements are trying to use totalitarianism to create a utopia based on their ideology. As Mark Sayers says in one of my favorite quotes, “They want to create the kingdom of heaven, but without the King.” That is their end goal. Ask yourself, what is the end goal of Christianity? What happens when the goals of the ideology clash with Christianity? Dreher writes: In therapeutic culture, which has everywhere triumphed, the great sin is to stand in the way of the freedom of others to find happiness as they wish. This goes hand in hand with the sexual revolution, which, along with ethnic and gender identity politics, replaced the failed economic class struggle as the utopian focus of the post-1960s radical left. It all goes back to the original sin: the individual wants to be a god. The individual wants to create his or her own brand of heaven where the only sin is anything causing unhappiness. In that kind of culture, even using the pronouns “his or her” is controversial because it could offend someone. Dreher writes: Christian resistance on a large scale to the anti-culture has been fruitless, and is likely to be for the foreseeable future. Why? Because the spirit of the therapeutic has conquered the churches as well—even those populated by Christians who identify as conservative. Relatively few contemporary Christians are prepared to suffer for the faith, because the therapeutic society that has formed them denies the purpose of suffering in the first place, and the idea of bearing pain for the sake of truth seems ridiculous. Honestly, the scariest part of all this is we unsuspectingly welcome totalitarianism. We live in a far more technologically advanced society than the 1980s Soviet Bloc. The opportunities and ability to surveil private life are unbelievable. As Dreher says, “There’s nowhere left to hide.” It’s almost cliche to point out anymore. We are far more similar to the society in Huxley’s Brave New World, than we are Orwell’s 1984. Why? Because we happily invite our oppressors into every aspect of our lives, as long as we’re kept happy with endless entertainment and shiny consumer goods. We don’t want to offend anyone, and we don’t want to suffer. Dreher even recounts how one Soviet Bloc survivor he talked to is horrified at the use of smartphones and Amazon Echo in US homes. They lived the nightmare described in 1984. The subtitle to Live Not By Lies is “A Manual For Christian Dissidents.” The second part of the book specifically gives the strategies the Christians in the Soviet Bloc used to maintain their faith and survive. If you haven’t guessed it, the title of the book has a lot to do with it. The title comes from a quote by Solzhenitsyn, a Christian who survived the gulags. And yes, their Christian faith was crucial to their survival. In fact, much of what our society wants Christians to let go of turns out to be crucial for surviving totalitarianism. Let’s not fool ourselves. There will be suffering, but we must persevere. This is a difficult topic. It’s hard to hear these comparisons and read these stories. It’s difficult to step outside the ideologies and narratives that seem to want to help people and really see what the end goal is. I think the strategies presented in the second part of the book will be essential in the coming years. Live Not By Lies is not a happy book, but it’s a necessary book. I recommend you read it and ask yourself the hard questions.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Shane

    Good book - a serious and sobering book, especially toward the end. Most of the book is stories of Christians who lived under and (for the most part) survived communism, and what we can learn from their example. The first four chapters are, "recognize the world you are living in". One reads these chapters, especially about the worldview and cultural environment under communism, and says to oneself repeatedly (and sarcastically), "well fortunately that doesn't sound anything like today". The Unite Good book - a serious and sobering book, especially toward the end. Most of the book is stories of Christians who lived under and (for the most part) survived communism, and what we can learn from their example. The first four chapters are, "recognize the world you are living in". One reads these chapters, especially about the worldview and cultural environment under communism, and says to oneself repeatedly (and sarcastically), "well fortunately that doesn't sound anything like today". The United States won't be turning actually communist anytime soon, but the mindset that made communism possible, the politicization of everything (sound familiar?), the judgment of people by group membership (sound familiar?), the decay of civil society that left people lonely and starved for meaning, even the idea of progress as religious substitute, are all recognizably around us right now. The scariest chapter in this part of the book, and something that might make the 2020 United States rather more frightening than the 1930 Soviet Union, talks about surveillance technology and our ability to track and manipulate people like never before, about the Chinese "social credit" system and how very easy it would be to institute such a system (we'd give it a friendlier-sounding name of course) here in the US, and so greatly punish those who engage in wrongthink without ever needing to put them in a prison. And then the second half of the book is "what do we do about it?" Far as Dreher is concerned, Christians have lost the culture war and must now be prepared to live under the loss - but we can take comfort here in that, for many Christians under communism, it seemed that communism also would endure for a thousand years, but it fell to pieces almost in a moment. I won't discuss these chapters in detail, but the titles tell you the main idea - "value nothing more than truth", "cultivate cultural memory" (shout-out to classical education in this chapter), "families are resistance cells", "religion, the bedrock of resistance", "standing in solidarity" (with other rebels, essentially), and "the gift of suffering". I did sometimes wish there were more practical suggestions in these chapters - here is a five step plan you need to begin today. But there are some. Small groups are a needed encouragement (my Christian tradition does these well, but they are completely foreign to some others, including Dreher's Orthodoxy). The importance of cultivating cultural memory, on the other hand, may be an area my tradition is quite weak in and so something to consider doing more intentionally (though I did appreciate the classical education shout-out). So recommended, and a quick read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott Carter

    * Dreher, Rod. Live Not by Lies. New York City, NY: Sentinel, 2020. $27.00 A popular subject within Christian history has been the study of how Christians have flourished in an environment that, from the outside, seems to strangle the church. I was intrigued to learn of a new publication by Rod Dreher; as a Christian navigating political views, I wanted to see the next book by the same writer of The Benedict Option. Dreher’s introduction tells the story of when he was contacted by an individual wh * Dreher, Rod. Live Not by Lies. New York City, NY: Sentinel, 2020. $27.00 A popular subject within Christian history has been the study of how Christians have flourished in an environment that, from the outside, seems to strangle the church. I was intrigued to learn of a new publication by Rod Dreher; as a Christian navigating political views, I wanted to see the next book by the same writer of The Benedict Option. Dreher’s introduction tells the story of when he was contacted by an individual whose mother had firsthand experience under a totalitarian regime. What she saw happening in America reminded her of her years as a political prisoner. This conversation led to many others like it with others who lived within oppressive communist countries. They all communicated the same thing: America is drifting towards totalitarianism. Dreher cites this drift as a move from traditional liberalism to our current progressive liberalism. The trajectory is not a militaristic inforced “hard” totalitarianism, but what he calls a “soft totalitarianism,” something sneakier than we realize. The author refrences Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and the more relevant “Live Not By Lies.” The chapters that follow comprise various interviews and testaments by those who lived under totalitarianism. He seeks to make the case that “despite its superficial permissiveness, liberal democracy is degenerating into something resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War” (Loc 148). In part one, Dreher looks at the sources, major factors, and primary intellectuals. Throughout part two he looks closer at resistance to “soft totalitarianism.” Dreher’s beginning chapters set the stage. With stories, he proposes the “task of the Christian dissident today is to personally commit herself to live not by lies” (Loc 388). Referencing a 1951 study of the German and Soviet Union shifts and political ideologies, Dreher marks similarities of Western culture in loneliness, civic trust, faith in institutions and hierarchical structures, believing the propaganda, pushing beyond current cultural bounds, preference for loyalty (in a book focused on woke progressivism, here he mentions President Trump’s statements before quickly turning back to liberals), and a passionate desire for ideology. Chapter 3 describes the religious nature of progressivism. A piece of this is the idea that the present age is necessarily better than the past, our culture is further in the progress of the ideal society; this is the “Myth of Progress.” The author notes several tangible examples of true progress. Without the Judeo-Christian linear view of history, these would not be advancements. The soft totalitarianism of our day seeks to silence dissenters, particularly using public ridicule as an opponent of the current social progress. Dreher looks at some of the tenants of “social justice warriors” before approaching social justice from a Christian perspective. Chapter 4 concludes the first section of Live Not by Lies as it approaches business, technology, and their use to further the agenda of the woke Left and no longer stays quiet on social issues. Consumers seeking convenience have, without consideration or concern, widely accepted tools of surveillance into our daily lives. As mentioned before, part two addresses how Christians are to dissent, “live not by lies,” and resist soft totalitarianism. Chapter five appeals to the reader to value truth; we must separate ourselves from the “crowd”, reject doublethink (from 1984) and fight for free speech among other appeals. Chapter six calls for remembering history to pass truth along to the next generation. Dreher writes, “we not only have to remember totalitarianism to build a resistance to it; we have to remember how to remember, period.” (Loc 1598). Family and traditional values are the subjects of chapter seven. The author argues the family can play a critical role in providing both a training ground for Christians, but also a source of sustained encouragement. Chapter eight broadens to look at how religion- Christianity in particular- has the philosophical and theological foundations on which resistance to totalitarianism can stand firm. Chapter nine walks the reader through examples of how to be in solidarity with others who resist. Dreher offers small groups and communities (these do not have to be limited to Christian groups) as the primary examples. Chapter ten concludes part two with a survey of stories describing the benefit of suffering. Dreher concludes each of the chapters in part two with a section called “See, Judge, Act”, harkening back to the story of Father Kolaković. These sections address actions Christians can take at this point in time. Some are “coming to Jesus” moments in their own right. For example, Dreher argues a “time of painful testing, even persecution, is coming. Lukewarm or shallow Christians will not come through with their faith intact” (Loc 2230). These calls to action encourage a response in manageable ways that are not themselves overwhelming. There are many parallels and stories the modern reader (especially the modern Christian who may live in a bubble of work and college football) needs to pay attention to. Those who dissent will be the object of criticism and disdain, even if the opinion isn’t necessarily Biblical but is still out of what is culturally acceptable. Many core Biblical concepts and principles are being challenged. Christians must be engaged. I have long not been, at least not in a recommendable way. I don’t follow Dreher’s posts and often am not sure how to articulate opposition to views I disagree with. I must read, listen, and discuss policies and views that concern the lives of individuals, my neighbor. Each Christian must love our neighbor and be a light unto this world. This will require suffering; losing our idealized views of our political party politics. Neither major party aligns perfectly with Biblical Christianity, and we are afraid to lose this sense of comfort. Christians must do this to bear witness to the Lordship of Christ. Three truths must be stated. (1) Christians must wake up from the slumber of comfort and financial prosperity and be active. (2) Christians have faced many similar issues throughout the centuries and we need to learn from them how to engage while cultural shifts are occurring. (3). Christians have faced far more ferocious persecution before and we need to learn how to be faithful in the face of such circumstances. A potential reader need not agree with all the strategies Dreher offers. He writes specifically to challenge soft totalitarianism because he sees it as the biggest threat. Some may not take serious these calls from someone who writes for “The American Conservative.” In the current state of affairs, it would be nice to hear a Christian political voice decry sins of all political sides. Nevertheless, the Christian (or any reader) who wants to engage in political thinking should read Live Not by Lies. Dreher offers stories of encouragement and options for the Christian living in a largely post-Christian world. * I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. My comments are independent and my own. Quotations could change in finished book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Becky Hintz

    This is the most important book I've read all year. In it, Dreher puts the spotlight on the "soft totalitarianism" emerging in the west: the combined efforts of the government, corporations, academia, and media elites to control the thoughts and actions of the people. As in all totalitarian societies, Christianity is viewed as a force that hinders the collective pursuit of happiness, and thus it must be silenced. To show us the way, Dreher turns to survivors of the "hard totalitarianism" of the This is the most important book I've read all year. In it, Dreher puts the spotlight on the "soft totalitarianism" emerging in the west: the combined efforts of the government, corporations, academia, and media elites to control the thoughts and actions of the people. As in all totalitarian societies, Christianity is viewed as a force that hinders the collective pursuit of happiness, and thus it must be silenced. To show us the way, Dreher turns to survivors of the "hard totalitarianism" of the former Soviet states. Their stories and words of wisdom demonstrate how our faith can survive--even thrive--under conditions of extreme persecution. Each story made me yearn for ten more like it. This book is a gold mine. I devoured it and marked it up heavily. I made a mental list of people I need to give it to. If you are a Christian, Catholic, or convictional believer of any kind, buy this book. If you treasure the promise of a liberal society--that people should be free to live according to their conscience, that free speech matters, that truth exists-- buy this book. If you are a person of goodwill who simply believes that we should not punish others for their thoughts, buy this book. And then buy an extra copy for a friend.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Review here. Review here.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I suspect Dreher is right about what’s coming though I wish he had supplied more evidence for his position that it might be more convincing to those who are not yet aware. I wanted to love this book but ultimately found it wanting. I suppose it’s a bit more general and vague than I anticipated. Not a bad book, per se, just not quite what I was expecting. It needs more Jesus.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ginger Hudock

    I encourage all Christians to read this book to understand what is going on in today's American culture. Dreher discusses the history of totalitarianism, especially in the Soviet bloc. He interviews a number of dissidents, especially Christians, who lived in those countries and witnessed those regimes. It was very sobering for me to read about how they lived and the courage they needed to live out their faith. Dreher states that America is now facing a soft-totalitarianism where the media, acade I encourage all Christians to read this book to understand what is going on in today's American culture. Dreher discusses the history of totalitarianism, especially in the Soviet bloc. He interviews a number of dissidents, especially Christians, who lived in those countries and witnessed those regimes. It was very sobering for me to read about how they lived and the courage they needed to live out their faith. Dreher states that America is now facing a soft-totalitarianism where the media, academia, corporate America and other institutions are compelling people to toe their line. I witnessed this just this week in our little South Carolina town where the college baseball coach may be fired from his job just because he dared to indirectly question the BLM movement in a private comment on a Facebook post. As Dreher states, Progressivism is religion and if you don't toe their line you may face huge consequences. Read this book and be prepared.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Matthews

    I received an advanced digital copy from the publisher at the request of the author, who not long ago asked any church leaders who might find it helpful to email him. I did, and I'm glad I did. I think this may be Dreher's best book yet. Dreher makes the case that Christians in the West today are heading into a period of what he calls "soft" totalitarianism (as opposed to the "hard" version of the Soviet Union). Rather than gulags and secret police, this new erosion of civil liberties and religi I received an advanced digital copy from the publisher at the request of the author, who not long ago asked any church leaders who might find it helpful to email him. I did, and I'm glad I did. I think this may be Dreher's best book yet. Dreher makes the case that Christians in the West today are heading into a period of what he calls "soft" totalitarianism (as opposed to the "hard" version of the Soviet Union). Rather than gulags and secret police, this new erosion of civil liberties and religious freedom comes from an intolerant progressive ideology that pervades our institutions—made worse by the ever-increasing surveillance of big tech firms like Google. It's a more subtle and psychological tyranny—more Huxley than Orwell, as people more and more exchange their individual and political liberties for the pleasures and conveniences that modern life offers them. Throughout the book Dreher explores the stories of those Christians who lived in Communist Eastern Europe following the end of WWII. These were people who could see and understand the times in which they were living and refused to surrender to the lie of Communism. They found ways to pass on their faith to others and build an underground community of faith that would eventually flourish and finally outlast their nation's evil regime. Those who are still alive today see many of the same ominous signs in a way that we often cannot, and their example and wisdom is an encouragement but also an admonition that we ought to take very seriously. The aim of this book is to glean that wisdom and apply it to our own situation—to listen to and learn from those who came before us. The book is simply written and its points clearly stated; Dreher doesn't veer off into wild philosophical tangents. I found it to be refreshingly practical. I think this is a book that most Christians could read and benefit from. When I started it, I expected it to be a sobering but probably depressing read, but I must say that it wasn't depressing: the stories of these Christian men and women who endured unspeakable trials and yet not only kept their faith in God intact but managed to go on the offensive with joy and determination, these stories were deeply inspirational. Honestly, it's hard to argue with Dreher about this growing soft totalitarianism, much as I don't want it to be true. And Christians had better be preparing their own hearts and communities for whatever may come, or else we too may be borne along by the current of "progress." Again, I am glad I read the book, and I will encourage others to do the same.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Drawing on interviews with Christians in the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, Dreher warns of a rise of a similar, though “soft” totalitarianism in the U.S., and outlines what Christians must do to live in the truth. In The Benedict Option (review), Rod Dreher outlines how he believes Christians, having lost the culture war, must live. Live Not By Lies offers an even grimmer future, the rise of a “soft” progressive totalitarianism functioning by rhetorical and social control, util Summary: Drawing on interviews with Christians in the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, Dreher warns of a rise of a similar, though “soft” totalitarianism in the U.S., and outlines what Christians must do to live in the truth. In The Benedict Option (review), Rod Dreher outlines how he believes Christians, having lost the culture war, must live. Live Not By Lies offers an even grimmer future, the rise of a “soft” progressive totalitarianism functioning by rhetorical and social control, utilizing the capacities already in existence for digital surveillance. He draws on interactions with survivors of Communism in the Czech Republic and the former Soviet Union. His title comes from a statement by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in what would be his final message to the Soviet Union. Dreher writes: What did it mean to live by lies? It meant, Solzhenitsyn writes, accepting without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compelled its citizens to affirm–or at least not to oppose–to get along peaceably under totalitarianism. Everybody says that they have no choice but to conform, says Solzhenitsyn, and to accept powerlessness. But that is the lie that gives all other lies their malign force. The ordinary man may not be able to overturn the kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be its loyal subject. Dreher and his eastern bloc interlocutors recognize the same troubling trends around the suppression of truth, the attractions of progressiveness to the discontented, the loss of faith in institutions, and a combination of destructiveness and transgressiveness. He points to the safety and cancel cultures of universities that foreclose open discussion of ideas. The second part of his work addresses how Christians ought prepare for the rise of progressive totalitarianism. He argues for the importance of cultural memory, particularly the memory of totalitarian regimes. He believes that the family and networks of small groups are critical to resistance. He believes that the church is the critical bedrock of resistance, although it is also important to stand in solidarity with others who resist. It was heartening to not see him reprise the strategic withdrawal into monastic-type communities of The Benedict Option but rather listen and draw upon the testimony of those who resisted in the urban centers of Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union Perhaps his greatest challenge to Christians is to accept the possibility of suffering as testimony to the truth–not sought, but not avoided. Talking with those who suffered, he stresses both the challenge to suffer without bitterness, and the gift of suffering. I think the two most important lessons of this book are that “it can happen here” and that Christians are woefully unprepared as yet. What troubled me in reading this was that Dreher’s apprehension of threats from the far left seems to have blinded him to threats from the far right. In warning exclusively of a progressive, Communist leaning totalitarianism, I found him more or less silent about the danger of a fascist totalitarianism. In the “survival of the extremes” character of our parties, it seems increasingly that they are moving toward one of these two polarities. The culture war no longer is Christians versus the secular culture but rather these two polarities against each other, each using parts of the Christian community to gain political leverage. Where Dreher gets it right is that both of these extremes are built on the lie of ultimate allegiance that no Christian can accept, with a whole host of other lies paving the way to believing this big lie. I believe he is right in recognizing how we may be seduced by lies from one extreme or the other. What I wish he had addressed is how we might be people who turn neither to the Left nor the Right but who are shaped by the narrative of the Gospel of the Kingdom. But in a culture where lying is endemic, the call to not capitulate to the lies and the community that sustains a people of truth is no insignificant thing. A Czech emigre friend told the author that writing this book was a waste of time because, “People will have to live through it first to understand….Any time I try to explain current events and their meaning to my friends or acquaintances, I am met with blank stares or downright nonsense.” I hope he is wrong. ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I’m not sure that I have ever been simultaneously this depressed and encouraged by a book. The first part of Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents argues that liberal democracy “despite its superficial permissiveness…is degenerating into something resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War.” This might sound ridiculously hyperbolic to people whose political views align nicely with those of the West’s most powerful institutions—universities, I’m not sure that I have ever been simultaneously this depressed and encouraged by a book. The first part of Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents argues that liberal democracy “despite its superficial permissiveness…is degenerating into something resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War.” This might sound ridiculously hyperbolic to people whose political views align nicely with those of the West’s most powerful institutions—universities, major corporations, the mainstream media, etc.—as well as to those who haven’t been paying much attention. But, many committed believers of the historic Christian faith along with some disaffected liberals, especially those who work within these powerful institutions, will know something of the intellectually oppressive atmosphere that Dreher describes in this book. The second part of the book argues that, in light of this coming “soft totalitarianism,” Christians would do well to look East to their Christian brothers and sisters whose persecuted faith thrived underground throughout the U.S.S.R. How did these men and women, many of them clergy but most just everyday people, remain faithful to their Christian convictions while under constant threat of social isolation, financial ruin, imprisonment, and even death? I knew going into this book that it wasn’t easy being a Christian in the Soviet Union, but I was still shocked by what I learned. In this age of airing past grievances, one rarely hears about Soviet atrocities committed against Christians. Regarding these stories, Dreher makes an important point: “The kind of Christians we will be in the time of testing depends on the kind of Christians we are today, and we cannot become the kind of Christians we need to be in preparation for persecution if we don’t know stories like this and take them into our hearts.” Indeed, learning about these persecuted Christians and reflecting on their courage and integrity was, for me, the best part of reading this book. What can I say about Rod Dreher? I won’t quibble with those who argue that he can be a bit alarmist in his obsessive chronicling of the Left's increasing illiberalism. To be fair to Dreher, though, the Right is also not immune to this book’s rebuke—even the American evangelical Christian church receives a heavy dose of much-deserved criticism for its materialism, its addiction to comfort and prosperity, and its “soft therapeutic deism.” Dreher calls popular Christianity “a shallow self-help cult whose chief aim is not cultivating discipleship but rooting out personal anxieties.” That’s pretty harsh, but what American Christian with his or her eyes open can deny that there is some truth to that? I finished this book several weeks ago, and I’m still processing it. I wouldn’t necessarily call Dreher a favorite author of mine, but I do think this book is very useful to Christians who want to stand firm amid growing intolerance of our faith and, at times, just plain common sense. It’s still relatively easy to be a Christian in the West, compared to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world. But, this might not always be the case, and here, I think, is where we find the key takeaway point from Live Not By Lies: “We should not conflate being socially or professionally marginalized with prison camps and the executioner’s bullet, the latter of which were all to real for anti-communist dissidents. But, know this too: If we latter-day believers are not able and willing to be faithful in the relatively small trials we face now, there is no reason to think we will have what it takes to endure serious persecution in the future.” Amen to that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zach Hollifield

    4/5 because I do believe Dreher is a touch too Chicken Little in the first part of the book. Christians are indeed becoming more ostracized in the West. However, it is nowhere close to Soviet Russia. It is also a regional issue in the United States. I live in a small town in North Carolina where you are far more likely to be outcast for preaching against cultural Christianity than preaching against homosexuality. Perhaps if I lived in a large city I would feel the same existential dread this boo 4/5 because I do believe Dreher is a touch too Chicken Little in the first part of the book. Christians are indeed becoming more ostracized in the West. However, it is nowhere close to Soviet Russia. It is also a regional issue in the United States. I live in a small town in North Carolina where you are far more likely to be outcast for preaching against cultural Christianity than preaching against homosexuality. Perhaps if I lived in a large city I would feel the same existential dread this book’s tone carries. The threat of soft-totalitarianism is real, it is growing, but no, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling (yet) and it may not after all. However, all that being said, the second part of the book is really, really good. The subtitle of the book could have just as easily been: “Basic Christian Discipleship.” The chapters on cultural memory and the family were especially worthwhile. I hope this book is widely read less because I’m afraid of the Social Justice Warriors and more so because this is one of the best books on gritty Christian discipleship (in war or peace times) that I’ve read. It was also a blessing to sit under and learn from many Christians outside the West. And for that opportunity I am thankful to Dreher.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Be strong, be afraid, be aware, grow, and strengthen your faith. Be brave enough to speak the truth and speak against the lies that are getting stronger and louder all around us. Communism, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism are already infiltrating our lives. It is not too late to pray, believe it can be changed, and point it out to others whether you are laughed at, canceled, or worse. Most of all, teach your children(no matter their age) and whether they seem to listen or not...plant the se Be strong, be afraid, be aware, grow, and strengthen your faith. Be brave enough to speak the truth and speak against the lies that are getting stronger and louder all around us. Communism, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism are already infiltrating our lives. It is not too late to pray, believe it can be changed, and point it out to others whether you are laughed at, canceled, or worse. Most of all, teach your children(no matter their age) and whether they seem to listen or not...plant the seeds. Teach and give examples of critical thinking (start early with this), it can be fun to learn. Recognize the destruction headed our way. And, remember love, it is here too. Thank you, Jim (my brother and his wife) Janna for gifting me this book. I had never heard of Rod Dreher and he is amazing. His writing was easy to understand and flowed easily. Because he gave non-violent ways to fight this it left me not so despondent about the future. Hang on to the truth. Truth is strong and will help you stand straight and tall. Love you, Jim and Janna.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bob O'bannon

    Dreher can tend to sound like a “sky is falling” alarmist sometimes, but it is very hard not to acknowledge that what he points out in this book is in fact taking place in our nation. It will be interesting to look back in 10 or 20 years to see if his dire anticipations are accurate. Dreher’s main contention is that conditions in the United States (and in the west as a whole) are very favorable for a new kind of totalitarianism. He calls it a “soft totalitarianism” — not one where people are thro Dreher can tend to sound like a “sky is falling” alarmist sometimes, but it is very hard not to acknowledge that what he points out in this book is in fact taking place in our nation. It will be interesting to look back in 10 or 20 years to see if his dire anticipations are accurate. Dreher’s main contention is that conditions in the United States (and in the west as a whole) are very favorable for a new kind of totalitarianism. He calls it a “soft totalitarianism” — not one where people are thrown into gulags, but one where Christians in particular will be slowly ostracized and marginalized from society as a penalty for not adopting the new religion of progressivism. In order to support his claims, Dreher interviews many people who knew what it was like living under communist rule in eastern Europe. They all assert, sometimes emphatically, that America is currently drifting toward some kind of totalitarianism. (p.xi). The soft kind, however, is perhaps more dangerous because it is more difficult to detect, harder to stand against (p.67), and seeks to capture the soul. The threat is actually so serious that a leading historian in Poland considers the west as a “place that is no longer safe for us.” “What we are seeing now is an attempt to destroy the last surviving communities: the family, the church, and the nation,” said Pawel Skibinski. (p.119). What are some signs of the coming totalitarianism? Dreher mentions in chapter 2 the way our society is increasingly disconnected; the loss of faith in institutions; indulgence in sexual perversions; propaganda that reframes historical events; and the politicization of every aspect of life. The pressure on people today to accept that a man can be a woman and a woman can be a man is an example of soft totalitarianism. To “accept without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compels its citizens to affirm” is to “live by lies.” (p.17). Those Christians who are truly followers of Christ, and not merely admirers (p.190) are in for a tough future. Dreher warns that if you are not “rock solid” in your commitment to Christ, you will be broken. (p.167). And “the kind of Christians we will be in the time of testing depends on the kind of Christians we are today.” (p.204). Like I said, Dreher is not painting a rosy picture of our current cultural situation, but if we know our history well, we have to acknowledge that what has happened elsewhere can happen here.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    “In our time, the emerging totalitarianism is softer, smarter, and more sophisticated—but is no less totalitarian for it... it is built on the oldest lie of all, the one the serpent whispered in the Garden, the father of every other lie: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’” The lies referenced by the title stem from this idea. There is a narrative in our culture that is redefining reality and selling a freedom and happiness that sounds and feels good, but is playing to our deepest desire as fallen human b “In our time, the emerging totalitarianism is softer, smarter, and more sophisticated—but is no less totalitarian for it... it is built on the oldest lie of all, the one the serpent whispered in the Garden, the father of every other lie: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’” The lies referenced by the title stem from this idea. There is a narrative in our culture that is redefining reality and selling a freedom and happiness that sounds and feels good, but is playing to our deepest desire as fallen human beings- to be God. To be “free” of any obligation or thing that stands in the way of our comfort and happiness. And the very thing they claim to be "freedom" is actually a prison. Read this book and consider the implications of what can be observed about our culture and politics right now and how it affects our faith as Christians. "Live Not By Lies" could be classified as alarmist, yet the author makes some very interesting and important points about what is happening in our country today and what the consequences could be. Like anything we read- we need to think for ourselves, think critically, and seek truth; so while I wouldn’t accept all of Dreher’s thoughts as facts, I find many of his observations super important to think about and useful to recognize dangerous things in our government and our culture- especially as Christians. I’ll share some of them here, conclude with my main criticisms, and then share some of the multitude of quotes from the book that are particularly interesting. Dreher spent time interviewing Americans who previously lived under communist rule and discussed how a lot of what is happening in American politics and culture today is reminiscent of what they experienced leading up to the Communist/totalitarian takeover of their respective countries. In summary: identity politics, isolation, the reinventing of language, the demonizing of dissenters from the cultural narrative, therapeutic morality, the policing of free speech, the dismantling of the family, and surveillance technology. He writes: “Elites and elite institutions are abandoning old-fashioned liberalism, based in defending the rights of the individual, and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards justice in terms of groups. It encourages people to identify with groups—ethnic, sexual, and otherwise—and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among the groups... [they] seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice. Further, these utopian progressives are constantly changing the standards of thought, speech, and behavior.” Identity politics are really being pushed right now. We, as humans, already have the tendency to group things and people because that’s how our brains process and try to understand. Take any psychology class and you will run into this (in-group/ out-group etc) where people tend to identify closer with others who are like themselves in some way and once they find their group identity they tend to view others outside their group in a more negative way. Our culture right now is forcing people to categorize large groups of people and are then putting labels on them: minorities= good; white men= bad; LGBTQ= good; Christians= bad; anyone who votes for Trump= bad; everyone who does not vote for Trump= good. No exceptions. There is a lot of danger when we judge people by their “group” instead of as individuals. We quickly lose our humanity. “Loyalty to the group or the tribe is at the core of leftist identity politics... This is at the root of “cancel culture,” in which transgressors, however minor their infractions, find themselves cast into outer darkness" This polarization of those who accept the ideology and those who dissent is more alarming when paired with the knowledge of where our technology is today. Dreher brings up China’s social credit system. We recently went to China and heard about it. Using their surveillance tech, they award citizens social merits or demerits based on behavior; these credits then dictate what kinds of jobs they have, the money they make, and the travel they are allowed to do. I doubt America will get to that level, but: “What is to stop private entities that control access to money and markets from redlining individuals, churches, and other organizations they deem to be bad social actors and denying access to commerce? China shows that it can be done, and how to do it... It is not at all difficult to imagine that banks, retailers, and service providers that have access to the kind of consumer data extracted by surveillance capitalists would decide to punish individuals affiliated with political, religious, or cultural groups those firms deem to be antisocial.” This was particularly jarring to me- I'm one who had said, I don’t care if companies or the government collect data because I’m not doing anything wrong. But I hadn’t thought about the implications of being denied access to things because I disagree with the ideology of the mob. Hopefully we never become a cashless society. The reinvention of language is also huge. Obviously, there are plenty of words that are now rightly labeled offensive that were acceptable in the past. But I agree with Dreher that right now there is a severe policing of language and redefining of words that is really just laying the foundation for control. It is another way to control people’s thinking and creates easily identified “dissenters” and demonizes them, publicly and loudly, as evil. “According to Hannah Arendt, the foremost scholar of totalitarianism, a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is.” Dreher acknowledges that it is unlikely that America will look like the Communist Soviet with their extreme torture and gulags, but we must be aware of soft-totalitarianism creeping into our country. Propaganda is a trademark of totalitarianism. Unlike the mainly political power of dictatorships, totalitarian governments create an entire ideology they require you to accept and operate by. They want to manipulate the way you think, behave, feel, and believe. To resist these totalitarian-esque movements we must not live by their lies. Both publicly and privately. “Sometimes silence is an act of resistance. Not just standing up for the truth by communicating loudly—keeping silent when you aren’t expected to be silent. That, too, is telling the truth.” Therapeutic Moralism is an important term to be familiar with and an ideology we have to be sensitive to. Christians are equally susceptible to this kind of thinking as secularists. It is the idea that morality is based on feelings and that God just wants us to be nice and happy. "In therapeutic culture, which has everywhere triumphed, the great sin is to stand in the way of the freedom of others to find happiness as they wish." How could anyone stand in the way of someone’s happiness? Well, if morality is defined according to an individual’s feelings and there is no external authority for what is right and wrong, how would anyone agree? Even more seriously, for Christians, this idea of “freedom” and happiness is a direct threat to our faith. It can be seen in the prosperity gospel touted by people like Joel Osteen, Rachel Hollis and others who preach self-promotion, love of self, follow your dreams, you deserve success, wealth, health and happiness, and you are in control of whatever life you want ideology. If our lives are centered on self, they are not centered on God. God did not create us so that we could spend our lives seeking personal fulfillment and success according to the world’s standards. No, we are set apart and created to glorify God, not ourselves. And if we are seeking the world’s freedom, comfort, and happiness, we will not stand for truth. The Bible does not teach that the Christian life will be free from suffering. In fact, it guarantees it. But a government that wants to control its people will disguise their ideology with a mask of freedom and happiness- something we all, in our fallen nature, love to align with; all this to the devil’s pleasure. As Christians, are we willing to suffer for our faith? Are we willing to experience public discomfort and ostracization for the sake of truth? Because with therapeutic morality, that is what is at stake. Another characteristic evident in a people susceptible to totalitarian manipulation, is isolation: “...we grow ever lonelier and more isolated. It is no coincidence that millennials and members of Generation Z register much higher rates of loneliness than older Americans, as well as significantly greater support for socialism. It’s as if they aspire to a politics that can replace the community they wish they had... A polity filled with alienated individuals who share little sense of community and purpose are prime targets for totalitarian ideologies and leaders who promise solidarity and meaning.” I am not surprised by this. As Christians, we know that one of the greatest tools of the devil is isolation. If we are separated from a support system who encourages us in truth and helps us sort out his lies, we can easily be swayed to believe really anything. I'm running out of space to cover it all. So moving on. My main criticisms of this book are lack of Scriptural content and no emphasis on God’s sovereignty. After a quick google search, I’m still not sure what kind of faith Rod Dreher has and what his views on the Bible are. Since he made a few references to Paul’s teachings on suffering and this book was promoted by Tim Challies, it would seem as though he believes what the Bible teaches, however, he misses a lot of opportunities to share Scripture and Jesus’ own suffering. He almost gave a bigger spotlight to Christians who died for their faith (people he called Saints) than to Jesus himself. Additionally, when speaking of the future and future suffering and speculating about what could potentially befall our country, I was disappointed that he spent very minimal space bestowing hope in the sovereignty of our Lord who is the Author and Sustainer of all things. Who decides which kingdoms rise and fall. Who has already defeated sin and death. Whose plans are above all ours. Yes, we need practical application and his suggested action steps could be valuable in preparing to suffer for our faith, but more powerful than any other emotion is hope. And what hope is there but the hope that lies in the only One who literally ordains every single thing down to the roll of dice. It seems a bit irresponsible to write an entire book on the danger and destruction that looms without emphasizing God’s sovereignty over it. I find these quotes profoundly relevant: All the lies, and lies about lies, that formed the communist order were built on the basis of this foundational lie: the communist state is the sole source of truth. Orwell expressed this truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” “[God] does not want admirers; he wants followers. As Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, God suffered with humanity to redeem humanity. He calls us to share in his passion, for our sake and the sake of the world. He promises us nothing but the cross. Not happiness but the joy of blessedness. Not material wealth but richness of spirit. Not sexual freedom as erotic abandon but sexual freedom within loving, mutually sacrificial commitment. Not power but love; not self-sovereignty but obedience.” If nothing else, this book is a reminder that we CAN know Truth, and it's not just whatever is loudest. Seek Truth, and be willing to suffer for Him. Earthly kingdoms come and go, the earth will pass away, but His Word is eternal and so are our souls. Other Quotes: Social justice warriors ranks are full of middle-class, secular, educated young people wracked by guilt and anxiety over their own privilege, alienated from their own traditions, and desperate to identify with something, or someone, to give them a sense of wholeness and purpose. For them, the ideology of social justice—as defined not by church teaching but by critical theorists in the academy—functions as a pseudo-religion.... They too believe that justice depends on group identity, and that achieving justice means taking power away from the exploiters and handing it to the exploited. Communism attempted to break apart the family by maintaining a monopoly on education and teaching young people to be dependent on the state. It also sought to lure the young away from the church by convincing them that the state would be the guarantors of their sexual freedom. Perhaps no country on earth has been more future-oriented than the United States of America. We are suckers for the Myth of Progress... but this does not mean that all changes improve upon the past inevitably. It also doesn’t mean that “progress,” divorced from God is progress at all. In fact, progress can become very dark in a secular context, without a biblical understanding of human fallibility and without the God of the Bible as the author of history and the judge of the earth. Christians today must understand that, fundamentally, they aren’t resisting a different politics but rather what is effectively a rival religion. This is how it was for young Russians of the late nineteenth century, who embraced Marxism with the fervor of religious converts. It gave its devotees a narrative that helped them understand why things are the way they are, and what they, as Marxists, should do to bring about a more just world. It was an optimistic philosophy, one that promised relief and bounty for all the peoples of the world. Consumerism is how we are learning to love Big Brother... He is not exactly who we expected him to be... He’s a salesman, he’s a broker, he’s a gatherer of raw materials, and a manufacturer of desires. He is monitoring virtually every move you make to determine how to sell you more things.. learning how to direct your behavior..[He] is laying the foundation for soft totalitarianism, both in terms of creating and implementing the technology for political and social control and by grooming the population to accept it as normal. Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.- The Party Slogan, 1984 If true, these are alarming:  https://victimsofcommunism.org/annual... [Pro tip: read the e-book to easily look up terms and access footnotes]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Booth

    This is an important book that should be read in order to help understand what is going on in our culture.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Viland

    Not so much a manual. More of an exhortation to find a manual, including somewhat of an outline of what topics should be discussed in said manual based on historical examples. If this book were really to accomplish what it’s title suggests, it would either have to be longer or more focused on practical application. It would also be benefitted by a more informative and precise picture of the enemy, rather than referring to them simply as “social justice warriors.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christopher S.

    "Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents" by Rod Dreher is a worthy follow-up to his last book, "The Benedict Option." After speaking with emigres from the former Soviet Union and from Poland and Romania, Dreher began to be intrigued by a common concern--that the early signs of totalitarianism that preceded large-scale persecution were now becoming apparent to those who knew how to recognize the signs. Dreher's book is a warning and a prescription. The warning is that a form of totali "Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents" by Rod Dreher is a worthy follow-up to his last book, "The Benedict Option." After speaking with emigres from the former Soviet Union and from Poland and Romania, Dreher began to be intrigued by a common concern--that the early signs of totalitarianism that preceded large-scale persecution were now becoming apparent to those who knew how to recognize the signs. Dreher's book is a warning and a prescription. The warning is that a form of totalitarianism (what Dreher calls "soft totalitarianism") is taking hold in the West; indeed, this form of totalitarianism is taking place in our own backyard. Under the guise of political correctness, a sort of thought police is beginning to exert its control on the populous. Dreher is concerned that instead of Orwell's 1984 (overt mind control via total societal control), America is more likely to replicate Huxley's "Brave New World" vision--that the populous would be controlled via their love of pleasure, comfort and sensuality. The essence of the warning is this: soft totalitarianism is not only coming, but the barbarians are already at the gate. The prescription is a more fully explored "Benedict Option." In order to flesh out this prescription Dreher tells stories of those who have lived through oppression in Russia and the eastern bloc countries. The title, "Live Not By Lies" comes from a well-know essay written by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn correctly identified that even when one is being wrongly accused, or encouraged just to be quiet and to go along with the spirit of the age, that the primary form of dissent is to live in truth. That is the dissident's freedom. One may control the body, but one may never capture the spirit. In this postmodern age where intellectual conformity is almost a requirement to participate in the community of ideas, the principle of not living by lies is not only important but necessary for the survival of a free people. The stories told by Dreher of those who lived through persecution while simultaneously living in truth is moving and inspiring. One may not agree with all of Dreher predictions or prescriptions but Dreher always causes the reader to think critically, to plan fervently, and to hope eternally. This book is a must read and would be an excellent book for group discussion. So, read the book and go forth in the truth and refuse to live by lies! Happy reading.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna Kelly

    Wow, this was fantastic! A highly recommended read. This book is divided into three parts. First Dreher discusses how totalitarianism is infiltrating the West (in a slightly different format described as "soft totalitarianism"). The book focuses on America specifically but I think it can be more broadly applied to other Western countries as similar "wokeness as religion" trends are popping up. Second, he explores stories from christian survivors of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and gives insi Wow, this was fantastic! A highly recommended read. This book is divided into three parts. First Dreher discusses how totalitarianism is infiltrating the West (in a slightly different format described as "soft totalitarianism"). The book focuses on America specifically but I think it can be more broadly applied to other Western countries as similar "wokeness as religion" trends are popping up. Second, he explores stories from christian survivors of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and gives insight into how they survived their ordeals. Lastly, Dreher teaches his readers to apply the lessons from previous generations to our own lives and explores how we may begin combating (or merely surviving) infringements on religion and our ability to dissent. The timing of this book couldn't be more perfect. What a few months ago may have appeared as far-fetched is becoming increasingly realistic in America. We as a "Christian" nation have much to learn from those who came before us and survived brutal totalitarian regimes, particularly as our country's threats to religious liberty expand and our ability to speak our minds appears to be dwindling rapidly. I love that Dreher focused on how as Christians our "happiness" is not the ultimate goal in life and suffering often comes as the price to pay for being a follower of Jesus Christ. I think modern western churches often brush suffering under the rug or say it can be easily overcome through faith. We will face different challenges than previous generations in part due to the rise of social media and surveillance technology, but the end goal will be the same. I would highly recommend this book to Christians and non-religious people alike as it gives great insight into what could be coming for us if we wilfully blind ourselves to what is currently unfolding in the name of "progress". Very interesting read and I feel like I have so much I need to learn about communism and its infiltration of Eastern Europe. Now I will proceed to pass this book out like candy! I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Josh Bishop

    “Live Not By Lies” is an urgently needed book, and Rod Dreher is a prophet for our time. He argues that we're entering a period of “soft totalitarianism” and that Christians must prepare now to endure, resist, and suffer in the time to come. He writes that “a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing les “Live Not By Lies” is an urgently needed book, and Rod Dreher is a prophet for our time. He argues that we're entering a period of “soft totalitarianism” and that Christians must prepare now to endure, resist, and suffer in the time to come. He writes that “a totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality.” As opposed to communism, which imposed “hard” totalitarianism through state violence, our soft totalitarianism “is therapeutic. It masks its hatred of dissenters from its utopian ideology in the guise of helping and healing.” It “demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic — and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations.” It “exploits decadent modern man's preference for personal pleasure over principles, including political liberties.” After defending his argument in the first half of the book, he turns in the second half to interviews with dissidents who resisted communism in Eastern Europe, giving us their lessons on how to prepare for and survive totalitarianism. It's excellent. Buy it, read it, and begin preparing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Moses

    I think "Live Not by Lies" should have been longer. I'm not sure Dreher quite closes the loop between the real and wise guidance he provides from former Soviet dissidents on how to withstand persecution under hard totalitarianism, and the exact nature of the "soft" totalitarianism Dreher believes is coming to the United States. I'm in agreement with Dreher, but unless I missed something, the line of argument in the book is, "Christians are being fired in the US for expressing their faith, and als I think "Live Not by Lies" should have been longer. I'm not sure Dreher quite closes the loop between the real and wise guidance he provides from former Soviet dissidents on how to withstand persecution under hard totalitarianism, and the exact nature of the "soft" totalitarianism Dreher believes is coming to the United States. I'm in agreement with Dreher, but unless I missed something, the line of argument in the book is, "Christians are being fired in the US for expressing their faith, and also smart speakers are listening to every word we say, so let's listen to what Richard Wurmbrand has to say about maintaining the faith while being forced to urinate on another prisoner tied to a cross in a Romanian communist prison. What lessons can we draw from this for growing a stronger faith?" I felt that something was missing, namely more explicit pronouncements (which are not lacking on Dreher's blog) on the precise nature of what's coming. From Dreher's blog, that's more what I expected. I reserve the right to revisit this review should that change.

  28. 4 out of 5

    G. Connor Salter

    Drehere makes the choice that unfortunately far too few Christian conservatives make, and goes beyond his perceptions of politics to listen to Christians who've actually experienced persecution (in China, in Soviet Bloc countries), getting their perspective on America's current situation. By doing that, asking them what it looks like when totalitarianism starts, and what it takes for Christians to band together and provide better solutions, Dreher gives a mature and objective view of what Christ Drehere makes the choice that unfortunately far too few Christian conservatives make, and goes beyond his perceptions of politics to listen to Christians who've actually experienced persecution (in China, in Soviet Bloc countries), getting their perspective on America's current situation. By doing that, asking them what it looks like when totalitarianism starts, and what it takes for Christians to band together and provide better solutions, Dreher gives a mature and objective view of what Christians should be concerned about and how to prepare themselves.

  29. 5 out of 5

    C.S. Wachter

    Those who lived through hard totalitarian regimes now speak with voices of experience. But we do not have ears to hear. Christians open your ears to their calls. Whether the totalitarianism is hard or soft makes no difference. Totalitarianism is a religion that allows for no competition. Which will you choose? Will you follow Christ down the hard path—and it can get very rocky defending life, religious freedom, the family, and our constitutional rights—or taking the easy path and living by lies? Those who lived through hard totalitarian regimes now speak with voices of experience. But we do not have ears to hear. Christians open your ears to their calls. Whether the totalitarianism is hard or soft makes no difference. Totalitarianism is a religion that allows for no competition. Which will you choose? Will you follow Christ down the hard path—and it can get very rocky defending life, religious freedom, the family, and our constitutional rights—or taking the easy path and living by lies? This is an important book for Christians and non-Christians in these turbulent times.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zak Schmoll

    You all know that I am a Rod Dreher fan boy, so I had preordered this book months ago, and I polished it off within 48 hours of receiving it. First, let me just throw some things out there. A lot of people are not going to like this book. A lot of people are going to say it is alarmism. A lot of people are going to be offended by his characterization of soft totalitarianism. In response to these, you don't have to like his contentions for them to be true. Alarmism seems less alarmist when people w You all know that I am a Rod Dreher fan boy, so I had preordered this book months ago, and I polished it off within 48 hours of receiving it. First, let me just throw some things out there. A lot of people are not going to like this book. A lot of people are going to say it is alarmism. A lot of people are going to be offended by his characterization of soft totalitarianism. In response to these, you don't have to like his contentions for them to be true. Alarmism seems less alarmist when people who lived through the totalitarianism of the Soviet bloc identify similar symptoms in our culture and in theirs. When certain tendencies across time and space and manifest themselves in different cultures, it is not unreasonable to search for common threads. This is a valuable read. It is worth your time and worth thinking about. I don't know that any of us want to find ourselves in a totalitarian state commanded by thought police.

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