Book Review - Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents
November 06, 2020
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance - first of all, over our own hearts.” - Dreher
How Does This Book Relate to Current Events?
We are witnessing a rising Totalitarianism throughout the West. It is troubling. Australians are being pulled from their cars and arrested for not wearing masks. Daily accounts of Europeans and Americans being denied employment, shamed, denied service, and largely “canceled” are chronicled. De-platforming for not following accepted orthodoxy is now commonplace. Refusing to wear a mask lands you on a list grounding you from air travel. This is Soft Totalitarianism, as Dreher defines it. The author’s subsequent discussion of Eastern Europe under Communism is an excellent exposé of how this system operates and how to resist to the point of finally squelching this movement.
Rod Dreher pens an insightful record on the concept of Soft Totalitarianism in two steps. First, he dissects the concept by discussing the cultural shifts in Western Society, in particular.
“It is not hard for a totalitarian regime to keep people ignorant. Once you relinquish your freedom for the sake of ‘understood necessity’, …, for conformity with the regime, …you cede your claim to the truth.” - Dreher
Our Western culture has become one of “equality” and “the greater good”. These laudable concepts are shared by both contemporary society and dark periods throughout history. Though virtuous sounding, those behind this push know that many revolutions have begun with these very same precepts. (Sprinkle in economic downturn and food insecurity and history shows how bad our situation can get.) Dreher handles the “political correctness” threat, also referred to as “wokeness”, adroitly. Dissenters of all stripes (including conservatives) dismiss this movement at their own peril. Our “kids” will not grow out of it and, in fact, bring these views to their workplaces and public institutions. If you dissent from the woke party line, you will be destroyed. Canceled, stigmatized, and demonized as racist, sexists, homophobes, Islamaphobes, xenophobes, etc., many are recoiling in fear.
As Ronald Reagan stated, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”. The Millennial generation has been taught conformity like no generation since before WWII (Strauss & Howe, 2009). As the author explains, Marx’s revisionist interpretation is that history depicted a manifestation of class struggle. These are the same lies being promulgated today. Moreover, Dreher discusses the epidemic of hate that has swept our Western societies. Even if the haters do not fully embrace Marx’s tenets, his views are a useful tool to punish the despised.
Some of the strongest points made in the book are interviews with people who resisted communism in Eastern Europe, particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We are not far removed from their dark days and each survivor has strong feelings about what they see today. They know well that we in the West have lost track of the atrocities of the past and are moving in a dangerous direction.
This leads us to the second step of Dreher’s work, that is, how to live in truth. The book recounts Zofia Romaszewska who was a fierce figure within the anti-communist resistance. Today she admonishes the young to get off of the Internet and to join face-to-face to build resistance. She goes on to say that forming communities and networks of communities is critical. Come what may, communities are there for support.
The hard totalitarianism of the past is essential to understand. However, the author cautions that this emerging totalitarianism is “softer, smarter, and more sophisticated”. Today, here in the U.S., you might characterize our existence (October 2020) as voluntary medical Martial Law. A person who accepts the risk of this virus (or any virus) has no ability to live freely. The young are particularly resistant to this virus, but not the virus response. That is not living within liberty, free choice, and self-determination. Yet, the population has complied with hardly a whimper. Frighten people and the Nation State can get the populace to do anything. The evil within our midst will use this to their advantage continually until they finally meet resistance.
Why Should I Care?
The new wave of Totalitarianism is right on time. The European 86-year revolutionary cycle is perfect - 1848, 1924, 2020. Clearly, Europe is in far worse shape than the U.S., but we follow a similar Anglo-American cycle (Strauss & Howe, 2009). If you believe that our current situation is a temporary blip, you will soon see that a more enduring crisis has commenced. If you understand that a tectonic shift is underway, then a guidebook for dealing with an over-reaching and forceful Nation State is welcome and easily digested. Many of the books we will be reviewing are important from a historical viewpoint. This work is critical historically and as a manual - a rare combination.
Pros, Cons, and Is It Worth My Time?
Live Not By Lies is an important read worthy of your time and a fine book to pass to your friends. The byline of this book might be slightly off-putting to some, A Manual for Christian Dissidents. Importantly, this is not simply a book for Christians. Not at all. It might speak more distinctly to Christians but many varying levels of faith, different faiths, and, indeed, atheists will find this a practical guide in resisting Totalitarianism. Many historical references are made to the leftists/communists/revolutionaries in Eastern Europe and Russia who came to realize that Totalitarian regimes eventually prey on everyone. The book is outstanding as a practical guide to mounting a resistance. Importantly, that resistance is not about looking for trouble or yelling on every street corner. In contrast, the solutions that worked to bring about the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia will work again and are far more fundamental centering on family, community, and eternal values. This book is truly a practical guide, a well researched manual.
Dreher, Rod. (2020). Live Not By Lies: A Manual For Christian Dissidents. Sentinel Books.
Strauss, William, & Howe, Neil. (2009). The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny. Broadway Books.
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Written for today. Excellent insights on what is happening and why. Historical context is good for framing the way things are today. Most importantly how to understand these totalitarians, their misguided beliefs and defending you thinking and life.