Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Live Not By Lies

Live Not By Lies, A Manual for Christian Dissidents (Sentinel), is a recent book by Rod Dreher, who is well-known in American journalism of politics religion and culture. His book and its central argument will be of interest and concern to any genuine Christian. Dreher is concerned about the rise of what he calls ‘soft totalitarianism’ in the US. We are all aware of totalitarianism, what he calls hard totalitarianism, a system of  power  based on the power of an elite,  the secret police and privilege of the Party. based on the loss of citizenship, resulting in the absence of freedom of thought and of debate. Soft totalitarianism is Dreher’s term for the sacrificing of freedom, including religious freedoms, by appealing to the comforts and pleasures of modern life and our unwillingness to sacrifice them. (p.11) 


He focuses on Eastern Europe whose history endured first the totalitarianism of Nazism, to be followed not by liberation at the end of the second World War, but by the totalitarianism of the USSR, forcing the people the be shackled to Communism. Dreher obtained he this from people, now elderly, some of which emigrated to the US  who were deprived of religious liberty. His concern is that such a degeneracy will follow the West, and he discerns the signs of it.

He tells how an old lady, an emigrated Czech,  was reminded how this pattern  of what he calls ‘soft’ totalitarianism, by the passivity of the men and women in Czechoslovakia who,  after the Second World War, the Czechs the Soviet Union was allowed to take over their nation, involving the loss of their liberty the work of their  Soviet-backed government. Only members of the Communist party could enjoy full privileges as citizens, the rest were discriminated as second – class citizens. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in…that they began to regain their sought-for liberties.

He recounts this through interviewing several who suffered in these sickening events.  Dreher based his book on interviews he conducted in. Here are some of his examples Kolakovic ‘the prophet’, as Dreher describes him, discerned a coming conflict between in 1944. Soviet totalitarianism posed a threats to hope for liberal democracy, though promising freedom. He writes

Father Kolakovic knew that the clericalism and passivity of traditional Slovak Catholicism would  be no match for communism  For one thing, he correctly foresaw that the communists . For one thing, he currently foresaw that the communists would try to control the Church by subduing the clergy. For another, he understood that the spiritual trials awaiting believers under communism would put them to an extreme test. The charismatic pastor preached that only a total life commitment to Christ would enable them to withstand the coming trial.. (4)

It’s possible to note the onslaught of totalitarianism, precisely because we have a misunderstanding of how its power works. in 1951, poet and literary critic Czeslaw Milosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident, wrote that Western people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of ‘might and coercion’. (9)

Dreher comments that totalitarians today may yearn  for justice, and go to the length  of demonizing dissenters and victims in order to being about ‘social justice’. Advocates of this become totalitarian in order to become to bully for ‘social justice’ at whatever the price. (10) He mentions other, similar cases such as Kremery (45),  Solzhenitsyn (170, and Wurmbrand (199-201).      

These were among those who suffered by their defiance of a totalitarian regime, and he sketches their social conditions and the mind set of the culture when in the hands of their masters, such as loneliness (31and in social   conditions, what he calls social atomization, (31), and their experience of mutual  distrust between citizens 

Dreher contrasts this with what he holds is a rising current totalitarianism  in the U.S.,through  consumerism, involving restrictions to the liberties of the market for goods and services. The way in which these liberties were suppressed in post-war Czechoslovakia, when those who were members of the Party,  the favoured segment of the population who has ‘correct’ views, as against the remainder of society who were not supporters of the Party, and so  lose their place in the society. Now, in the rights are curtailed That is, the curtailment of traditional freedoms when certain activities are reserved by the LGBT community,  or by the Left view more generally, such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ in social justice. These are developed without any opposition from the wider public. It is this process is the tightening of the loss  of freedoms for those who refuse of the LGBT community, which he calls Dreher  calls the onset of ‘soft’ totalitarianism.

So Dreher’s evidence for his view of ‘progress’ depends from the experience of those of an earlier era, as in Czechoslovakia and other post-war countries under Soviet rule. He depends on Hannah Arendt’s book on the rise of totalitarian, finding similarities. And of  course, from the interviews from those who found Soviet-driven totalitarianism breaking out after the defeat of Hitler. They experienced one loss of liberty and then another.


These facts  have stimulated Rod to take trips to eastern, former Soviet dominated peoples. The first part of the book ‘’Understanding Soft Totalitarianism’ goes into the effects of this period in some detail. These are prompted by what Rod  learned from his interviews of elderly people of countries who were first colonized by the German Nazis, and then dominated by their enemies, as in Soviet Communism.

Dreher premises his book on the way in which totalitarian power is overcome, , as in the U.S.S.R and earlier on Nazi Fascism. He thinks that it is possible to detect a totalitarianism in the current culture and social life in the U.S. Because of the tactics and positions if the LGBT community, who have been able to politicize universities, media and even government departments. 

The political tactics of soft totalitarians polarizes the population into the  oppressed and the oppressors, forcing the average easy going-citizen onto one camp or the other, or dangles some goal, only if they will commit to the cause. 

So soft totalitarianism, how it initiated the sex revolution, its social attitudes, and advocacy of social justice (54, 63) and woke capitalism (71-8) This is the doing of critical theory, to the end of  the ‘progressiveness’ of what is called ‘social justice’.

The US is not the UK, and soft totalitarianism is not established,  though its seeds are evident The strategy of the totalitarian is the same in contemporary China, as it was in Czechoslovakia after the war, and what we are faced with. `it is that of a conditional promise….

Carl Trueman puts this succinctly. 

Critical race theory, like other critical theories – postcolonialism or queer theory, for example, is self-certifying. Its basic claims, for example, that racism is systemic or that being non-racist is impossible, are not conclusions drawn from arguments. They are axiom, and they cannot be challenged by those who do not agree with them. Those who dissent or offer criticism are, by definition, part of the problem


What should be the responses of Christians faced with critical theory? Dreher makes a number of suggestions: Prioritize the truth, cultivate a sense of history, and church history, tell the past to your children, 

1.Resist the reductionism of  secularism, to think of all life is what is of value. The immanent is not all-important. Cultivate the memory for Christians, and church history. The memory can be a fortress against contemporary propaganda , which includes  not only the capacity for dialogue and tolerance. Some matters cannot be bargained away. Be prepared to suffer for your faith, bearing the cross. The Christian life is not that of the values of contemporary bourgeois. The family must be developed and,  prepare – to sacrifice,  and to follow the Saviour.

God’s kingdom, whose members worship Christ her king,  needs immanent ‘room’, agencies in education, literature and society. With an effect in society, but not of a worldly, political character.  Politics should not enter the life of Christ’s kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world.