Live Not By Lies . . . it is a compelling statement which all of us must live out. However, it is also a fascinating book written by Rod Dreher. In this work, Dreher makes the argument that soft totalitarianism is coming to America. He breaks the book down into two distinct parts each with a goal of their own.
Part 1 profoundly develops the case for soft totalitarianism in the U.S.A. which primarily comes through the rise of social justice and surveillance technology which has risen through consumer capitalism. Part 2 then expounds on how we understand the concept of resisting this tyranny. Dreher makes a compelling case in both portions of his book. One special aspect of this book is that Dreher is not making his case alone, rather he visits survivors of Soviet Totalitarianism who provide insights regarding this concept. Let’s look at a couple of areas of the book in greater detail.
Dreher rightly points to the fact that the original American dream held by the Puritans was “to establish liberty as the condition that allowed them to worship and to serve God as dictated by their consciences.” The Puritans wanted to use their freedom for virtue, however, in modern America people want to use freedom “to achieve well-being.” They want to live this new American dream of wealth and stability and so they buy into the Myth of Progress which tells them they will be freed from the limitations set on them by religion and traditional values to be able to achieve all their desires.
Needless to say, this whole topic is a huge part of the coming totalitarianism which Dreher goes on to tie to this Myth of Progress. He aptly demonstrates how individuals who disagree with the mainstream ideas are silenced as a result of the new social justice ideology. This new social justice is not founded on the idea of doing good in society, rather it sees Christians as the enemies of progress and is rooted in secularism, identity politics, and I might add Marxism itself. Dreher clearly annihilates any notion this worldview is a friend to Christianity, rather, it is an enemy which assists totalitarianism.
Another fascinating section is when Dreher demonstrates the fact of exactly how much privacy Americans have given up to corporations and social media companies like Facebook. He points to the fact that corporations now are proud of their ability to promote the new woke ideologies of the day. He also demonstrates the fact that the CIA is masterful at collecting data. Dreher then furthers his argument and discusses how these corporation will use their data and power to control the decisions of mass populations. One need not be imaginative to discover what 21st Century Totalitarianism or Authoritarianism will resemble, one need only look at the nation of China.
The Chinese government utilizes a social credit system to dictate what actions its citizens may or may not take in their lives. For example, going into forbidden zones can devalue the social score of a person. While taking positive actions, as defined by the government, raises the overall score of the individual. Well you might ask, “what happens to folks with low social credit scores?” Great question, as Dreher points out, they might not be able to take flights, they may not be allowed on other transportation devices, their kids may not be allowed to go to college, and they may even lose their job and struggle to find another. Long-story short, they are at the whim of the government to define what they can or cannot do. Does this sound like a terrifying existence? Get ready, according to Rod Dreher the technological ability for such a system exists in the West and the surveillance tech is gaining a foothold amongst consumers. We must note, however, that Dreher specifically points out a hard regime like China’s totalitarianism is unlikely to gain ground here in the U.S.A. but that does not mean the loss in freedom won’t be immense. So, what can we do to resist such tyranny and live not by lies but by truth?
We now move on to part 2 of this book where Dreher outlines how to resist this totalitarianism. First, we must stay vigilant in the truth. I appreciate this point immensely and Dreher developed it well in Live Not By Lies. He covers different areas such as how being counter-cultural is a must if we are going to commit to the truth. He discusses the need for wisdom as to how and when we speak the truth. These points are vitally important for us to understand today. We live in a society built upon lies and the greatest threat to evil is the truth. It is imperative for us to reject the lies and live by the truth!
Dreher also points out the fact that cultural and historical memory really does make an impact. The Leftist want to erase history, but we as Christians understand we are to learn from it. We must see the faults, failings, successes, victories, triumphs, and faceplants of our past, our nation’s past, and our world’s past if we are to avoid repeating the same mistakes of those who came before us. We must also learn from what they did well so we can stand on their shoulders and progress. Additionally, this factor also builds resistance to totalitarianism giving us yet another reason to know the past and remember.
Many more guidelines are given for how to resist the coming totalitarianism in America. Perhaps two particularly stood out to me. First, strong family units are vital and we must embrace suffering. If the church is going to be strong in the midst of totalitarian government, then we must have strong families. Weak families will not last in this sort of crisis. Subsequently, Christians must also see the gift of suffering for the Lord Jesus. Do we not see this fact illustrated by the Apostles and the early church in the book of Acts? It is imperative for surviving in this scenario as well. Keep in mind, all of Dreher’s points are not made by a man sitting in a bubble isolated from totalitarianism, rather, they are made from one who actually talked to individuals that lived under Soviet totalitarianism. These are not ideas from a think tank that might be good thoughts. These are ideas from people who actually suffered immensely under this sort of government.
I must also point out that theologically I did disagree with Dreher on a couple of points. He is clearly broad in exactly whom he considers to be a Christian. He includes Catholics and others, I am sure some individuals who call themselves Catholic are saved, but no one who holds to true Catholic doctrine is saved. Also, he mentions a man having a dream/vision towards the end of the book, and as an individual who believes in the cessation of the charismata I differ with him on that point as well. Keep those topics in mind as you read, they are definitely not faults which would negate the benefit of the work, but they are certainly worth mentioning.
Rod Dreher makes a compelling case for the coming totalitarianism in our country. He lays it out in a manner which is very difficult to refute. I found myself agreeing with his analysis and I appreciated his call for us to Live Not By Lies and instead live by the truth! We must dedicate ourselves to biblical teaching and remain faithful. It is wise for us to learn from others who have suffered under tyrannical governments. This objective is the ultimate role of Dreher’s book, and I highly commend it as a valuable resource as he undoubtedly succeeds in both sounding the alarm and setting forth a plan of resistance.