I’m going to attempt to cover the intent of Rod Dreher’s latest work, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, fairly though I will employ some of my own terminology and phrasing. It should be consistent with Mr. Dreher’s intent.
His previous popular work, The Benedict Option, bothered me. It bothered me because I saw it as a retreat, albeit a strategic retreat. This work presents only a hint of that but is mostly about how the church can survive, thrive as best possible, and even succeed against a totalitarian regime. It is not about violent militancy and even rejects such. But it is about militancy. It is about not only a rejection of the precepts of totalitarianism historically (that’s easy as it costs us nothing) but also of the precepts of modern (soft and hard) totalitarianism.
The work begins with history. History as subtext should be noted. Not only is this about the history of totalitarianism, notably Marxist and Maoist communism, but it is also about remembering national history, about dismissing those myths which detract from our history, dismissing the myths that today’s neo-totalitarians present as fact, and replacing myth with honest history, with strong relationships, with strong teach, with strong commitments to truth, and more.
This is not simply a Roman Catholic treatise, though that bell rings loudly, it is honest enough to cover Baptist and other protestant responses to the problem. Richard Wurmbrand, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and many others, get deserved attention. It is written with the tone that those who suffered for Christ, no matter sect, suffered for Christ. That’s why they were attacked, which is the premise of Marxist communism. Those who suffered share a fellowship in this.
The plot line would be best stated as: It is beginning to happen here. The introduction brings this to the fore with a quote from Solzhenitsyn:
There always is 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.
China may be monitoring any and all of its citizens through constant AI surveillance via facial recognition, crowd movement, personal movement, and purchasing history. In the U.S. this is done through NSA monitoring (the knowledge of which we might thank Eric Snowden for) and social media databases. Just add data mining + AI + a government that gets what it wants from social media giants and we are in pretty much the same boat.
One of the failures of the modern flirtation with totalitarianism is the lack of language. Public education (though not alone) and media (entertainment and “news”) have created a culture that lacks the language to describe problems. Couple this with the myth of equality and bake for 30 years. Presto! You’ve got a working recipe for a new type of totalitarian. And while capitalism came with its own myth (“A rising tide lifts all boats” assumes everyone has a boat) modern socialism’s myth might be summarized as “equality eliminates problems” where there is no concern about the inequality of an all-powerful government with the capacity to manipulate and control arbitrarily. Alas, the rich white youth who can afford to spend days tearing down a nation don’t realize that it is the hourly worker who props them up. The concept is foreign to them. All they can do is call their opponents “enemy,” “racist,” and “oppressor.” [My note: When HRC so frequently used the term “enemy” in her 2016 campaign it was to energize the radical base which, unfortunately for her, went to the even more radical outlier independent candidates and cost her the election.]
The book concludes with offensive challenges. Among these are: Do not give into the language of the oppressor. [My note: A modern example is that one dictionary recently announced that it will not include the term “homosexual” because the term, to them, conveys a prejudice. The next generation and further may not recognize the term and will not have a reference to look up its meaning, even for honest research.] Do not forget history. Teach history. Cultivate a strong family & community.
In short, do not live the lie. The title statement by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The book deserves a good read. It is sound instruction for both church and family life.