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Live Not by Lies

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This book is fantastic and reminds us that terrible things didn't just happen hundred of years ago in the far off past. I highlighted and underlined so much if this book.
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Live Not By Lies should be read by every Christian church in America. I’m not super political in my reading - I never read political books if I can help it - but I highly recommend it to others like myself who wouldn’t normally go out of their way to read a book on soft totalitarianism. 

Related reading:
I just read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley last week, which is mentioned multiple times throughout Live Not By Lies. The last chapter of Live Not By Lies also mentioned suffering, and I read Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot just yesterday. I would recommend reading these three books together. 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review and opinions are my own.
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Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher

“What if the answers to life’s questions that young Christians the world over are looking for are not to be found in the West but rather in the East–in the stories and lives of the Christian dissidents?” (p. 209)
    The title of this book comes from the final message posted by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of Gulag Archipelago, as he was being exiled from Russia to the West. Dreher argues that events in America today are reminiscent of when communism first came to Czechoslovakia, as well as other countries in the former Eastern Bloc- at least according to survivors, some of whom were political prisoners. However, he believes we are experiencing a transition to what he terms “soft totalitarianism”, not as overt as what Eastern Europe and the former USSR endured. To understand the premise and future of the United States outlined in this book, it is important to understand totalitarianism.

    But what about the idea of this “soft” form of the dictatorial form of government? Certainly, the general public knows enough about the rise of brutal dictators throughout history to recognize such a harsh shift from the current, albeit very flawed, democratic republic currently in effect? I pose this last question as such because the reality, which Dreher also expounds upon, is that a large portion of the population is ignorant of so much of the world’s history; and this portion grows in each subsequent generation as we continue to live in a society plagued by distractions. Even if those of us who are aware of the history of the 1900s can spot the changes that are leading us toward an undesirable, controlling form of government: 
“What if we really are witnessing a turn toward totalitarianism in the Western liberal democracies, and can’t see it because it takes a form different from the old kind?” (p. xi)
    These distractions and those increasing them in our daily lives, may not even be a direct action of the government, although they certainly benefit from the way society has been changing in more recent times.
“In an America that now runs on the internet, five companies- Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google- have an almost incalculable influence over public and private life” (p 73)
We’re allowing our lives to be run by automated technology, letting the proverbial Big Brother into our homes through “smart” devices and with our every move observed by our cellphones. Virtually every aspect of our lives is monitored by some device, allowing those collecting this data to predict our preferences and daily routines. Privacy no longer exists and is sadly not a priority for us anymore, something that those who Dreher interviews for this book cannot believe. By choosing “convenience”, what are we truly sacrificing? A huge strength of what this book conveys is how technology that is essentially ubiquitous in America is being used currently in China, where the Communist government has infiltrated daily existence on every conceivable level. While there is no evidence that America is using all of the data we freely hand over on a daily basis, the reality that it could so easily do so is frightening. 

“Once you perceive how the system runs on lies, stand as firmly as you can on what you know to be true and real when confronted by those lies. Refuse to let the media and institutions propagandize your children. Teach them how to identify lies and to refuse them.” (p. 108)
   Simply turning on the news shows that these tactics are apparent. The bulk of what is reported on amounts to nothing but manufactured issues under the guise of “science”, when the reality of the actual science behind the information disproves what is being broadcast. We’re seeing a clear push to indoctrinate young children about issues that they cannot possibly understand, let alone things they need to know as children. This is also seen in he push to consider abortion, which is murder, a “right” or “women’s healthcare” and the attitudes society at large takes against those who are Pro-Life as if that’s a rephrensible belief to hold. The mental gymnastics required to believe these ridiculous assertions is mind-blowing. We are seeing the words of Scripture come to bear:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Rom 5:20)
    After laying the groundwork to understand why those who survived Communist regimes are concerned for America’s trajectory, Dreher also provides advice on how to stop the seemingly inevitable transition:
“The political religion that murdered tens of millions, imprisoned and tortured countless more, and imprisoned the lives of half of humanity in its time, and the defeat of which required agonizing struggle by allies across borders, oceans, political parties, and generations–this hateful ideology is romanticized by ignorant young people” (p. 112)
Where are the older generations to teach the realities of history to our young people who are advocating for Communism? To dispel the myths being propagated by those either running for or in office in our present world? Where is the curiosity and desire to know history in our young people? Whatever your favorite celebrity posted on Instagram is not more important than knowing history and the atrocities that have been committed by Communist regimes; but I suppose this shift in young people is all part of the design to usher in this very type of totalitarianism. If we cannot even know and understand the history of America, then how can we ever truly expect the younger generations to care about what goes on around the world? 

    This is on display when looking at the media coverage of the Russia/Ukraine war. Everyone seems to have an opinion, or more accurately everyone seems to be parroting what they are told is the right opinion to have. By no means am I saying we should be ignoring what is going on, as war is never something to be ignored, but we should be doing our own research to form our own opinions as there is so much propaganda being circulated by all sides involved. Where is the media coverage and public outrage for other atrocities happening in the world? There is genocide happening in China, persecution on a large scale worldwide, civil wars in Ethiopia and other countries, and conflicts over resources all over the world that no one is talking about. War doesn’t (and shouldn’t) only matter when it affects America’s access to resources. This lack of coverage about important events in the world should be enough for us to take the education of both ourselves and our children into our own hands. Dreher sums this idea up more succinctly than I can:
“Once you perceive how the system runs on lies, stand as firmly as you can on what you know to be true and real when confronted by those lies. Refuse to let the media and institutions propagandize your children. Teach them how to identify lies and to refuse them.” (p. 108)

    The second portion of the book, titled How to Live in Truth, is devoted to looking at the current landscape and its direction as a Christian. Dreher begins with a discussion on how our values as Christians are preparing us to withstand, especially in a culture where individuals are increasingly becoming more isolated.
“In the Christian model, marriage and family offers three gifts that are urgently needed for believers struggling within a totalitarian order…the fruitful fellowship of love…freedom…the dignity of the individual within family fellowship” (p. 131)
However, just because we have faith as our driving force, we are not immune to falling into the trap of turning a blind eye to totalitarianism.
“Christian dissidents will be unable to mount an effective resistance if their eyes aren't open to and focused on the nature and methods of social justice ideology and the ways in which data harvesting and manipulation can and will be used by woke capitalists and social justice ideologues in institutional authority to impose control” (p. 94-5)
    It is important that we continue to search Scripture for Truth and to reject the deceptions the world would have us believe. Reminiscent of the warning to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation (3:14-22), Dreher states:

(p. 162)

Regardless of what view you hold surrounding eschatology (the study of the End Times), there should be no debate that Jesus will be returning for His Bride (the Church). Regardless of whether or not you believe we are living in the Last Days, I think we can all agree we are closer to End Times in the year 2022 than the world was in say, 1400. The praises, admonishments, and warnings given to the seven Churches in Revelation are universal. We should all be taking note and striving to live in a way that truly reflects Christ.
“The important lesson to draw is that a creed one holds as a statement not of one’s subjective feelings, but as a description of objective reality, is a priceless possession. It tells you how to discern truth from lies. And for those whose creed is Christianity, then in the face of ubiquitous hatred and cruelty, faith is evidence that the true Truth, the real Reality, is the eternal love of God.” (p. 152)
    We don’t want to find ourselves, especially as believers, unequipped for what the future may hold. We certainly don’t want to be put in a situation where we’re questioning our faith, our commitment to God or even our salvation. Without sound doctrine and time spent in God’s Word, will we be better off than someone without a faith background? According to Dreher, and I agree, the answer is not:
“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.”(p. 182)

Some final quotes I enjoyed and think are worth noting:

“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.” (p. 17)

What I Liked: 
-This book is a necessary read for the history lesson alone. As someone who has always been interested in learning about history, it is appalling to me how much of the information included in this book is unknown to the general public. The Eastern Bloc countries fought back against the oppressive regimes and regained control of their governments in the 1980s, but even what is considered to be more recent history is so quickly forgotten. Even if you’re not a Christian, the first portion of this book has invaluable insights into our possible future as a nation if we continue to prioritize social media over true, factual history.
“This is why Hannah Arendt described the totalitarian personality as ‘the completely isolated human being’. A person cut off from history is a person who is almost powerless against power” (p. 117)
-Quoting Father Kirill, who created a memorial for Christian martyrs at Butovo Field and spends his life teaching the youth of Russia about the Great Terror:
‘The same methods from the communist era are being used. People today have a responsibility to search out more information than what they are offered on TV, and to know how to look critically on what they’re reading and seeing. That’s what is different now than before’ (p 125)
We absolutely have more than enough resources to learn about any era of history we choose, but how many of us are aware of the realities of communism? How many Millennials (my generation) and younger are even aware that Stalin is responsible for more murders than Hitler? 
- I have been interested in reading accounts of persecuted Christians for the past year or so, when I first learned about the realities that Christians face all over the world in the present day. I loved how Dreher touched on these stories, citing first hand accounts from Richard Wurmbrand, among others. Under a Communist government this ideology becomes its own religion, making all others incompatible and thus, silenced/persecuted. It is so important for every believer to know just how blessed they are to be living in a country with religious freedom, even when a Biblical worldview is ostracized and considered to be almost radical.
“The faith of martyrs, and confessors like those who survived to bear witness, is a far cry from the therapeutic religion of the middle-class suburbs, the sermonizing of politicized congregations of the Left and the Right, and the health-and-wealth message of ‘prosperity gospel’ churches. These and other feeble forms of the faith will be quickly burned away in the face of the slightest persecution” (p. 204)

What I Didn’t Like: 
-Dreher posits that America is lining up to mirror Brave New World, not 1984, yet he continues to cite and draw parallels to Orwell rather than Huxley. There were a few quotes from Huxley’s science-fiction masterpiece, but not until the concluding chapter
“Though again, the totalitarianism we are facing today looks far more like Huxley’s than Orwell’s, both books teach a lesson about suffering and truth-and so do the survivors who felt the communist lash” (p. 185)
-There was far too much talk of those who have been canonized as saints through the Roman Catholic Church. -This is an unbiblical practice, as the Scripture is clear that all those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are saints (See Romans 1:7; 8:27, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1;4:12, Philippians 1:1, among others). I am aware that many of those whose accounts were featured were Catholic or Orthodox and thus believed in the concept of the papacy designating saints. However, if we are to stand against what is likely coming, we should be standing on the truth of God’s Word, not on things created by man.

Books I’d Recommend to Learn More about the realities of Communism: 
Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
​​The Year That Changed The World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Michael R. Meyer

I’ve Not Read Yet but on my TBR:
(all but the first of which were mentioned/cited in Live Not by Lies)
The Child of Gulag by Yuri Feynberg
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
Notes from the Underground by Roger Scruton
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one of the best books ever, live not by lies by Rod Dreher is a book against totalitarianism and violence  in the world .
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When Totalitarian persecutions against Christians finally arrive in the West, how will you as a Christian respond and have your faith still survive?  This book explores this question with a journalistic study of how those who are religious survive with their faith in Communist Eastern Europe during the days of the Cold War with lessons learned that’s important for Christians in the West to learn about.  Before you think this book is irrelevant and conspiracy theory the author argues that there’s a rise in the West of softer form of Totalitarianism than past secular tyranny like Marxists states but still there’s a rise of society marginalizing, canceling and attacking conservative Christians with historic and biblical moral values and ethics.  For these reasons this book became one of the important talked about book in 2020 and relevant in a post-2020 world.

The book consists of ten chapters arranged in two parts.  Part One, with chapters one through four, is titled “Understanding Soft Totalitarianism” and part two is titled “How to live in Truth” which consists of chapters five through ten.  The first part is a social and cultural look at what’s going on today while part two is more practical with pointers and principles but also stories for inspiration to persevere.

In part one of the book I thought this book was quite insightful with the author’s analysis of the progressive leftist movement and how “woke” doctrines have tyrannical characteristics.  This might go against the grain of many who think its only the right with authoritarian tendencies.  I thought chapter three which how progressivism is a religion (or like a religion) was very compelling.  In particular I appreciated the author pointing out how the progressive’s belief in the “Grand March” which is the idea that progress is inevitable for humanity, has not only enabled but justifies oppression such as elimination of the opposition and slandering the other side in the most negative and uncharitable light.  To be fair the author notes that this idea of progress is so pervasive even Republicans believe it; moreover there is a Christian form of this, but the secularized form of it has bastardized this idea of progress with an over-realized eschatology. Progressivism is contrasted with classical liberalism that is more concerned about individual freedom and the move away from that is concerning.

I thought part two as a manual or practical guide was also good.  When things get more tyrannical against Christians and there’s more from society and corporations pushing against Christianity here the author noted the importance of a strong religious family and also Christian small groups.  Love is also important in the midst of all of this, where its not just study groups (that’s important) but also embracing of fellow believers but also others as an outreach.

Overall I did enjoy the book’s analysis of our society and culture.  Nevertheless I am concern if he’s confused capitalism with corporatism (with state and government enablement or worst: corporation acting like the government).  Still he’s right about the problem in the West with materialism can easily make it harder for Christians today to identify tyranny and oppression.  I also thought the principles of how to survive as Christians has a lot of good advice  However I am concern with the author’s theology that’s notable with whom he include in the book; the author is quite ecumenical and I am concern with the importance of Gospel clarity and Gospel faithfulness.  The Gospel is important given eternity is at stake.  Also I thought for a book for Christians it was strange that there’s not really any verses or passages that was mentioned and things that were theological was pretty light in the book.  I think when we see 1 Peter which was written to persecute Christians we see that doctrines and the Gospel matter in encouraging believers to “live not by lies.”  Yet I don’t know of any sound Protestant that has written something similar to this book, in the vein of a manual for Christians going underground due to oppression.  There ought to be one that’s written.  So I struggle with what rating I should give the book. I don’t recommend the author’s theology (and therefore won’t recommend this to young Christians).  But the practical wisdom is helpful.  On the basis of the book’s analysis of culture and wise principles to consider while also being somewhat unique I give this a four out of five.  Theologically I think it’s a fail.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Sentinel and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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This was an excellent book. Reading about heroes of the faith who stood up for their beliefs and didn't bow to totalitarianism was incredibly inspiring. Additionally, the fact that the West is engaging in soft totalitarianism isn't a shock to those of us who are experiencing it, but it does give one a bit of a start to hear survivors of the totalitarian regime saying that what's happening in the West looks familiar. This book is a must-read not only to expose yourself to the history of those brave souls who stood firm in their faith in the face of totalitarianism, but also to serve as a wake-up call for the Western church. 

EDITED TO ADD: I have posted my review on Amazon, but it is not published yet. I will post the link as soon as it's published. 

(For some reason Amazon is not letting me post a review for this book, but I will be sure to post one when I am able.)
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In this well-researched book Rod Dreher introduces us to people who stood for religious freedom in the midst of severe repression (and oppression), mostly in Eastern Europe. Drawing from the personal accounts of Catholic priests and church members, Dreher enlightens the reader about the true nature of communist government. Many of these accounts come from those who lived during the dark years, or from their families and acquaintances. Most striking is the steadfast faith of these unsung heroes, and their commitment to standing firm on the principles in which they believed, to the point of civil disobedience, persecution, and imprisonment. Even if you do not subscribe to the religious beliefs held by these people, read the book to gain un understanding of what we in the United States stand to suffer if we don’t learn from the past.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for my honest review. That said, I will also report that after reading this I purchased the hardback book to add to my library. It’s that good.
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Recommended by my pastor, I wasn’t sure how I would get on with this book. The first half gives historical background, far past and near past. The second half gives more practical application for today’s soft totalitarianism with examples from the past. 

While I was generally aware of the content regarding the far past including conditions in the Soviet Union, this overview served as a good refresher. The near past section was a bit dull for me because I had lived through the events described with one foot in internet culture and one foot out of it. For the next generation or someone who has never immersed themselves in our current internet culture, this content will be a good overview. 

Reading and reviewing this book over a year after it was published has given me perspective. Are the totalitarian signs discussed in this book accurate, overly dramatic, or even understated for our time? One year later I can say, Rod Dreher is right on the money. My family has employed many of the tips for living in truth already. Reading this book now has been very encouraging as we continue to do so. It served to strengthen my convictions to see this through for Christ rather than my own happiness. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group for providing this ebook for review.
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Live Not By Lies is a terrifying book but also so encouraging. Ever since high school I’ve been drawn to the stories of the men and women who lived through WWII, particularly in occupied Europe, and opposed and suffered under the Nazis. Now maybe I know better why I am so drawn to them.

I appreciated how the author points out problems with all sides of the American political process and really doesn’t get into finger pointing much at all. He’s not so concerned with who is doing things so much as that the things are happening.

At times I feel like he sees so clearly and other times I think he seems rather naive. He says something about it not being likely that pastors will be jailed here but it’s happening in Canada so why not here? The one thing I think could have been done better is distinguishing between classics liberalism and the liberalism of today. They are quite different and that difference was not made clear in some cases, leading to some confusion.

I think what is so remarkable about this book is that it’s not just the author giving his opinion. He’s letting you meet many others who saw and lived through this before and are telling us, “look out! It’s coming here!” Do we believe they are lying to is? What would they have to gain by lying?

I’m very glad I got the chance to read this book and I definitely need to read it again soon. Many thanks to NetGalley for a copy. All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required.
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I was frustrated as I read this book. I had hoped to read a historical account of courageous people of faith and appreciated the sections of the book that did recount the stories of those whose courage cost them much. The book frustrated and fell flat for me when it made thinly-defended connections to the present day or demonstrated an extreme disregard for those who fall outside the author's own political convictions.
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Amazing yet frightening book. So relevant and timely for our generation. Let's learn from history in order to not repeat it.
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Live Not by Lies is the best book of this year.  You need to run and get a copy of this book.  It is an important work for the church and every Christian who is living in the West, but American specifically.

The first half of the book builds the case for a soft, therapeutic totalitarianism infiltrating America.  By the end of the first section, if not before, you will be completely convinced and your eyes will be opened to things that you hadn't previously noticed in our society.  I felt like scales were falling from my eyes as the author shared warnings from Christians who come from post-Soviet Union, communist countries.

The second half of the book shares personal accounts of pillars of the faith who survived and kept the Church going through the Soviet Union and communism in Europe.  I found these stories highly inspiring and encouraging.  Interwoven within the stories is practical ideas for Christians in America today.  The author shares his ideas for how we can prepare now for coming harder totalitarianism in our country.

This book helped me to see in my own life that I have been very accepting of messages that "experts" have given me without stopping to consider the truth.  Because of recommendations in this book, I have already made changes to our family life.  I've recommended this book to several people in my life, sharing quotes and summaries of what I have been reading.  I want every serious Christian to read this book and prepare for coming soft persecution at the hands of the government.  This book was published in 2020, but already we can see changes have happened toward a more totalitarian government in "free' countries like Canada and Australia.

This book will change your perspective on the news you consume, the voices who are loudest in the culture and prepare you in your heart for deciding where your true allegiance is and how far you will go to hold to the truth.

My one criticism is that I did not find this book to be a "handbook" as the subtitle says.  It isn't a handbook but an inspiring account that will move you to action.

I HIGHLY recommend this book.  I will be re-reading this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Sentinel for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

First off, let me start with what I truly enjoyed about this book; I appreciated hearing the stories of believers who lived in the soviet bloc who lived through and understood the effects of totalitarianism in a way that most never will. The term “soft totalitarianism” is a powerful one that perfectly captures what many conservative and moderate-learning individuals feel has crept into culture; being ‘cancelled’ at the slightest hint that you differ from the culturally approved narrative or  big-tech’s control on communication for example. The softness of these trends should serve as a warning when we look at the hard totalitarianism of the USSR and the repercussions of such a society. 

Unfortunately, there were several things I did not enjoy about this unbalanced book; firstly, it is structured around anecdotes and what comes off as fear-mongering. Secondly, the weaponization of terms like ‘progressive’ or ‘leftist’ will fall on deaf ears for anyone that Dreher is trying to win over. For an audience that already ideologically agrees with the premise of this book, it verges on becoming an echo-chamber of tribalism rather than unifying, hopeful message centered on the gospel. As a believer, left or right leaning politics should not be my lens for viewing society — it should be the gospel. The utter bleakness of Live Not by Lies left me feeling depressed. The transforming hope of the gospel message is far from being mentioned within these pages, which I find odd for a book that is subtitled as a “Manual for Christian Dissidents”.  Instead, it comes off as an alarmist call to further divide the culture war. 

In the end, I enjoyed the historic accounts found in the first half of  Live Not by Lies, but was disappointed by the political motivation of the second half of the book.  The first half would serve as a suitable resource for history, but the tribalism perpetuated by the alarmist nature of this book left me disappointed. 

If you enjoyed the historical aspects of Live Not by Lies, I would recommend reading Opening the Red Door by John A. Bernbaum, which tells the story of Russia’s first Christian liberal arts university.
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LIve Not by Lies was an eye-opening book for me! So relevant to what we are experiencing in our world today. Definitely a call to wake up and be aware of what is going on around us.  His use of the term "soft totalitarianism" has stuck with me and I am more aware of it than I was before I read this book.  I have recommended this book to everyone I know and will definitely be reading more from Rod Dreher!
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I first heard about Rod Dreher's Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents while listening to Heidi St. John's Get off the Bench Podcast (episodes 929-930). I felt compelled to purchase the audiobook that day as the interview was a stark reminder of all we--as a free country--have to lose. I am not an auditory learner, however, and I found it very difficult to follow along. Rather than stumble my way through, I put it aside for a time. I was pleasantly surprised to find it available on NetGalley and took the chance to pick it up again. A big thank you to NetGalley and Sentinel for making this book available to me. My review is my own and was not altered by this.

We all know the adage, "History repeats itself," which ironically has been attributed to Karl Marx among other famous philosophers and writers. We also know that there is some truth to this statement. Mr. Dreher's book captures the essence of America's slow loss of freedom and subtle flirting--and not so subtle flirting--with Communism and Socialism and sees it as a replica of Soviet oppression and persecution. 

Mr. Dreher breaks through barriers created by the MSM and others seeking to control the narrative. He writes with bold intent, calling out those who seek to destroy Christian ideology, including that of the family, that of masculinity, that of the church's role and that of our role as citizens. the Rather than present his personal thoughts alone, Mr. Dreher uses accounts of people who lived under this Communist regime. These survivors shake their heads at what they see happening to America. They know where all the subtleties lead. And they wish to warn us.

Mr. Dreher's presents this warning charges all believers to stand firm and to hold fast to the faith, even in the face of significant persecution. One of the most profound concepts I read was that we should be creating tight-knit communities of like-minded Christians who want to teach truth to future generations. By teaching truth, there is hope and we are able to hold fast.

One of the provocative reads to come out of 2020, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents is a must read for all Christians. I also think this would be a great supplementary book for high school students and college-aged students, especially when it comes to world history and post-modern American history.
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The premise of this book is rooted in the conflated logic of the persecuted Christian, who in the name of Christianity must not be required to tolerate the humanity of others unless it conforms to their tenets of belief. They feel persecuted because others will not tolerate their intolerance. The term of totalitarianism is used incorrectly here. Totalitarianism seeks subservience which is indeed what this  brand of Christianity expects of its followers. To be open, equitable, and inclusive is not totalitarianism.. #NetGalley
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I have been sad to see the way that our country has been quickly changing over the last few years. Live Not by Lies does an excellent job of laying some groundwork on what is going on, the history of socialist countries, and the dangers that we will face if we do not make some changes now. I have taken a long time with this book because there is so much to go through with it, and I would like to take some more time to really delve into what Dreher has to say, and the research that he has done. I think this would be a book that I would like to have in physical form in order to mark up and bookmark things that stand out to me.
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If I could urge you to read one nonfiction book this year/quarter/X time period, "Live Not by Lies" would be it. Regardless of political-party preference, this book will challenge and inform the reader in a way I've not seen for some time.

While Dreher primarily addresses the political realities in America today, I believe readers from other countries will still find the read informative, enlightening, and insightful--especially as he draws on the experiences of persecuted Christians worldwide, with a special emphasis on those in the former Soviet bloc.

You may say that America is by no means totalitarian, and never could be. Dreher would beg to differ. "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. [It] aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is." (eARC loc. 235) Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so too.

Dreher's title stems from a Solzhenitsyn publication in 1974 urging the Soviet people to "live not by lies": "Everybody says that they have no choice but to conform, says Solzhenitsyn, and to accept powerlessness. But that is the lie that gives all the 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." (eARC loc. 373-380).

I really appreciated the real-life stories Dreher included throughout this book. Earlier this year I read Nik Ripken's book "The Insanity of God," detailing his entrance into missions work and pivot into the study of persecuted Christians worldwide (particularly Soviet-bloc and Asian), and felt that Dreher's expounds on that even further and more effectively for the reader. Soviet-bloc Christians know what it is to suffer under Communism, and have seen the writing on the American wall for upwards of 30 years or more.

Dreher does an excellent job at summarizing what soft totalitarianism even is and how we (America in particular) got here (it didn't happen overnight!), then pivoting into "what's next"--plenteous and practical action items for Christians moving forward. (Suddenly, Orwell's "1984" became relevant for me again. I almost ... emphasis almost ... want to read it a second time, lol.) He exhorts Christians to decide now--before totalitarianism gains any more of a foothold--on how to respond. In short: "draw close to authentic spiritual leadership...form small cells of fellow believers...[and] See, Judge, Act" (eARC loc. 393).

Powerful, stunning read that certainly woke me up; I pray it does the same for other readers, and that each person will be so bold as to read and engage with it and those around them, regardless of political or religious affiliation. We truly are in a battle "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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Not something I would recommend to most, unless you are trying to understand Dreher or a certain form of conservatism more. I'd instead suggest looking up a history of conservatism, or reading the author's other book, the Benedict Option.
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This book was very hard to get into because it began with an unspoken request to trust hearsay. The author received a call from a stranger whose relative was perplexed about a potential rebirth of communism/totalitarianism. It was too many hoops to jump through too soon in the narrative. 

As an American reader born in the late 80s, the historical scene of the Soviet Union was not effectively described for someone (like my ignorant self) who may or may not have known all the sociopolitical conditions at play at this point in history. More detail and scene setting would have been helpful for millennial readers. And it didn't read so much like a guide, as promised in the title, but more like an academic book. I was disappointed. 

Ultimately, Rod Dreher lost credibility with me when he, as a Christian author, chose to call Chicago dance teachers "dipshits" in a public tweet yesterday, March 3.
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