Cover Image: Live Not by Lies

Live Not by Lies

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Live not by lies is an amazing book that is looking for a life that must resist the soft totalitarianism. This question has been asked in the entire book that what it means for us to live not by lies under such oppression. Rod Dreher is against the current government system that is not acting political rather a spiritual to deceive people. This is not worrying Dreher alone rather other Christians are also worried about such dangerous tactics. Thus, in the midst of this agony and pain, the writer claim is if someone is not worthy to stand against such nonsense to speak the truth then at least he/she can boldly declare what someone does not believe. This book provides a lot of testimonies of men and women who are fighting with this system and who have been persecuted under such an oppressed system.
In the first section, Dreher argues that how soft totalitarianism is dominating the institution and academia. A second chapter is a resistance approach over those lies. In other words, the first part provides the background of the current context that is happening in the American context and the second part provides a remedy to overcome such persecution.  The overall struggle of the writer is to provide a solid solution to resist such lies of totalitarianism. 
Thus, in this book the author is a prophetic voice that is alarming a signal of danger to aware all the Americans so that people may not get stuck in the crises.   This is a wakeup call for those Americans who think that totalitarianism cannot happen in America. After demonstrating lies of that system the author's appeal is to fight with this system as in the past people fought and overcome. 
The point of the author is very relevant to do not drink the poison because you are thirsty but rather save other people too from such poison. Personally, I like the title of the book that is very thought-provoking to resist such marginalization. However, he does not provide and look around the people who are suffering from racism and the white supremacy who is constantly dominating over black people. At some point, it seems very genuine that Christians need to take stand against such lies, but how about the lies that are echoing for centuries under such a system whereby oppression and marginalization are looking for the end of such a brutal system.  Thus, the weakness of this approach is not to address the crises that are happening in this system for centuries.
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In Live Not By Lies, Rod Dreher explores the idea of soft totalitarianism which he believes (and I’m inclined to agree) is going to make life much more difficult for faithful Christians in the US. The second half is devoted to the stories of Christian dissidents and martyrs who survived, or enabled others to survive, Soviet totalitarianism with their faith intact. It’s full of practical recommendations from these great saints and their children for robust discipleship and Christian community formation.

The book is more resigned in tone than the Benedict Option, yet also more fundamentally hopeful and encouraging. The way through will be difficult, but there is a way through.  I highly recommend it.
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General impressions: 

The second half of the book, with the stories of those who survived Communist oppression and the practices that helped them survive, is very powerful. I found myself doing more highlighting and less commenting during the second half.  

I'm concerned that the first half doesn't connect the dots as clearly and powerfully as it could. As a longtime reader of Rod's blog, I've read story after story about people who are suffering right now because of soft totalitarianism -- people losing their jobs being effectively blacklisted from their chosen profession, banned from traveling or speaking, organizations being cut off from banking services and online fundraising, schools in the UK denied license to operate (e.g, the Orthodox Jewish kindergarten shutdown for not teaching the girls about LGBT). What fails to come across is the threat encapsulated by Erick Erickson's warning: "You will be made to care." (I am surprised that the Law of Merited Impossibility does not make an appearance in the book.)

The introduction, in particular, could use at least one dramatic and clear example of soft totalitarianism already being inflicted on ordinary people. The physician's fear of Dreher using his name -- is there any way the author could explain the rational basis of fear in a concrete way without providing clues to his identity? His fear is noteworthy because it's not just a reaction to the news report about the pizzeria but apparently to a perceived threat to his standing in his profession or his community. Is that threat implicit or explicit? Did he witness others suffering consequences?

Later in the introduction, Dreher mentions "another emigre professor" who noticed that American conservatives would look over their shoulders and lower their voices. They're afraid, but of what? The introduction needs a specific horror story, something to illustrate the fear already felt by academics and professionals, and which is creeping into corporate offices and factories, something that would compel a reader skimming the intro to read on to find the answers.

The "See, Judge, Act" section header at the end of each Part 2 chapter was a little disorienting on my kindle. Seeing it again, I wondered if I had accidentally backed up 20 pages. Adding a subhed specific to the chapter (e.g., "See, judge, act: Strengthening your family") would help the reader remember where he is.  

An annotated bibliography, gathering up in one place all of the sources that Dreher cites over the course of the book, would be a helpful addition. I found myself wanting to know more and to go in-depth to learn about the nuts-and-bolts operation of Father Kolakovic's "Family," underground seminars, Karol Wojtyla's secret plays. I could imagine a companion reader that would contain Solzhenitsyn's essay, Havel's "Power of the Powerless," Alfred Jay Nock's "Isaiah's Job," and then extended excerpts from the memoirs Dreher cites.

Some specific nitpicks and suggestions are in the note to the publisher.
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This book is a must read for modern Christians wondering how they and their churches need to live in our changing culture. It presents a clarion call to Christian churches and laity warning of, and giving guidance to prepare for, the possible arrival of a soft anti-Christian totalitarianism in America and the West. Mr. Dreher makes the case that progressivism and modern social justice serve as a secular “religion” in competition with Christianity. He presents it as a religion in the sense that provides an organizing understanding of the world and our purpose in it. In that worldview, everything in life is understood through relationships of power and the human mission is foster progress by reordering society to create more equitable power relationships leading to greater freedom, wealth equality and stability, technological progress, and the happiness of a utopian society. It rejects the Christian ideal of using freedom to live by Biblical virtue, replacing it with the ideal of using freedom to achieve well-being as defined by the sacred individual, a sovereign self that is fully the product of choice and consent.  The author believes that Christianity has largely lost the “culture war” with this secular “religion” and explores the likely consequences of that defeat. In the first half of the book, Mr. Dreher examines cultural trends that paved the way for rise of totalitarianism in pre-Soviet Russian and Weimar Germany and finds many parallels with the contemporary West. The first half of the book also assess the possible effects of differences between those cultures and our current culture, worldview, and technology. He concludes that a soft anti- Christian totalitarianism is a likely future for America and the West.
The second half of the book consists primarily of case studies of Christian small groups that successfully resisted communist totalitarianism in Eastern Europe, drawing lessons from their experience. These lessons include being willing to live counterculturally and to resist cooperation with politically correct lies. The successful small groups were characterized by deep fellowship, accountability, and support as well as Christian instruction and cultural remembrance, which became especially important as institutional churches were either shutdown or co-opted. These Christians had to endure suffering for their faith in ways that few Western Christians have ever experienced, making clear the cost of true discipleship. Their ability to suffer all of this for the sake of Christ, without bitterness toward those persecuted them, is what testified to the reality and power of God. These case studies can open our mind and hearts for the Holy Spirit to provide guidance for us to be part of, establish, or even lead, such groups.
Is Rod Dreher correct in his prediction that soft totalitarianism is coming? I do not have the wisdom or prophetic gift to know. However, scripture (Luke 9:23 & 24) says that the cost of discipleship is taking up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. Jesus calls his disciples to live authentically and endure, without bitterness, the suffering that comes in all our lives, just as these small groups did. Therefore, whether or not we, as Christians, will need to endure suffering inflicted by a totalitarian society, the lessons from these resistance groups are for us today.
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