Oals Yet Dreher never talks about alliances except briefly in connection with Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia As Dreher mentions most of Charter 77 s participants weren t Christian and some were radical Marxists But he suggests no euivalent for the religious Right today alliances with those with alien views who together with us oppose the totalitarianism of the Left Why Because he has been instructed that policing one s rightward boundary is what he must do before anything else There are no possible leftward alliances for us what are sometimes called good faith liberals are merely willing dupes in the Left s totalitarian agenda and of no use in this fight This policing has for many decades been the original flaw of the Right for which William F Buckley bears most of the responsibility hobbling ourselves by permitting our enemies to dictate with whom we may ally Dreher may not even realize it but his enemies have crippled him before he can leave the gateI ll give Dreher a short break here for this problem is not his alone but general A few months ago the generally excellent Sohrab Ahmari who is much aggressive than Dreher was hyperventilating on his own initiative that VDARE a racially tinged anti immigrant front in which John Derbyshire is prominent was absolutely uneuivocally beyond the pale and nobody at all should have any interaction with it He was complaining that Trump advisor Stephen Miller had shared VDARE links years ago while at Breitbart His support for this was I kid you not an article from the far left Guardian newspaper a British paper extensively uoting the odious so called Southern Poverty Law Center a noted hate group This shows that still now even the dissident Right of men such as Ahmari voluntarily debilitates itself by letting the Left set limits for it on what is acceptable discourse and what are acceptable alliances This is no way to win Utterly smashing the SPLC is the way to win Does that mean I think we should ally with racists and the like Yes Yes it does Absolutely Six days a week and twice on Sunday We should ally with anyone who will help us winI resisted this obvious conclusion for a long time but Review continues as first comment When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was annexed from the country he loved he published a parting message to the Russian people Live Not by Lies was a bold challenge to the brutal totalitarian system that raved countless thousands of peopleRod Dreher picks up where Solzhenitsyn left off in his new book Live Not By Lies A Manual for Christian Dissidents This riveting work helps readers discover what it means to live not by lies The author interviews Christians who endured the days of totalitarianism behind the Iron Curtain and gains a wealth of information that both inform and inspire us todayPart One Understanding Soft TotalitarianismPart one explores the underbelly of what Dreher refers to as soft totalitarianism A totalitarian state according to Hannah Arendt is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality Truth is whatever the rules decide it is Mussolini defined totalitarianism as Everything within the state nothing outside the sate nothing against the state Wherever this worldview reigns mankind declines and decaysThe author explains the essence of soft totalitarianismToday s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs many of which are incompatible with logic and certainly with Christianity Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion and by private corporations that thanks to technology control our lives far than we would like to admitA cursory glance at culture reveals the rise of social ustice the woke revolution radical environmentalism acceptance of sexual deviancy reverse racism and identity politics Soft totalitarianism includes educational propaganda like the 1619 Project an attempt to brainwash students and cause them to abandon the principles that help birth the United States of America The list goes on and on Yet and people are willing to accept this radical ideology for the sake of convenienceDreher adds 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 love but they merely desire They think they follow Jesus but in fact they merely admire him The author warns that Christians who refuse to speak up and resist soft totalitarianism will pay a heavy price Literary critic and poet Czeslaw Milosz agrees Their silence will not save them and will instead corrode them Part Two How to Live in TruthPart two helps readers respond biblically and decisively It shows them how to live in truth The principles that Dreher shares are invaluable and will be a great encouragement as Christians navigate their way through the social sludgeDreher encourages readers to fight for and defend free speech To grow indifferent even hostile to free speech is suicidal for a free people writes the author He encourages truth telling that is wisdom based and prudentDreher admonishes readers to foster cultural memory He says Everything about modern society is designed to make memory historical social and cultural hard to cultivate Christians must understand this not only to resist soft totalitarianism but also to transmit the faith to the coming generations The author urges Christians to cultivate strong family units Christian parents writes Dreher must be intentionally countercultural in their approach to family dynamics The days of living like everybody else and hoping our children turn out for the best are over Fathers in particular must lead their families and help them exercise biblical discernment They must fight for the truthDreher promotes religion as the bedrock of resistance He continues This is the uncompromising rival religion that the post Christian world will not long tolerate If you are not rock solid in your commitment to traditional Christianity then the world will break you But if you are then this is the solid rock in which that world will be broken And if those solid rocks are oined together they form a wall of solidarity that is very hard for the enemy to breach We must stand in solidarity Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist says Dreher He addsAnd 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 himEach of us thinks we would be like that But if we have accepted the great lie of our therapeutic culture which tells us that personal happiness is the greatest good of all then we will surrender at the first sign of troubleConclusionThere is much to explore in this fascinating book I challenge readers to dig deeply into this treasure chest In the end both varieties of totalitarianism enslave people Dreher reminds us Hard totalitarianism depends on terrorizing us into surrendering our free consciences soft totalitarianism uses fear as well but mostly it bewitches us with therapeutic promises of entertainment pleasure and comfort It is to this end that we must resist soft totalitarianism with all our might or we along with the proverbial frog in the kettle will slowly boil in a kettle that appears safe but will in the final analysis result in a grizzly death Live Not By Lies delivers a powerful and unforgettable message The price of liberty is costly This much is true There is no escape from the struggle writes Dreher The price of liberty is eternal vigilance first of all over our own hearts Live Not By Lies is a must read book for freedom loving Christians To ignore the principles that Dreher sets forth would be foolhardy at best Heeding the warning of the author will help pave the way for fruitful discussion and greater liberty in the coming daysHighly recommended When I first heard that Dreher s new book was about resisting soft totalitarianism I thought the idea was a little over the top but the events of this spring and summer changed my mind and I eagerly preordered the book I was even excited when I was given a pre pub ebook to read and review and of course I was not reuired to provide a positive reviewThe premise of the book is that we in the west can learn much from those who survived totalitarianism in the east that may help us survive and even thrive as our culture grows increasingly hostile not only to religious liberty but to liberty in general Dreher is careful to distinguish between the hard totalitarianism of the 20th century and the growing soft totalitarianism of the present Even if you don t think soft totalitarianism exists the stories of those who survived the horrors of totalitarianism are reason enough to read the book But if you read it I suspect that before you are than a third of the way through the book you ll I might write a longer critiue later but there are a few things to note about Rod Dreher s work here There are two parts of this book consisting of uneual uality The first part is an analysis of contemporary American cultural and political trends given from a Christian perspective that I consider to be an exercise in catastrophic thinking Dreher has laid out all the reasons that he believes a historic persecution of Christians is about to happen in America waged by liberals and using the tools of modern surveillance technology The worst possible outcomes of progressive thought for Christians are laid out here and Dreher evidently is preparing himself for them in line with his previous works calling for Christians to withdraw from society into monastery like seclusion I have as little predictive power as anyone else including him and cannot entirely dismiss the fact that this might happen But it strikes me as unlikely for a number of reasons even if having lost the culture war American Christians are likely to become marginal to the country than they have been historicallyThe second part of the book is compelling due to the fact that it has little to do with America Dreher spends much time interviewing Christian dissidents living under the Soviet Union who really were persecuted in horrific ways The gruesome details of these persecutions were largely unknown to me But they remind of teachings from Islam and StoicNeo Platonic thought about how to bear suffering and even appreciate it as a beautiful and necessary part of life Against the false promises of the therapeutic state these are worthwhile reminders life is about overcoming suffering rather than chasing the mirage of a life freed from it Dreher seems to have taken his interviews with Soviet dissidents and projected a future America based on the Soviet model These interviews were valuable and often moving on their own But he fails to connect them with the eye brow raising claim that anything like that is about to happen in the United StatesRather than darkly ruminating over
Future Hypothetical Injustices One hypothetical injustices one be called to address the many real and existing injustices plaguing society today These include the incarceration of millions in brutal conditions endless wars abroad that destroy whole societies human trafficking environmental destruction and These actual bad things get literally no mention in this book which instead is concerned with hypothetical crimes that may be inflicted by a future police state Perhaps if we focused on reality rather than fears of a terrible future the future might not end up being so terrible in
first place As I finished this book my mind rung with this infamous line from Cardinal Francis George I expect to die in bed my successor will die in prison and his successor will die in prison and his successor will a martyr in the public suare His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human historyLive Not By Lies is a spiritual seuel to Dreher s earth shattering bestseller The Benedict Option and as such it illustrates the kind of cycle that George had in mind first by pointing out the red flags in our midst as The Benedict Option did but then even powerfully by giving us dozens of vignettes from the lives of Christian heroes who endured and even thrived under the yoke of Soviet oppressionThe first few chapters are fairly standard stuff if you read Dreher s blog which you should it s the kind of reporting and commentary we re used to and I wondered if the whole book would be like that the kind of tome that wants to convince us that the sky is falling because it has fallen elsewhere beforeDreher is ust setting the stage however and I hasten to add that even in this preliminary section there s one chapter about corporate surveillance under woke capitalism that was absolutely terrifying Literally I got goose bumps Stephen King could write an effective thriller based on that chapterOnce Dreher gets to the main event thoughthis book is as powerful as anything you ll read this year or this decade This is one of those books that has the ability to change lives Dreher knows that and openly wants it to Generously illuminated with scores of interviews and anecdotes from the last half century Live Not By Lies turns out to be something akin to Foxe s Book of Martyrs meets Schindler s List a monument to those who suffered insane inhumanity in recent history presented as a guide to enable us to continue their tradition if we can t prevent future atrocities from repeating then we can at least endeavor to carry on the noble example of those who have carried the fire before usThis is an important book I was lucky enough to be given an advance electronic copy by the publisher but as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints I want to buy a bunch of copies for all the leaders in my church Dreher s focus on preserving faith traditions through generations of family life by living our religious traditions seriously and fully even in the face of dwindling liberty is a theme that resonates strongly among the Mormon people whose founding scripture is obsessed with remembering the past and learning from it On behalf of Latter day Saints everywhere Mr Dreher thank you for this added guide to oyful discipleship in a darkening ageAnd it is a surprisingly hopeful book Though Dreher tells stories of the most gruesome tortures he always includes the light that shone from each of these heroes They all said that is was worth it Their legacies survive They wonThose of us who have read about the dissident resisters against Soviet communism know great names like Solzhenitsyn and Havel and our various churches all have their own prophets and martyrsbut if we want our children and our civilization to make it through the 21st century we would do well to learn other names too amazing and inspiring names like Calciu Kr m ry Ogorodnikov Benda and Kolakovi I have seven children five of whom are still at home Every Monday night my family gathers for stories and songs and prayers and games and treats an evening of family worship and fun We take turns performing different roles and in two weeks it will be my turn to give a spiritual lesson again My next message to my family will be about Live Not By Lies the history and the examples and the warnings and the victories the scary and uplifting and crucial lessons it holds for us all I hope that mama and papa Benda would be proud Review here Negative review here describing Dreher s concerns as being based on fear and anxiety of course what people are and are not fearful of says a lot about them. World War II era pastor who prepared believers in his Eastern European to endure the coming of communism Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance SEE Acknowledge the reality of the situation JUDGE Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true ACT Take action to protect truthAleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said that one of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming totalitarianism can't happen in their country Many American Christians are making that mistake today sleepwalking through the erosion of our freedoms Live Not By Lies will wake them and euip them for the long resistan. .THE FIRST PLACE AS I FINISHED
Rod Dreher Á 4 Read.
Alan Jacobs on Learning from Rod Dreher buddy Rod Dreher has a book coming out soon called Live Not By Lies and it s about what American Christians can learn about living under an oppressive regime by studying what believers did under the old Soviet Union I think this is a story that Christians ought to be interested in whether they agree with Rod s politics or not Every thoughtful Christian I know thinks that the cause of Christ has powerful cultural and political enemies that we are in various ways discouraged or impeded in our discipleship by forces external to the Church Where we differ is in our assessment of what the chief opposing forces areRod is primarily worried about the rise of a soft totalitarianism of the left what James Poulos calls a pink police state Other Christians I know are eually worried but about the dangers to Christian life of white supremacy or the international neoliberal order For me the chief concern I have many is what I call metaphysical capitalism But we all agree that the Church of Jesus Christ is under a kind of ongoing assault sometimes direct and sometimes indirect sometimes blunt and sometimes subtle and that living faithfully under such circumstances is a constant challenge Why wouldn t we want to learn from people who faced even greater challenges than we do and who managed to sustain their faith through that experience Isn t that valuable to all of usI felt the same way about The Benedict Option which was mostly not an argument but rather a ob of reporting reporting on various intentional Christian communities I read the book with fascination because I was and am convinced that the primary reason American Christians are so bent and broken is that we have neglected catechesis while living in a social order that catechizes us incessantly What can I learn from those communities that would help me in my own catechesis and that of my family and that of my parish church I read The Benedict Option with the same focus I brought to my reading of a marvelous book by another friend of mine Charles Marsh s The Beloved Community Charles s politics are miles away from Rod s but their books share an essential concern How can the church of Jesus Christ how can Christ s followers be formed in such a way that they can flourish in unpropitious conditionsThat s exactly the right uestion I think and both The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies introduce me to people who help me even when I don t agree with their strategies to think better about what its answers might be And The Beloved Community as well Christians under Marxism and the Black church under Jim Crow offer remarkably similar kinds of help to us a point that deserves a great deal reflection than it is likely ever to get in our stupidly polarized timeOften when I make this argument people acknowledge the force of it but tell me that Rod is the wrong messenger I understand what they mean Rod is excitable and temperamentally a catastrophist as opposed to a declinist That s Ross Douthat s distinction Like the prophet of Richard Wilbur s poem he s gotten himself Mad eyed from stating the obvious and I often think that if he writes the phrase Wake up people one time I m gonna drive to Baton Rouge and slap him upside the headAlso when Rod rails against woke capitalism he clearly thinks that woke is the problem without giving real assent to the fact that Christians are susceptible to woke capitalism because they were previously susceptible to other kinds He perceives threats to the Church from the Right from racism and crude nationalism and general cruelty to whoever isn t One Of Us and writes about them sometimes but they don t exercise his imagination the way that threats from the Left do I can see why people whose politics differ from Rod s don t what to hear what he has to sayBut you know Jonah was definitely the wrong messenger for Ninevah he even thought so himself and yet the Ninevites did well to pay attention to himAnd if you think Rod has a potentially useful message but is the wrong conveyer of it then get off your ass and become the messenger you want to see in the world Lord knows we need Christians not fewer paying attention to the challenges of deep Christian formation Wake up people Dreher s logic runs something like this1 Love of pleasure and high surveillance has been characteristic of many places A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh, just before a totalitarian regime set in2 Some people in America love pleasure and many are the subjects of surveillance because of Big Tech Many big tech corporations are pro gay rights and some will not tolerate anti gay rhetoric3 Therefore gay activists will soon usher in a soft totalitarianism in the WestDreher s writing style is easy to read and he records some neat interactions with individuals from post Communist countries whom he interviewed And I agree that we should be vigilant about our data the only difference is that I would uncouple it from some vast anti religious conspiracy I also agree with the value of suffering but unlike Dreher I think we should suffer for the cause of humanity as a whole notust for our own little enclaves And did it not occur to him that his book is freely available in this free speech thwarting world that he imagines Two stars because 1he built his case entirely on anecdotes and interviews 2he fails to specify The Shadow Reader just what kind of pleasure is bad and what he is doing that is so much holier and 3 most problematically he doesn t convince readers that his traditional Christianity is the authentic one For instance Dreher s Christianity will culminate in a violent apocalypse p 51 and while true socialustice is important he dedicates 2 whole paragraphs to it in fairness maintaining strong family values is clearly important Hm How often did Jesus talk about building strong families again And how often did he talk about feeding the poor and bringing deliverance to captivesI say read the book especially if you Cinderella Unmasked (Fairytale Fantasies just want to enjoy another bout of good old fashioned bogeyman induced goosefleshPS I admit I was a fan of Dreher s first book but after witnessing one too many right wing Christians throw a hissy fit about being wished happy holidays at Target instead of Merry Christmas or some other such inanity I have slowly come to reject his simplistic narrative of the complexities of the 21st century But then I probablyust got sucked in and became a Social Justice Warrior Historians are going to have a wealth of events to study from 2020 Perhaps than the year 1968 No doubt one thing they will analyze will be the unabashed rise of totalitarianism in the West which is the topic of Rod Dreher s new book Live Not By Lies Dreher analyzes the rise of what he calls soft totalitarianism in the US by talking to people who lived through totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc As he did in his book The Benedict Option Dreher focuses on how Christians can preserve their faith during these troubling times If you re wondering what totalitarianism is According to Hannah Arendt the foremost scholar of totalitarianism 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 A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is As Arendt has written wherever totalitarianism has ruled It has begun to destroy the essence of man I grew up in the 1980s during the Cold War It seems bizarre to me to even need a discussion on the dangers of totalitarianism yet here we are From cancel culture having people fired for differing opinions on Twitter to mobs screaming at passive diners to raise their fists in solidarity at restaurants totalitarianism is being accepted Let s be honest It s even being celebrated by some I realize that not everyone will agree with that statement Many will not agree with Dreher s conclusions in Live Not By Lies but it s very difficult to ignore the facts Dreher interviews Christians who lived through brutal totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc and here s what he foundWhat makes the emerging situation in the West similar to what they fled After all every society has rules and taboos and mechanisms to enforce them What unnerves those who lived under Soviet communism is this similarity Elites and elite institutions are abandoning old fashioned liberalism based in defending the rights of the individual and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards ustice in terms of groups It encourages people to identify with groups ethnic sexual and otherwise and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among the groups A utopian vision drives these progressives one that compels them to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social usticeThese Christians survived absolutely brutal persecution Dreher describes horrific torture methods used by the Soviets Many of the people he interviews or their family members spent decades in prisons or gulags As Dreher examines how they maintained their faith it s obvious that there are differences in the totalitarianism we face In some ways what we face is even scarier Dreher writesTo be sure whatever this is it is not a carbon copy of life in the Soviet Bloc nations with their secret police their gulags their strict censorship and their material deprivation That is precisely the problem these people warn The fact that relative to Soviet Bloc conditions life in the West remains so free and so prosperous is what blinds Americans to the mounting threat to our liberty That and the way those who take away freedom couch it in the language of liberating victims from oppressionLive Not By Lies starts with a brief history of the rise of totalitarianism in Russia He looks at the sources and the parallels with what is happening in the US today Dreher analyzes what he considers the two factors driving soft totalitarianism today the social ustice movement and surveillance technology which has become a huge part of our consumerist cultureThe second part of the book examines forms methods and sources of resistance Dreher attempts to answer the following uestions by examining exactly what the Christians in the Soviet Bloc did in order to surviveWhy is religion and the hope it gives at the core of effective resistance What does the willingness to suffer have to do with living in truth Why is the family the most important cell of opposition How did they get through it Why are they so anxious about the West s futureObviously this is a contentious topic Live Not By Lies discusses some difficult topics Dreher has already been attacked and criticized He doesn t seem to accept the media driven narrative of death of George Floyd and
The Social Justice Movementsocial ustice movement exactly does he describe the totalitarianism affecting the US Dreher writesToday s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs many of which are incompatible with logic and certainly with Christianity Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion and by private corporations that thanks to technology control our lives far than we would like to admitToday s left wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger specifically the hunger for a ust society one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression It masuerades as kindness demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of victims to bring about social ustice This is what the survivors of communism are saying to us liberalism
s admirable care for the weak and marginalizedadmirable care for the weak and marginalized fast turning into a monstrous ideology that if it is not stopped will transform liberal democracy into a softer therapeutic form of totalitarianismFor Christians therein lies the rub liberalism s admirable care for the weak and marginalized Aren t Christians supposed to care for the weak and marginalized The answer is yes Christians should and do care for the weak and marginalized The problem is ideology in these movements is king and the ideology is ultimately atheistic and therapeutic Christianity is allowed as long as it bends to the ideology not the other way around These movements are trying to use totalitarianism to create a utopia based on their ideology As Mark Sayers says in one of my favorite uotes They want to create the kingdom of heaven but without the King That is their end goal Ask yourself what is the end goal of Christianity What happens when the goals of the ideology clash with ChristianityDreher writesIn therapeutic culture which has everywhere triumphed the great sin is to stand in the way of the freedom of others to find happiness as they wish This goes hand in hand with the sexual revolution which along with ethnic and gender identity politics replaced the failed economic class struggle as the utopian focus of the post 1960s radical leftIt all goes back to the original sin the individual wants to be a god The individual wants to create his or her own brand of heaven where the only sin is anything causing unhappiness In that kind of culture even using the pronouns his or her is controversial because it could offend someone Dreher writesChristian resistance on a large scale to the anti culture has been fruitless and is likely to be for the foreseeable future Why Because the spirit of the therapeutic has conuered the churches as well even those populated by Christians who identify as conservative Relatively few contemporary Christians are prepared to suffer for the faith because the therapeutic society that has formed them denies the purpose of suffering in the first place and the idea of bearing pain for the sake of truth seems ridiculousHonestly the scariest part of all this is we unsuspectingly welcome totalitarianism We live in a far technologically advanced society than the 1980s Soviet Bloc The opportunities and ability to surveil private life are unbelievable As Dreher says There s nowhere left to hide It s almost cliche to point out any We are far similar to the society in Huxley s Brave New World than we are Orwell s 1984 Why Because we happily invite our oppressors into every aspect of our lives as long as we re kept happy with endless entertainment and shiny consumer goods We don t want to offend anyone and we don t want to suffer Dreher even recounts how one Soviet Bloc survivor he talked to is horrified at the use of smartphones and Echo in US homes They lived the nightmare described in 1984The subtitle to Live Not By Lies is A Manual For Christian Dissidents The second part of the book specifically gives the strategies the Christians in the Soviet Bloc used to maintain their faith and survive If you haven t guessed it the title of the book has a lot to do with it The title comes from a uote by Solzhenitsyn a Christian who survived the gulags And yes their Christian faith was crucial to their survival In fact much of what our society wants Christians to let go of turns out to be crucial for surviving totalitarianism Let s not fool ourselves There will be suffering but we must persevereThis is a difficult topic It s hard to hear these comparisons and read these stories It s difficult to step outside the ideologies and narratives that seem to want to help people and really see what the end goal is I think the strategies presented in the second part of the book will be essential in the coming years Live Not By Lies is not a happy book but it s a necessary book I recommend you read it and ask yourself the hard uestions Rod Dreher begins his introduction to Live Not By Lies. The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers For years migrs from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of soft totalitarianism cropping up in America something Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty Four Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to safety Progressives marginalize conservative traditional Christians and other dissenters Technology and consumerism hastens the possibility of By uoting Alexander Solzhenitsyn survivor of and writer concerning the Soviet gulags Solzhenitsyn writes There is always 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 p ix With this premise asserted in the very opening pages of the book Dreher then documents three things First the totalitarianism of the Soviet block countries is advancing in the west specifically in America Second the book spends a great deal of time recounting the lives of those that survived the communist totalitarian regimes And finally the book applies the knowledge and experience of the communist survivors to how Christians might survive what is coming in America Part One of the book is Understanding Soft Totalitarianism These four chapters are meant to awaken American readers to the reality of the growing soft totalitarianism we face rather than the hard that was in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries Dreher uses Hannah Arendt when Building his definition of totalitarianism He writes 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 A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is The difference between hard and soft totalitarianism is centered upon the way it is enforced Rather than being enforced by government decree as in hard totalitarianism soft totalitarianism is enforced by the persuasiveness of consumer capitalism p xvDreher argues that Many conservatives today fail to grasp the gravity of today s threat dismissing it as mere political correctness a previous generation s disparaging term for so called wokeness p 8 Conservatives fail to see that this ideology has begun to establish itself in corporate America having graduated from college campuses Dreher writes Todaydissenters from the woke party line find their businesses careers and reputations destroyed p 8 9 This is the way soft totalitarianism has become and is being established into mainstream America It masuerades as kindness demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of victims in order to bring about social ustice p 9 Dreher argues that The public will support or at least not oppose the coming soft totalitarianism not because it fears the imposition of cruel punishments but because it will be or less satisfied by hedonistic comforts He says people will surrender political rights in exchange for guarantees of personal pleasure p10 11 He goes on to say that Christian resistancehas been fruitless Because the spirit of the therapeutic has conuered the churches as well even those populated by Christians that identify as conservative p 13 In short Christians are unprepared to suffer for their faith because the idea of bearing pain for the sake of truth seems ridiculous p 13Throughout these arguments Dreher brings in anecdotal evidence from those that lived under totalitarian regimes Those that once lived under the heavy hand of totalitarian governments have been warning those willing to listen for years that totalitarianism has come to America Is Dreher an alarmist Perhaps but even those like myself well acuainted with the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn Richard Wurmbrand Orwell and Huxley we see signs all around us that we re already waist deep in soft totalitarianism It has happened hard and fast becoming especially apparent with the MeToo movement and most of all in the horrific year that has been 2020I ve spent most of this review in the relatively brief first part of Live Not By Lies because this is what is ncessary to grasp the importance of this book But the true and lasting value of the book will be in the how to portion that is most of the rest of the book This truly is a Manual for Christian Dissidents This book distills the best of what is most needed from the lives and legacies of those that survived the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries If you have time read those works as well But at least begin with this book This will begin the process of preparing to Live in Truth as Dreher puts it Christians must begin preparing now or we will not be prepared for what is coming We need to prepare our hearts and souls to survive what is designed to destroy us But God reigns He brought a remnant out of the 20th century and he will bring a remnant out of this one A disease is going around No not the Wuhan Plague This malady only affects the Right and I name it Scrutonism The symptoms of Scrutonism are a razor sharp ability to identify one s enemies and to understand their plans to destroy us combined with a complete inability to imagine any way in which those enemies can be defeated For a sufferer of this disease his headspace is occupied by nostalgia and fear in varying proportions mostly the former in the late Roger Scruton s case mostly the latter in Rod Dreher s case Scrutonism s harm is that it makes sufferers ignore the only uestion that matters for the Right today what are you willing to do given that your enemies are utterly committed to destroying you and yoursI used to be a Dreher fanboy until he lost the plot with the Wuhan Plague and generally descended into constant unmanly maundering I m still a fan however to steal a line from Aaron Renn though he was talking about Tim Keller not Dreher And Live Not by Lies has partially restored my
Opinion Rod Dreherof Rod Dreher pillar of today s Right It is an outstanding book tightly written and tightly focused That does not mean it is complete for reasons I will lay out today but it is good for what it is the sharp diagnosis of the ways means and ends of our enemiesThe outline of the book is simple Dreher shows how life in America and broadly much of the West though America is his focus is swiftly becoming indistinguishable from life under totalitarian Communism in its essence if not yet all its externals The Left now as
Then Will Do Anythingwill do anything impose its evil will across all society This is obvious on its face and established in detail in many of my other writings and also at enormous length on Dreher s blog at The American Conservative The Left s political vision is wholly illusory while at the same time utterly destructive A necessary part of their plan again now as then is suppression of all dissent especially religious dissent through controlling all aspects of every citizen s life This plan is already largely implemented for many sectors of American society although Dreher claims this is a soft totalitarianism different in degree from the hard totalitarianism of Communism at its heightHe talks of Czes aw Mi osz and the pill of Murti Bing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Hanna Arendt He deftly draws parallels between the rise of Communism in Europe and our present situation He identifies the appeal of the Left and of its totalitarian ideology He talks of progressivism as religion and of the cult of social ustice He talks of woke capitalism and the surveillance state built by the Lords of Tech He talks of the oppressive social credit system in China under the funny heading The Mark of the East These chapters are uniformly excellent and I strongly recommend them to anyone not already familiar with these truths But my purpose here today is not to summarize what is happening now Many others have summarized this book well And to be clear as with most of my book reviews I am not actually reviewing Dreher s book Rather I am delivering my own thoughts If you don t like that well you re in the wrong placeA crucial internal ambiguity pervades this entire book Dreher s frame is totalitarianism He channels men and women who suffered under the most evil regimes the world has ever known He paints a picture that offers gruesome tales of torture as a regular instrument of state control The epigraph he uses from Solzhenitsyn says such evil is possible everywhere on earth and Solzhenitsyn was not talking about a social credit system but real torture and death Yet Dreher disclaims repeatedly that this might happen here Instead he suggests a Huxley ite future or Murti Bing or Shoshana Zuboff itePRC type consumerist monitoring At the same time though he talks about ever growing state and private corporate actions that are not yet physical torture yet are meant as severe punishment such as The Case for Paleolibertarianism and Realignment on the Right job loss and social ostracism The reader is confused What precisely is the future Dreher is predicting and why The uestion remains unansweredDreher does however offer a type of solution In the face of these poisonous headwinds he prescribes spiritually centered private organizing in essence his famous Benedict Option The Christian dissident needs to draw close to authentic spiritual leadership clerical lay or both and form small cells of fellow believers with whom he can pray sing study Scripture and read other books important to their mission He must be prepared to suffer because in the new dispensation he will suffer if he refuses to worship the new gods Dreher in short recommends the parallel polis with a strong religious componentHe has discussed this before I have also discussed this before than once and that it will not be allowed because our enemies have learned from their earlier defeats and as Dreher himself repeatedly says they have vastly powerful tools than their Communist forbears did Thus for example he is correct that families are resistance cells but our enemies see this too which is why families will not be allowed to be resistance cells but will be forcibly broken up if parents dare to instruct their children aright No the parallel polis will be of short duration if indeed it can be set up at all and the Benedict Option without an armed wing is dead on arrivalDreher does not offer any non passive mechanism for success but I willust wait a few minutes Dreher recommends Christian witness such as that of V clav Benda and his family He recommends retaining cultural memory and accepting suffering But nothing succeeds like success We know about the Bendas because Communism fell And Communism fell both because of its internal contradictions and because it faced massive external pressure put on it by the West Dreher is unclear as to what exactly he expects the future to bring to people of today situated like the Bendas In essence his argument seems to be that it ultimately worked out for dissidents under Communism so it will someday and in a manner yet to be shown work for us Maybe Or maybe not In other words Dreher seems to think that the parallel polis is self executing as long as strong religious faith is keptMoreover whether Dreher sees it or not we are indeed heading to hard totalitarianism not merely soft totalitarianism To our enemies Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling justice delayed isustice denied That inescapable inner logic combined with Girardian scapegoating means soft totalitarianism will never be enough for them We already have soft totalitarianism for any white collar worker and anybody can see that the demands for compliance are accelerating not slowing down The reader sees no reason at all we re not heading to prison camps and the executioner s bullet because Dreher doesn t give one while at the same time talking a great deal about the Gulag the Rumanian torture camp at Pitesti and so on continually recurring to such history Then he says American culture is far individualistic than Chinese culture so that political resistance will almost certainly prevent Chinese style hard totalitarianism from gaining a foothold here This is whistling past the graveyard how has this supposed individualism slowed down our enemies even a whit Soft totalitarianism may lie on the far side of hard totalitarianism as it was with late Communism but it will get worse long before it gets better The reader gets the impression Dreher is pulling his punches afraid of being seen as too extreme too out there in our controlled political discourseHope is not a plan Dreher should see that he even uotes a Slovak dissident If they had come at us in the seventies they might have succeeded But we always remembered that the goal was to turn our small numbers into a number so big they could not stop us Dreher doesn t acknowledge that getting those big numbers is crucial to success along with a will to action used in later Communism for mass demonstrations and he has no plan for getting them Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist True enough but what is solidarity here Is it meeting in the catacombs to pray for a better day Or meeting to plan action Apparently only the formerYes Dreher offers some legislative solutions They make sense But as Bismarck said politics is the art of the possible He meant compromise is necessary but if your enemies have all the power and no need to compromise to get everything they want what is possible of what you want is nothing Nobody with actual power will even associate his name in public with Dreher s legislative proposals because they are cowards and they refuse to be seen opposing globohomo Political proposals in the current frame will not come to fruition they will die like the seeds in the Parable of the Sower either among the brambles or fallen on rocky ground Legislative proposals are not a mechanism for successScrutonism of which as you can see Dreher has a bad case is a call to be a beautiful loser But you can t inspire anyone with a program that offers being a loser People cowering under fire want a plan they want a leader to point not only to what Christ would do but how that will help them and importantly their children come out the other side cleansed and victorious What Dreher offers instead is a call to martyrdom This is theologically sound but not politically And unlike Communism the modern Left globohomo faces no external pressure This is a strategic uestion of passivity versus aggression When I think of 1453 I think not only of the priest celebrating the Divine Liturgy as the Turks tore into the Hagia Sophia turning to the eastern wall and walking into it from whence it is said he will return when the Turks are expelled which will hopefully be soon I think also of Constantine XI Palaeologus the last Emperor cutting off his imperial ornaments and rushing out to die with the common soldiers How about some of thatDreher talks very often of the Bolsheviks He never mentions the Whites who after all could easily have won or other heroes who actually did defeat Communism such as Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet My point is not that we need to encourage violence though I am not opposed in the least to violence in the right circumstances uite the opposite My point is that people need positive active heroes not ust heroic sufferers No man is an island in the John Donne clich but that means that very few have the internal resources to passively suffer They need inspiration about how the future will be better both in this world and the next Dreher does not offer it He instead offers a variation on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis a book I read said to be second only in popularity to the Bible and thought was depressingly passive and navel gazing People like me may go to the back of St Peter s line or maybe not since we did not take what we were given and bury it in the ground of personal introspection but rather grew itSo if you do not have enough people or enough power at this moment to impose precisely your vision of the world where do you start You form alliances with those who have similar Corporate surveillance state And the pandemic having put millions out of work leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulationIn Live Not By Lies Dreher amplifies the alarm sounded by the brave men and women who fought totalitarianism He explains how the totalitarianism facing us today is based less on overt violence and on psychological manipulation He tells the stories of modern day dissidents clergy laity martyrs and confessors from the Soviet Union and the captive nations of Europe who offer practical advice for how to identify and resist totalitarianism in our time Following the model offered by a prophetic.