“Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents” by Rod Dreher (book review)

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher is a thought-provoking read. Dreher organizes his book in two parts. “Part One: Understanding Soft Totalitarianism” frames the context for challenges Christians may face (or already face in some parts of the country) as secular movements tighten their grip on US culture and institutions. In framing that context, Dreher points to two trends: the woke progressive movement and capitalist materialism, either of which can take the place of true religion in an increasingly secular society. Using the Bolshevik Revolution as a case history, he explains how totalitarian regimes arise in part to fill the spiritual void created by such secular movements. Totalitarian regimes, whether brutal or subtle, require their people to embrace half-truths, distortions, and lies, which gives rise to the title of the book. This first part of the book will ring true for readers who have watched cultural, political, and spiritual trends evolving in the (former) USSR, China, and the US over the past forty years or more.

In “Part Two: How to Live in Truth” Dreher explores a wide range of examples showing how Christians can live in a totalitarian society that is hostile to Christianity. He develops these examples from interviews with Christians who lived under Communism in Eastern Europe; other totalitarian societies would probably present similar challenges to those they aim to suppress. Dreher draws out principles and common threads about what to expect and how to live in such difficult situations, some of which may last for decades. He understands that different Christians may experience very different circumstances, even under the same regime. He is helpfully realistic about how two different people may respond differently in the same situation (e.g., in deciding who to trust, or in how we hold up under persecution). Through it all, Dreher points us to God’s grace and forgiveness as the only way to live while facing an uncertain future.

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