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Review by Ryan Connellan
The common phrase “those who don’t learn from history are in danger of repeating it” certainly comes to mind when reading Rod Dreher’s newest book “Live not by Lies”. The book is called “a manual for Christian dissidents” and draws its title from an essay written by Soviet survivor Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It serves as a warning to the post-Christian West of what is coming in the form of what he calls “soft totalitarianism.” The book is divided into 2 main sections
Part 1 is entitled “Understanding Soft Totalitarianism”. In this section Rod does an excellent job at breaking down and exposing the true nature of the liberal agenda in Western society. He draws exceptional and frightening similarities between the ideology and rhetoric used by the so called “progressives” of society and the hard-core Marxists of the Soviet Union. What we are seeing in the West is a kind of back door infiltration of Marxist ideology coming through culture, technology and government, rather than the upfront approach of the early 20th century. Under the guise of “social justice”, “equality” and “progress” Marxism has infiltrated almost every aspect of our society and for the most part people are accepting it without question or concern. I’ll be honest after finishing Part 1, a big part of me felt like going to live off the grid and grow my own vegetables, but I know that’s not what we are called to do as Christians. The first part is insightful, helpful and well written to expose the falsehoods of cultural Marxism
Part 2 is entitled “How To Live in Truth”. In this section Rod does a combination of things. He gives advice on how to survive and work through the lies of cultural Marxism mainly by giving examples of how people, particularly Christians survived in the hard Marxist world of the Soviet Union. He interviews many people and their relatives to gain insight on how they resisted getting sucked into the world of lies propagated by the state. Here were my take-aways
Final Thoughts: There was much I learned and appreciated in Rod’s book. It was not hard to read because it wasn’t a dry book which just analysed political theories, but rather gave concise and precise critiques of cultural Marxism and attached it to real life stories. I would advise anyone in university to read this book, anyone who perhaps leans more to the political “left” or perhaps has become enamoured with the causes and ideology of the social justice movement. I think you will see that underneath the veneer of compassion is an immense cruelty which follows. Where I felt that this book lacked was a clear message of the gospel and how the truth of the gospel combats the lies of Marxism. Most of the families and people he interviewed were Catholics or Russian Orthodox, and while many of them stood courageously against the tyranny of Communism and were faithful to their religion, there wasn’t a clear explanation of the gospel or how biblical Christianity speaks to the world of Communism. I know that not every book can have everything in it, but it would have been nice to see.
One thing that did stand out to me though was that one of the stories included was that of a Baptist pastor in the Soviet Union. The Baptists (and probably other protestant Christians) had it even worse because they were ostracised from the general community but also from the established Orthodox church. Yet they continued to worship according to their conscience and the word of God.
In conclusion, I would recommend this book. As I view the world rapidly changing around me and people living in fear, so much that they are willing to surrender their privacy, safety and freedom to the state I am reminded that no matter what kingdom mankind can dream up, the Kingdom of God reigns over all. One day every brutal dictator will bow the knee to Jesus Christ and receive true justice. I am also reminded that while I deserve the justice of God from my crimes against Him, these have been placed on His own Son Jesus who has taken my punishment upon Himself and willingly saves all those who come to Him in repentance and faith. It was said of Joseph Stalin that just before he died he raised his fist to God on last time. Most will not be the brutal dictator that Stalin was but many will end their lives rejecting God. Don’t reject the truth that is right there before you.