Live Not By Lies | Critical Review & Notes

Rod Dreher. Live Not By Lies: A Manual For Christian Dissidents. Sentinel, 2020. (240 pages)


REFLECTIONS


To sum, the subject of Dreher’s thesis—live by the truth, the blessing of suffering, the disdain for mere therapeutic religion, the resistance against totalitarianism, the critique of secular philosophies like “progress,” and more—is spot on. These principles are critically important and there is much to consider for the challenging times in which we find ourselves. However, the logic and objects of Dreher’s critique is perplexing, misdirected, at times contradictory, and at other times downright nonsensical.

A few big themes.

There is an undercurrent of “Christian persecution” in America in this book, a theme that is simply dubious to truly support. As such, Dreher doesn’t really offer any evidence of this persecution but merely provides anecdotes of disdain or disapproval. I would concur, there is an anti-Christian sentiment and bias that exists in America, but that does not equate with “persecution” (and in fact is offensive to those around the world who really are persecuted), and may actually point to the domination of Christians and Christianity’s reputation in the public square. Second, the legislative tensions that exist between “freedom of religion,” and “anti-discrimination” as codified in the disestablishment clause of the Constitution are real and may result in policies or laws that do not allow a Christian to practice certain convictions when participating in the public arena. But again, that is not persecution. Also, we’re a pluralistic nation with a commitment to “the wall of separation between the church and state.” Also, there have been no efforts to keep Christians from practicing their religion themselvesThat would be persecution. And, because “freedom of religion” is codified in our Constitution, that in and of itself is a check on this particular issue and should give pause to any Christian claiming “persecution.”

Dreher’s main focus is the “Left” as identified as “Social Justice Warriors” and agendas that are in concert with that ideology. There is no doubt that all social and political persuasions will have extremists and overreach. But the paltry absence of “The Right” and of Christian Nationalism that does evidence the concerns of totalitarianism strains credibility. Especially given the era in which this book was written and published, the danger of totalitarianism is coming more from the self-identified “religious” rather than from the “secular.”

[UPDATE: Since the date of this post, the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 by people who, after violating the House chambers, worshiped and prayed makes this point painfully and tragically poignant.]

What is most mind-boggling is the claim that society’s disdain for Dreher’s brand of Christian morality and ideology is the main evidence for a slide toward totalitarianism. In other words, “people don’t like what we believe, and so we’re seeing the beginnings of tyranny, or a ‘soft-totalitarianism'” (a term that feels dubious on its face). I concur that people may lose their jobs, and there is evidence of overreach, hysteria, and downright incivility in the treatment of Christians. But the main difference—that Dreher himself admits—is that these are private sector issues which can—and in many cases are—mitigated and litigated by the free-market and government regulations. Dreher provides no evidence or argument that the government itself is bringing any of this to bear on Christians. Perhaps that’s because it’s mostly Christians in government!

Last, there are a few brief qualifiers in the writing that should not be overlooked. Dreher concedes that communists used terror and military force, and that none of what he writes about are inevitable. As such the fear that Dreher is conjuring regarding a totalitarian state coming for Christianity does not stand on a firm foundation.

I believe Dreher believes what he believes, quoting Wurmbrund below. To that, I honor his agenda and will work in tandem for the same ethic. I will also work to ensure that the logic, the object, and the truth of the matter do not fall into the parochial tribe of his particular Christian expression. While totalitarianism can come in the form of secular tyranny, it can also come in the form of religious fanaticism.


NOTES


Introduction

There always is 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. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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? (xi)

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 justice 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 justice. (xi)

[via: The problem here that will persist throughout the rest of the book, is that “progressive liberalism” will be the foe, giving a nod to Critical Theory. There is virtually no discussion of right-wing conspiracies and conservative nationalism.]

Under the guise of “diversity,” “inclusivity,” “equity,” and other egalitarian jargon, the Left creates powerful mechanisms for controlling thought and discourse and marginalizes dissenters as evil. (xii)

[via: Again, no mention of “the Right.”]

What is happening here? A progressive—and profoundly anti-Christian militancy—is steadily overtaking society; one described by Pope Benedict XVI as a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies” that pushes dissenters to society’s margins. (xiii)

The old, hard totalitarianism had a vision for the world that required the eradication of Christianity. The new, soft totalitarianism does too, and we are not equipped to resist its sneakier attack. (xiii)

[via: The “eradication of Christianity?” Show me the evidence, of which, Dreher provides no examples. This kind of rhetoric misrepresents reality and borders on fear-mongering and absurdity. The number of Christians who hold high positions of public office alone makes this claim dubious. Sure, a pluralistic democracy like American will wrestle with the tensions of our first amendment and disestablishment convictions, but keeping boundaries on Christianity’s reach into culture and politics is not the same thing as a pursuit of “eradication.”]

Today? The Western world has become post-Christian, with large numbers of those born after 1980 rejecting religious faith. This means that they will not only oppose Christians when we stand up for our principles—in particular, in defense of the traditional family, of male and female gender roles, and of the sanctity of human life—but also they will not even understand why they should tolerate dissent based in religious belief. (xiii)

[via: And here, with this brief list of “traditional family,” “male and female gender roles,” and “the sanctity of human life,” we can be more specific with the critique. There is absolutely, unequivocally, zero challenge to the “traditional family.” Men and women can still marry, have kids, and those marriages are sanctioned by the state. There has been absolutely no concern whatsoever that those marriages will no longer be recognized. Same with gender roles. There is zero legislation, nor is there any pending danger of legislation demanding any Christian to jettison their gender “roles,” however they are defined. There is absolutely a threat to the sanctity of life, however, it is presumed that Dreher is referring specifically to abortion here. If that is the case, then fine. But the universal principle of the “sanctity of life” has been assaulted by the Left and the Right, and there is an unequal balance of admonition here.]

You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe. You may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but you can find within yourself and your community the means to live in the dignity of truth. If we must live under the dictatorship of lies,…then our response must be: “Let their rule hold not through me!” (xiv)

Part one of this book makes the case that despite its superficial permissiveness, liberal democracy is degenerating into something (xiv) resembling the totalitarianism over which it triumphed in the Cold War. (xv)

Part two examines in greater detail forms, methods, and sources of resistance to soft totalitarianism’s lies. (xv)

You will not be able to predict what will be held against you tomorrow. You have no idea what completely normal thing you do today, or say today, will be used against you to destroy you. This is what people in the Soviet Union saw. We know how this works. – A Soviet-born émigré

Part One: Understanding Soft Totalitarianism

CHAPTER ONE
Kolaković the Prophet

[Father Kolaković] warned Slovak Catholics that when the war ended, Czechoslovakia would fall to the rule of a Soviet puppet government. He dedicated himself to preparing them for persecution. (4)

The Unready Christians of Slovakia

Give yourself totally to Christ, throw all your worries and desires on him, for he has a wide back, and you will witness miracles. – Father Kolaković

Freedom is responsibility, [Joseph Cardijn] stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil. (5)

In 1946, Czech authorities deported the activist priest. Two years later, communists seized total power,… Father Kolaković’s top two lieutenants—physician Silverster Krčméry and priest Vladimír Jukl—quietly set up Christian circles around the country and began to build the underground church. (6)

| The underground church, led by the visionary cleric’s spiritual children and grandchildren, became the principle means of anti-communist dissent for the next forty years. It was they who organized a mass 1988 public demonstration in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, demanding religious liberty. The Candle Demonstration was the first major protest against the state. It kicked off the Velvet Revolution, which brought down the communist regime a year later. Though Slovak Christians were among the most persecuted in the Soviet Bloc, the Catholic Church there thrived in resistance because one man saw what was coming and prepared his people. (6)

The New Totalitarianism

Today’s survivors of Soviet communism are, in their way, our own Kolakovićes, warning us of a coming totalitarianism—a form of government that combines political authoritarianism with an ideology that seeks to control all aspects of life. This totalitarianism won’t look like the USSR’s. It’s not establishing itself through “hard” means like armed revolution, or enforcing itself with gulags. Rather, it exercises control, at least initially, in soft forms. This totalitarianism is therapeutic. It masks its hatred of dissenters from its utopian ideology in the guise of helping and healing. (7)

| To grasp the threat of totalitarianism, it’s important to understand the difference between it and simple authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is what you have when the state monopolizes political control. That is mere dictatorship—bad, certainly, but totalitarianism is much worse. 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 (7) less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is. (8)

As part of its quest to define reality, a totalitarian state seeks not just to control your actions but also your thoughts and emotions. The ideal subject of a totalitarian state is someone who has learned to love Big Brother. (8)

| Back in the Soviet era, totalitarianism demanded love for the Party, and compliance with the Party’s demands was enforced by the state. Today’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 more than we would like to admit. (8)

The Gentleness of Soft Totalitarianism

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction. – Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind

Today’s left-wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger, specifically the hunger for a just society, one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression. It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of “victims” in order to bring about “social justice.” (9)

The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition. – René Girard, I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning

This is what the survivors of communism are saying to us: liberalism’s admirable care for the weak and marginalized is fast turning into a monstrous ideology that, if it is not stopped, will transform liberal democracy into a softer, therapeutic form of totalitarianism. (10)

The Therapeutic as the Postmodern Mode of Existence

How did maximizing a feeling of well-being become the ultimate goal of modern people and societies? (11)

cf. The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Philip Rieff

For the first time, humankind was seeking to create a civilization based on the negation of any binding transcendent order. …one that purported to set the individual free to pursue hedonism and individualism. If there is no sacred order, then the original promise of the serpent in the Garden of Eden—”[Y]e shall be as gods”—is the foundational principle of the new culture. (12)

In 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 left. These cultural revolutionaries found an ally in advanced capitalism, which teaches that nothing should exist outside of the market mechanism and its sorting of value according to human desires. (13)

After all, if true freedom is defined as freedom of choice, as opposed to the classical concept of choosing virtue, then the door is wide open to reforming religion along therapeutic lines centered around subjective experience. This is why so many conservative Christians did not see, and still cannot explain, the ongoing victories of transgenderism in the culture war. The transgender phenomenon, which requires affirming psychology over biological reality, is a logical culmination of a process that started centuries earlier. (13)

[via: Does Dreher not know or not care about the scientific studies of gender dysphoria (psychology) or genetic variations (biology)?]

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 ridiculous. (13)

Ketman and the Pill of Murti-Bing

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. – Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

[via: So, here’s the problem. Just a couple pages earlier Dreher is telling people to dismiss the evidence of biology and psychology of transgenderism. This turns the principles that Dreher is advocating for into tribal moralizing, which is the exact opposite of the Orwellian principle.]

In our time, we do not have an all-powerful state forcing this on us. This dictatorship is far more subtle. Under soft totalitarianism, the media, academia, corporate America, and other institutions are practicing Newspeak and compelling the rest of us to engage in doublethink every day. Men have periods. The woman standing in front of you is to be called “he.” Diversity and inclusion means excluding those who object to ideological uniformity. Equity means treating persons unequally, regardless of their skills and achievements, to achieve an ideologically correct result. (15)

| To update an Orwell line to our own situation: “The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” (15)

[via: First, Dreher admits that “we do not have an all-powerful state forcing this on us.” That is a concession far more weighty than is admitted to in these pages. The claims towards “totalitarianism,” as such, are thus rendered concocted. It doesn’t matter if you put the word “soft” in front of it. Second, the focus on social gender dynamics is honestly baffling. This is the totalitarianism of which you speak? That you should consider an adjustment in terminology in accordance with new ways of understanding the dynamics of human biology in social settings? Nowhere yet has Dreher mentioned the blatant lies of politicians, the citizens’ capitulation to power, the violent threats and language both by and against elected officials, the emergence of paramilitaries, systemic discrimination against religion, race, and gender, the self-debasing of elected officials in sycophantism, the persistent attacks on journalism, our first amendment right, nor the cultural wars and distortion of Christian Nationalists who traffic in revisionist histories and political machinations to impose their law and order! In other words, Dreher is subtly inferring a rejection of those elements of tyranny for a focus on…pronouns.]

You became an actor, says Milosz. You learn the practice of ketman. This is the Persian word for the practice of maintaining an outward appearance of Islamic orthodoxy while inwardly dissenting. Ketman was the strategy everyone who wasn’t a true believer in communism had to adopt to stay out of trouble. It is a form of mental self-defense. (16)

| What is the difference between ketman and plain old hypocrisy? As Milosz explains, having to be “on” all the time inevitably changes a person. An actor who inhabits his role around the clock eventually becomes the character he plays. Ketman is worse than hypocrisy, because living by it all the time corrupts your character and ultimately everything in society. (16)

“Metaphysical ketman” is the deepest form of the strategy, a defense against “total degradation.” (16)

[via: So why not mention racism and Critical Race Theory here as an example of this “total degradation” that happens to people of color living in a predominantly White society?]

Under the emerging tyranny of wokeness, conservatives, including conservative Christians, learn to practice one or more forms of ketman. (17)

[via: I must say at this point in the book I became extremely grateful. I began to understand far better the psychological factors that have led to White, Conservative, and Christian resentment. In some astonishing form of twisted distortion, the lessons from totalitarian states of previous generations have become an analog and narrative for what White, Conservative, and Christians may be feeling in a changing country. (cf. The End of White Christian America) Add to this Group Position/Threat Theory, and we have the ingredients needed to substantiate a disillusioned and fearful concoction.

Living in Truth

What did it mean to live by lies? It meant, Solzhenitsyn writes, accepting without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compelled its citizens to affirm—or at least not to oppose—to get along peaceably under totalitarianism. 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. (17)

The task of the Christian dissident today is to personally commit herself to live not by lies. How can she do that alone? She needs to draw close to authentic spiritual leadership—clerical, lay, or both—and form small cells of fellow believers with whom she can pray, sing, study Scripture, and read other books important to their mission. (18)

CHAPTER TWO
Our Pre-Totalitarian Culture

How could the Russians have been so blind? It was, in a sense, a problem of the imagination. Reflecting on the speed with which utopian dreams turned into a grisly nightmare, Solzhenitsyn observed:

If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums. [Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, 39.

Why Communism Appealed to Russians

Marxism is a highly theoretical, abstract set of doctrines that cannot be easily grasped by nonspecialists. It took Russian intellectuals by storm because its evangelists presented Marxism as a secular religion for the post-religious age. (24)

Marx preached a revolution that would wrest control from the rich (capitalists) in the name of the proletariat (workers) and establish an all-powerful government that would redistribute resources justly before withering away. (24)

Marxism stood for the future. Marxism stood for progress. … Their priests and the prophets were their intellectuals, who were “religious about being secular.” Writes historian Yuri Slezkine: “A conversion to socialism was a conversion to the intelligentsia, to a fusion of millenarian faith and lifelong learning.” [Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution, 36-37] (25)

cf. The Great Famine of 1891-92; 1905 civil war across Russia, Romanov dynasty; The Great War in 1914; 1917 October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik party; The Red Terror, 1918.

Evangelizing Russia’s Neighbors

For over four decades, until communism’s collapse in 1989, millions of Eastern Europeans endured this police-state captivity. For the Russian people, their enslavement to communism lasted decades longer, and was even harsher. True, communists in power held on to it through sheer terror and exercising a monopoly on force. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that communism didn’t come from nowhere—that there really were people whose lives were so hard and hopeless that the utopian proclamations of Marxist zealots sounded something like salvation. (29)

[via: These are not insignificant qualifications.]

| Under the right conditions, yes, it can happen here. It wouldn’t happen in the same way as in Russia and Eastern Europe—times have changed—but the totalitarian temptation presents itself with a twenty-first-century face. The parallels between a declining United States and prerevolutionary Russia are not exact, but they are unnervingly close. (29)

[via: “Under the right conditions.” “Not exact.” “Unnervingly close.” I find these statements to be both true and misleading in the context of the thesis of this book. There is no doubt that there are consistent patterns of human behavior, and so it should be no surprise that you will see elements that resonate and remind. However, we should also take into consideration that we are “pattern-seeking” creatures, constantly looking for analogs that help us contextualize and make sense of our current situation. A such, those patterns do not equal the “rhyming” of history; they do not, and indeed cannot be a valid indicator because there are so many additional contexts necessary.]

Both natural disasters caused mass suffering and revealed systemic decay in the habits and institutions of governing authority. (30)

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. – Benito Mussolini

That is to say, totalitarianism is a state in which nothing can be permitted to exist that contradicts a society’s ruling ideology. (30)

[via: So, if there’s an ideology, let’s say, that only accepts a gender binary, and does not permit, oh, let’s say transgender biologies and identities, would that be totalitarianism?]

How to See Totalitarianism Coming

LONELINESS AND SOCIAL ATOMIZATION

Totalitarian movement, said Arendt, are “mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals.” She continues:

What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world, is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the every-growing masses of our century.

Since [Bowling Alone], we have experienced the rise of social media networks offering a facsimile of “connection.” Yet we grow ever lonelier and more isolated. It is no coincidence that millennials and members of Generation Z register much higher rates of loneliness than older Americans, as well as significantly greater support for socialism. (31)

Civic trust is another bond that holds society together. …the Soviet government, in an effort to monopolize control, caused the Russian people to turn on one another. (32)

In Bowling Alone, Putnam documented the unraveling of civic bonds since the 1950s … The result is that ordinary people feel more anxious, isolated, and vulnerable. (32)

| A polity filled with alienated individuals who share little sense of community and purpose are prime targets for totalitarian ideologies and leaders who promise solidarity and meaning. (32)

[via: But progressive liberalism is very much in this fight against alienation. In fact, this is one of the fundamental targets of Critical Theory.]

LOSING FAITH IN HIERARCHIES AND INSTITUTIONS

As radical individualism has become more pervasive in our consumerist-driven culture, people have ceased to look outside themselves for authoritative sources of meaning. This is the fulfillment of modern liberalism’s goal: to free the individual from any unchosen obligations. (33)

Sociologist Émile Durkheim observed that many people who had been set free from the bonds of religion did not thrive in their liberty. In fact, they lost a shared sense of purpose, of meaning, and of community. (33)

You can destroy as much by failing to build as by actively wrecking. Philip Rieff said the collapse of a civilizational order begins when its elites cease to be able to transmit faith in its institutions and customs to younger generations. (34)

THE DESIRE TO TRANSGRESS AND DESTROY

They admired the diabolic willingness to stop at nothing to satisfy one’s desires and to exercise one’s will.(35)

PROPAGANDA AND THE WILLINGNESS TO BELIEVE USEFUL LIES

You can surrender your moral responsibility to be honest out of misplaced idealism. You can also surrender it by hating others more than you love truth. (36)

No serious person denies the importance of slavery in US history. But that’s not the point of the 1619 Project. Its goal is to revise (36) America’s national identity by making race hatred central to the nation’s foundational myth. Despite the project’s core claim (that the patriots fought the American Revolution to preserve slavery) having been thoroughly debunked, journalism’s elite saw fit to award the project’s director a Pulitzer Prise for her contribution. (37)

[via: The factual points here are true, (cf. “I Helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me.” in Politico) and the entire project is fraught with difficulties, an example of polemical and revisionist history, rather than history (cf. The 1619 Project: An Autopsy, CATO Institute; The Inclusive 1776 Honors America’s Diversity in a Way 1619 Does Not, The Atlantic). However, this recognition could easily be interpreted as dismissing the racial beliefs and ideologies that were present at the founding, and continued to be present throughout its development. Here’s the full issue of the 1619 Project.]

It must be conceded that right-wing media, though outside the mainstream, often has a similar effect on conservatives: affirming to them that what they believe about the world is true. (37)

[via: I acknowledge Dreher’s acknowledgment here.]

A MANIA FOR IDEOLOGY

Why are people so willing to believe demonstrable lies? The desperation alienated people have for a story that helps them make sense of their lives and tells them what to do explains it. For a man desperate to believe, totalitarian ideology is more precious than life itself. (38)

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases—the personal is political—captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness. …that is what totalitarianism essentially is: the politicization of everything. (39)

| Infusing every aspect of life with ideology was a standard aspect of Soviet totalitarianism. (39)

A SOCIETY THAT VALUES LOYALTY MORE THAN EXPERTISE

“Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intellect and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty,” wrote Arendt. (39)

[via: Does this remind you of any prominent political figure? Eh?]

Trump’s exaltation of personal loyalty over expertise is discreditable and corrupting. But how can liberals complain? Loyalty to the group or the tribe is at the core of leftist identity politics. … This is at the root of “cancel culture,” in which transgressors, however minor their infractions, find themselves cast into outer darkness. (40)

[via: Another point of agreement and affirmation.]

Beyond cancel culture, which is reactive, institutions are embedding within their systems ideological tests to weed out dissenters. At universities within the University of California system, for example, teachers who want to apply for tenure-track positions have to affirm their commitment to “equity, diversity, and inclusion”—and to have demonstrated it, even if it has nothing to do with their field. Similar politically correct loyalty oaths are required at leading public and private schools. (40

[via: Aaand, we’re right back to critique. Affirming a commitment to “equity, diversity, and inclusion” is a statement against discrimination, marginalization, racism, sexism, and prejudice. You can call it “political correctness,” but these ethics are fully in alignment, with the entire program of anti-totalitarianism.]

cf. Brendan Eich, Mozilla

[via: Aaand, we’re right back to agreement. Yes, I would agree that this is an example of non-tolerance, especially since Eich was not instituting any corporate policies, but merely expressing his personal political views.]

A Soviet-born US physician…said it is not permissible within his institution to advise gender-dysphoric patients against treatments they desire, even when a physician believes it is not in that particular patient’s health interest. (41)

[via: It would have been really helpful to have a citation for this claim. A quick scan of this article did not seem to indicate that there was any ethical barring against such advice.]

Intellectuals Are the Revolutionary Class

As Russia’s Marxist revolutionaries did, our own SJWs [Social Justice Warriors] believe that science is on their side, even when their claims are unscientific. For example, transgender activists insist that their radical beliefs are scientifically sound; scientists and physicians who disagree are driven out of their institutions or intimidated into silence.

| Social justice cultists are utopians who believe that the ideal of Progress requires smashing all the old forms for the sake of liberating humanity. … They believe that after humanity is freed from the chains that bind us—whiteness, patriarchy, marriage, the gender binary, and so on—we will experience a radically new and improved form of life. (43)

[via: First, gender dysphoria and transgenderism is scientific. It’s actually astonishing, for a quick Google Search will generate plenty of scientific articles in reputable journals elucidating the matter. (cf. National Center for Biotechnolgy Information, Harvard University, American Psychological Association, and even popular level science journals such as Nature, and Scientific American.) Second, we should make clear, that scientists are being “driven out” does not a scientific argument make. Last, using the terms “cultists,” “utopians” and “smashing,” is more a pejorative characterization, and is really distasteful.]

Futuristic Fatalism

To be sure, neither loneliness, nor social atomization, nor the rise of social justice radicalism among power-holding elites—none of this means that totalitarianism is inevitable. but they do signify that the weaknesses in contemporary American society are consonant with a pre-totalitarian state. (44)

[via: And here is where the qualifiers disqualify. I almost put the book down here and just left it. I’m *somewhat* glad I didn’t.]

CHAPTER THREE
Progressivism as Religion

The modern age is built on the Myth of Progress. By “myth,” I mean that the concept of historical progress is foundational to the modern era and built into the story we tell ourselves to understand our time and our place in it. Believers in the Myth of Progress hold that the present is better than the past, and that the future will inevitably be better than the present. (48)

[via: “Inevitably” is the key word in this claim, perhaps the defining term in the statement.]

The Grand March

…a leftist is a shared belief that humanity is on a “Grand March” toward Progress: “The Grand March is the splendid march on the road to brotherhood, equality, and justice, happiness; it goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding, for obstacles there must be if the march is to be the Grand Marchy. [Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 257] (49)

| If progress is inevitable, and the Communist Party is the leader of society’s Grand March to the progressive future, then, the theory goes, to resist the Party is to stand against the future—indeed, against reality itself. Those who oppose the Party oppose progress and freedom and align themselves with greed, backwardness, bigotry, and all manner of injustice. (49)

[via: Just a note that opposing “party” is different from opposing “values.”]

Modernity Is Progress

[F]aith in progress is just as basic to modernity as the Second Coming was to Christianity. – Yuri Slezkine

Classical liberals are more concerned with individual freedom, while leftists embrace equality of outcome. (50)

Over the relatively short period of our nation’s history, and after hard struggles, liberal democracy and capitalism have created one of the world’s highest standards of living, and have guaranteed civil rights and expanded personal freedom to all. (51)

We also believe in progress because of its Judeo-Christian roots. Most ancient cultures have a cyclical view of history, but Hebrew religion—and its offshoots, Christianity and Islam—describe history as moving in a linear direction, from creation to an ultimate redemption. (51)

It also doesn’t mean that “progress” divorced from God is progress at all. In fact, progress can become very dark in a secular context, without a biblical understanding of human fallibility and without the God of the Bible as the author of history and the judge of the earth. (52)

Technology—the practical application of scientific knowledge—produces a convergence in values. This is the central modern myth which the Positivists propagated and everyone today accepts as fact. – John Gray

The Myth of Progress teaches that science and technology will empower individuals, unencumbered by limits imposed by religion and tradition, to realize their desires. (53)

Progress as Religion

Despite the self-delusions of theologically progressive Christians, so too are Christianity and the easygoing nihilism that characterizes progressivism in our post-Christian era. (56)

Heresy-Hunters in our Midst

…thoughtcrimes—heresies, in other words—by their very nature make accusation and guilt the same thing. (57)

The reach of contemporary thought crime expands constantly—homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, bi-phobia, fat-phobia, (57) racism, ableism, and on and on—making it difficult to know when one is reading on safe ground or about to step on a land mine. Yet Scruton is right: All of these thoughtcrimes derive from “doctrines”—his word— that are familiar to us. (58)

A revolution that began as an attempt to right historical injustices quickly became an exterminationist exercise of raw power. (59)

[via: This is the key issue, is it not?]

Understanding the Cult of Social Justice

[James A.] Lindsay contends that social justice fulfills the same psychological and social needs that religion once filled but no longer can. And like conventional religions, it depends on axiomatic claims that cannot be falsified but only accepted as revealed truths. (60)

Far from being moral relativists, SJWs truly are rigorists with a deep and abiding concern for purity, and they do not hesitate to enforce their sacrosanct beliefs. (60)

What are those beliefs?

THE CENTRAL FACT OF HUMAN EXISTENCE IS POWER AND HOW IT IS USED

Social justice is the mission of re-(60)ordering society to create more equitable (just) power relationships. Those who resist social justice are practicing “hate,” and cannot be reasoned with or in any way tolerated, only conquered. (61)

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OBJECTIVE TRUTH; THERE IS ONLY POWER

Who decides what is true and what is false? Those who hold power. … The value of truth claims depends on who is making them.

[via: This is also philosophically known as “an appeal to authority.”]

IDENTITY POLITICS SORTS OPPRESSED FROM OPPRESSORS

Justice is not a matter of working out what is rightly due to an individual per see, but what is due to an individual as the bearer of a group identity. (61)

[via: As an example of this point, Dreher writes, “For example, a white Pentecostal man living on disability in a trailer park is an oppressor; a black lesbian Ivy League professor is oppressed.” Dreher fundamentally misses the point here in this example, of how cultural norms and mores actually work. “Class” disparity is different from “racial” disparity, and the question should be framed between a trailer park white man and a trailer park black lesbian.]

INTERSECTIONALITY IS SOCIAL JUSTICE ECUMENISM

LANGUAGE CREATES HUMAN REALITIES

You cannot know how to judge and act in the face of these challenges if you cannot see the social justice warriors for what they truly are—and where they do their work.

[via: A cautionary note here that this language is dangerous labeling, for it supposes nefarious deceit on the part of the subject, and special knowledge on the part of the critic. Careful, as this leads to demonizing.]

SOCIAL JUSTICE AND CHRISTIANITY

…Christian social justice is difficult to reconcile with secular ideals of social justice. One reason is that the former depends on the biblical concept of what a human being is—including the purpose for which all people were created. (64)

For Marxists, social justice meant an equal distribution of society’s material goods. By contrast, Christian social justice sought to create conditions of unity that enable all people—rich and poor alike—to live in solidarity and mutual charity as pilgrims on the road to unity with Christ. (64)

Without Christianity and its belief in the fallibility of human nature, secular progressives tend to rearrange their bigotries and (64) call it righteousness. Christianity teaches that all men and women—not just the wealthy, the powerful, the straight, the white, and all other so-called oppressors—are sinners in need of the Redeemer. All men and women are called to confession and repentance. “Social justice” that projects unrighteousness solely onto particular groups is a perversion of Christian teaching. Reducing the individual to her economic status or her racial, sexual, or gender identity is an anthropological error. It is untrue, and therefore unjust. (65)

[via: This spiritualizing is insufficient and can be problematic. Christianity teaches that all are in need of the Redeemer, yes, but not all need to “sell all they have and give it to the poor.” Those people, are the rich. So, Christianity neither ignores nor platforms social or economic status. Christianity also doesn’t simply care about “the soul.” Christianity is wholistic, and applies redemption and salvation differently depending upon one’s social and economic status.]

Contrary to secular social justice activists, protecting the right to abortion is always unjust. So is any proposal—like same-sex marriage—that ratifies sin and undermines the natural family. (65)

Christians cannot endorse any form of social justice that denies biblical teaching. That includes schemes that apply identity politics categories to the life of the church. For example, answering calls to “decolonize” the church means imposing identity politics categories onto theology and worship, turning the faith into radical leftism at prayer. (65)

[via: False. First, Christians advocate for plenty of things that “deny biblical teaching.” Capitalism, Democracy, Christian Music, Value-Added Bibles, etc. Second, answering calls to “decolonize” the church does not mean “imposing identity politics categories onto theology and worship.” It is precisely the opposite, to dismantle any identity politics categories that are influencing our theology and worship.]

| Faithful Christians must work for social justice, but can only do so in the context of fidelity to the full Christian moral and theological vision through which we understand the meaning of justice. Any social justice campaign that implies that the God of the Bible is an enemy of man and his happiness is fraudulent and must be rejected. (65)

Back to the Future?

Consider that the civil rights movement of the 1960s was led by black preachers who articulate the plight of their people in Biblical language and stories. (67)

[via: AND ADVOCATED FOR SOCIAL CHANGE, AND WERE PEJORATIVELY LABELED “MARXISTS,” AND SOUGHT TO DECOLONIZE CHRISTIANITY!]

CHAPTER FOUR
Capitalism, Woke and Watchful

To stay free to speak the truth, [Kamila Bendova] tells me, you have to create for yourself a zone of privacy that is inviolate. (69)

Information means power. … We know from our life under the totalitarian regime that if you know something about someone, you can manipulate him or her. You can use it against them. The secret police have evidence of everything like that. They could use it all against you. Anything! – Kamila

Should totalitarianism, hard or soft, come to America, the po-(70)lice state would not have to establish a web of informants to keep tabs on the private lives of the people. The system we have now already does this—and most Americans are scarcely aware of its thoroughness and ubiquity. (71)

[via: I am with Dreher on this point. Data harvesting and the utility of a “social media personality” is a problem.]

The Rise of Woke Capitalism

In an (72) America that now runs on the internet, five companies—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google—have an almost incalculable influence over public and private life. (73)

| At the same time, Big Business has moved steadily leftward on social issues. … lobbyists for national and international corporations have leaned heavily on state governments to pass pro-LGBT legislation and to resist religious liberty laws. (73)

[via: Uh, because discrimination is bad, and we are not a theocracy!]

cf. The Diversity Delusion by Heather McDonald

There is nothing wrong, of course, with trying to create workplaces where people are treated fairly, and judged according to performance. That’s what we call “justice”; social justice, as we have seen, is not the same thing. (74)

The Rise of Surveillance Capitalism

…Big Brother is not exactly who we expected him to be—a political dictator, though one day he may become that. At the present moment, Big Brother’s primary occupation is capitalist. He’s a salesman, he’s a broker, he’s a gatherer of raw materials, and a manufacturer of desires. (76)

This power to shape behavior for others’ profit or power is entirely self-authorizing. … It has no foundation in democratic or moral legitimacy, as it usurps decision right sand erodes the processes of of individual autonomy that are essential to the function of a Democratic society. The message here is simple: Once I was mine. Now I am theirs [italics added] – Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.

The Politics of Surveillance

Why should corporations and institutions not use the information they harvest to manufacture consent to some beliefs and ideologies and to manipulate the public into rejecting others? (79)

Silicon Valley is well known to be far to the left on social and cultural issues, a veritable mecca of (80) the cult of social justice. Social justice warriors are known for the spiteful disdain they hold for classically liberal values like free speech, freedom of association, and religious liberty. (81)

[via: This is just barking, tautological, and a bit incoherent. A “veritable mecca of the cult of social justice”? “Spiteful disdain…for classically liberal values…”?]

But what happens when the products are politicians or ideologies? And how will people know when they are being manipulated? (81)

[via: Excellent question. Explicate the answer rather than just scapegoating “social justice warriors.” Not one mention of right-wing media here, Russia, or the most prominent vocal political manipulator.]

cf. Douglas Murray [author of The Bell Curve]; Edward Snowden, Permament Record.

Both the spread of the cult of social justice and the reach of surveillance capitalism into areas that the Orwellian tyrants of the communist bloc could only have aspired to have created an environment favorable to the emergence of soft totalitarianism. (83)

China: The Mark of the East

…China today proves that it is possible to have a wealthy, modern society and still be totalitarian. (84)

China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state. The project aims to form not only a new kind of state but a new kind of human being, one who has fully internalized the demands of the state and the completeness of its surveillance and control. That internalization is the goal: agencies of the state will never need to intervene to correct the citizen’s behavior, because the citizen has done it for them in advance. — John Lanchester

[via: This was another section of argument to which I also agree.]

Can It Happen Here?

American culture is far more individualistic than Chinese culture, so that political resistance will almost certainly prevent Chinese-style hard totalitarianism from gaining a foothold here. But activating the broad reach of technology, especially the data-gathering technology that consumers have already accepted into their daily lives, and making it work to serve social justice goals is eminently feasible. (89)

To put it bluntly, we are being conditioned to accept a Westernized version of China’s social credit system, which will enforce the tenets of the political cult of social justice. If this ever takes root here, there will be no place to hide. Christians and others who refuse to conform will be forced to pioneer a way to live in truth, despite it all. (92)

[via: Dreher fails to mention that Christian nationalists apply the same thing, and they do so while clamoring for power. In fact, much of Christian nationalism is totalitarian in its ideology and aims. So, should we not fear Christians as much as Dreher claims we should fear “social justice warriors”?]

Sheltering from the Gathering Storm

In the West today, we are living under the decadent, pre-totalitarian conditions. Social atomization, widespread loneliness, the rise of ideology, widespread loss of faith in institutions, and other factors leave society vulnerable to the totalitarian temptation to which both Russian and Germany succumbed in the previous century.

[via: It is hard to evaluate whether this is simply overly dramatic, or hyper-fatalistic.]

This is the brave new world of the twenty-first century. Christian dissidents will be unable to mount an effective resistance if (93) 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. (94)

Part Two: How to Live in Truth

CHAPTER FIVE
Value Nothing More Than Truth

A person who lives only for his own comfort and survival and who is willing to live within a lie to protect that, is, says [Václav] Havel, “a demoralized person. [sic] (99)

The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society. Living within the truth, as humanity’s revolt against an enforced position, is, on the contrary, an attempt to regain control over one’s own sense of responsibility. – Václav Havel, The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe

One word of truth outweighs the whole world. – Russian proverb

It is up to us today to take up this challenge, to live not by lies and to speak the truth that defeats evil. How do we do this in a society built on lies? By accepting a life outside the mainstream, courageously defending the truth, and being willing to endure the consequences. These challenges are daunting, but we are blessed with examples from saints who’ve gone before.

[via: The formula that Dreher is prescribing is tinged with defensiveness. It assumes that “Christians” already know the truth, and therefore must defend what they already know. This is a huge delinquency in the moral integrity of this argument.]

Choose a Life Apart from the Crowd

Reject Doublethink and Fight for Free Speech

 

…society prefers the false peace of conformity to the tensions of liberty. To grow indifferent, even hostile, to free speech is suicidal for a free people. (104)

You have to live in a world of lies, but it’s your choice as to whether that world lives in you. (105)

Cherish Truth-Telling but Be Prudent

See, Judge, Act

Most conservatives, Christian and not, recognize that to some degree, but too few (107) see the deeper ramifications of accepting these lies. “Political correctness” is an annoyance; these lies corrupt one’s ability to think clearly about reality. (108)

[via: So, this is what is so illogical. “Political correctness,” no matter how you define that term is NOT THE SAME THING AS LIES. The conflation of the very real principle of “truth-telling” with a religious culture war as some sort of moral equivalence to totalitarianism is distorted, and dishonest. In other words, the very argument is itself a form of untruth. Also, sometimes there are very real and honest debates about what is and is not “scientific consensus” or the “factual conclusion.” But the debate does not itself support “untruths.”]

If you cannot imagine any situation in which you would…live in truth no matter the cost or consequence, then cowardice has a greater claim on your conscience than you know. (108)

[via: Because Dreher’s reasoning is so tenuous, the moral authority with which he speaks is also compromised. There is no legitimate claim to the truth of the above statement.]

CHAPTER SIX
Cultivate Cultural Memory

It’s not that forgetting the evils of communism means we are in danger of re-creating precisely that form of totalitarianism. It’s that the act of forgetting itself makes us vulnerable to totalitarianism. It’s that the act of forgetting itself makes us vulnerable to totalitarianism in general. (113)

| Put another way, we not only have to remember totalitarianism to build a resistance to it; we have to remember how to remember period. (113)

Why Memory Matters

To be modern is to be free to choose. What is chosen does not matter; the meaning is in the choice itself. There is no sacred order, no other world, no fixed virtues and permanent truths. There is only here and now and the eternal flame of human desire. Volo ergo sum—I want, therefore I am. (115)

To those who want to keep cultural memory alive, Connerton warns that it is not enough to pass on historical information to the young. The truths carried by tradition must be lived out subjectively. That is, they must not only be studied but also embodied in shared social practices—words, certainly, but more important, deeds. Communities must have “living models” of men and women who enact these truths in their daily lives. Nothing else works. (116)

Create Small Fortresses of Memory

We know that communists forbade people to talk about history in unapproved ways. This is a tactic today’s progressives use as well, especially within universities. (119)

[via: Wait, whaaat?! Dreher, just a few pages ago, attacked the 1619 Project for them talking about history in unapproved ways!]

I mention the way liberals today deploy neutral-sounding, or even positive, words like dialogue and tolerance to disarm and ultimately defeat unaware conservatives. And they imbue other words and phraseshierarchy, for example, or traditional familywith negative connotations. (119)

How did people keep hold of reality under communist conditions? How do they know not only what to remember but how to remember it? The answer was to create distinct small communities—especially families and religious fellowships—in which it was possible both to speak truthfully and to embody truth. (120)

Make the Parallel Polis into Sanctuary Cities

Bear Communal Witness to Future Generations

See, Judge, Act

Memory, historical and otherwise, is a weapon of cultural self-defense. History is not just what is written in textbooks. History is in the stories we tell ourselves about who we were and who we are. History is embedded in the language we use, the things we make, and the rituals we observe. History is culture—and so is Christianity. To be indifferent or even hostile to tradition is to surrender to those in power who want to legitimate a new social and political order. To perceive the critical importance of memory and the role culture plays in preserving and transmitting it is critically important for Christianity’s survival. (126)

[via: Again, there is so much ethical agreement in these pages, yet, so much blindness. Dreher’s moral vision is highly parochial, centered on how his tribal Christian vision accomplishes these principles, while at the same time ignoring how parochialism, religious nationalism, and conservativism violates these very same principles.]

CHAPTER SEVEN
Families Are Resistance Cells

Family is where we first learn to love others. If we are lucky, it is also where we first learn how to live in the truth. (129)

The Family and the Totalitarian State

cf. Václav Benda, “The Family and the Totalitarian State” [in The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Vaclav Benda, 1977-1989]

In the essay, Benda said that we must throw away “the regular clichés about liberation” from the traditional obligations of marriage and family. In the Christian model, marriage and family offers three gifts that are urgently needed for believers struggling within a totalitarian order. (131)

…love…freedom…the dignity of the individual… (131)

When a family’s members accept a culture of “sexual extravagance, promiscuity, relationships easily entered into and broken off, [and] disrespect for life” (that is, abortion), then they cannot expect the family to be what it is supposed to be and to do what it must do. (133)

We have to keep our ideals grounded in realism and in an awareness of our limits. Families must allow for “neither patriarchal tyranny nor crazy feminist excesses,” and also reject “the worshiping of children” and catering to their every desire. (133)

| And though a strong leader within his own family, Benda grasped that the Christian father must above all be a servant of Christ. (133)

The loving, secure Christian home is a place that forms children who are capable of loving and serving others within the family, the church, the neighborhood, and indeed the nation. The family does not exist for itself alone, but first for God, and then for the sake of the broader community—a family of families. (134)

A Benda Guide to Child-Raising

MODEL MORAL COURAGE (136)

Dictatorship can make life hard for you, but they don’t want to devour your soul. Totalitarian regimes are seeking your souls. We have to know that so we can protect what is most important as Christians. – Marek, High Noon movie.

FILL THEIR MORAL IMAGINATIONS WITH THE GOOD (137)

cf. The Lord of the Rings

What my mom always encouraged in us and supported was our imagination, through the reading of books or playing with figures. She also taught us that the imagination was something that was wholly ours, that could not be stolen from us. Which was also something that differentiated us from others. – Patrik

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE WEIRD IN SOCIETY’S EYES (139)

“We were not hurt by being different because we considered this exceptionally was a value and not something bad.”

PREPARE TO MAKE GREAT SACRIFICES FOR THE GREATER GOOD (14)

TEACH THEY ARE PART OF A WIDER MOVEMENT (142)

For us, we are always willing to speak, to talk with the other side to avoid building walls between people. You know, it is much easier to indoctrinate someone who is enclosed within a set of walls. – Patrik

[via: Especially digital, self-imposed and self-selected walls.]

PRACTICE HOSPITALITY AND SERVE OTHERS (143)

The Social Importance of Family

It’s no accident that every dictatorship always tries to break down the family, because it’s in the family that you get the strength to be able to fight. You have the feeling that they have your back, so you can go out into the world and face anything. It’s just as true today as it was under communism. – Mária Komáromi, a Catholic teacher in Budapest.

Tertullian, an early Church Father who wrote under Roman persecution, famously said that the willingness of martyrs to suffer—even unto death—is what plants love of God into the hearts of men. That may be true, but as the stories of the families Benda, Sipko, Popieluszko, and so many other conquerors of communism show, the love of mothers and fathers is the seed of the church. (148)

See, Judge, Act

The Benda family judged that they could be open to the good things in the world around them because of the disciplined moral, intellectual, and spiritual lives they lived within the family. (149)

…small-group fellowship was critical to building effective Christian resistance to totalitarianism. …if you want to love and serve the church, the community, and the nation, you must first learn to love and serve your family. (150)

[via: And, by extension of the grand narrative of the Jewish and Christian faith, consider your “family” to be far wider than your biological relatives.]

CHAPTER EIGHT
Religion, the Bedrock of Resistance

Not every anti-communist dissident was a Christian, and not every Christian living under communist totalitarianism resisted. But here’s an interesting thing: every single Christian I interviewed for this book, in every ex-communist country, conveyed a sense of deep inner peace—a peace that they credit to their faith, which gave them ground on which to stand firm. (151)

This is the core of what religion brings to anti-totalitarian resistance: a reason to die—which is to say, a reason to live with (151) whatever suffering the regime throws at you, and not only to live, but to thrive. (152)

The important lesson to draw is that a creed one holds as 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. (152)

[via: Good religion. Really bad epistemology. This is one of the fundamental problems in religion, not knowing which is which.]

The Spiritual Exercises of the Prisoner Krčméry

In his memoir, This Saved Us,…he realized that the only way he would make it through the ordeal ahead was to rely entirely on faith, not reason. (153)

In my case, it truly was to plunge into physical and spiritual uncertainty, an abyss, where only faith in God could guarantee safety. Material things which mankind regarded as certainties were fleeting and illusory, while faith, which the world considered to be ephemeral, was the most reliable and the most powerful of foundations.

[via: The contrast in this quote, however, is not between faith and reason, but rather faith and bad moral philosophy. These category errors are not just troublesome. They distort reality.]

The Power of the Powerless Church

Why did they come? […”to hear the prophetic cleric”] Because they lived in a total system that insisted that it had all the answers to life’s questions. But the people, they were completely miserable, and lost, and in pain.

[via: Again, concur with the sentiment, but Dreher does not at all mention Christian nationalism, fundamentalism, and Evangelicalism as participating in the very same agenda of insisting that they “had all the answers to life’s questions.”]

The Miracle of the Cigarettes

If you believe that God exists, then you must also believe that miracles are possible. Christians live by faith, but sometimes, God sends a message to remind us that he exists and has not abandoned us. (160)

See, Judge, Act

A time of painful testing, even persecution, is coming. Lukewarm or shallow Christians will not come through with their faith intact. Christians today must dig deep into the Bible and church tradition and teach themselves how and why today’s post-Christian world, with its self-centeredness, its quest for happiness and rejection of sacred order and transcendent values, is a rival religion to authentic Christianity. We should also see how many of the world’s values have been absorbed into Christian life and practice. (62)

We serve a God who created all things for a purpose. He has shown us in the Bible, especially the Gospels, who we are and how we are to live to be in harmony with the sacred order he created. He does not want admirers; he wants followers. As Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God suffered with humanity to redeem humanity. He calls us to share in his Passion, for our sake and the sake of the world. He promises us nothing but the cross. Not happiness but the joy of blessedness. Not material wealth but (162) richness of spirit. Not sexual freedom as erotic abandon but sexual freedom within loving, mutually sacrificial commitment. Not power but love; not self-sovereignty but obedience. (163)

| 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 upon which that world will be broken. And if those solid rocks are joined together, they form a wall of solidarity that is very hard for the enemy to breach. (163)

[via: So, yes to all of that (well, most of it 😉) but no mention of justice, righteousness/charity, mercy, equality, compassion, anti-corruption, anti-greed, anti-hubris, anti-idolatry, allegiance to Christ and not a political party, the prophetic call and imagination, the expansion of family to your neighbors, the exposure of depraved leadership and government, etc. In addition, “then the world will break you,” is part of the fear tactics of this kind of Christianity that should be avoided.]

CHAPTER NINE
Standing in Solidarity

Small Communities Can Rescue the Lone Individual

Small Groups Can Be a Pastoral Lifeline

Solidarity Is Not Exclusively Christian

As important as it is for Christians to strengthen their ties to one another, they should not neglect to nurture friendships with people of goodwill outside the churches. (174)

In the communist past, secular liberals shared with Christians the conviction that communism was a destructive lie. But today, I put to Mikloško, most liberals seem to think that the kind of oppression coming against religious believers is justified, even necessary, despite its illiberality. (175)

[via: So, serious question, What oppression?]

When it comes to survival, maybe what’s most important is simple fidelity: not by evangelizing people directly but by developing honest relations with one another—not looking for whether one is good or bad, or judging them by their ideology – Kęska

Making Grief Easier to Carry

…we have to start somewhere in our rebellion against contemporary atomization. The individual standing alone against the machine will be crushed. (179)

Organize Now, While You Can

See, Judge, Act

The atomization of contemporary life has left most of us vulnerable to demoralization—and therefore, to manipulation. (180)

We desperately need to throw off the chains of solitude and find the freedom that awaits us in fellowship. The testimony of anti-communist dissidents is clear: Only in solidarity with others can we find the spiritual and communal strength to resist. The longer we remain isolated in a period of liberty, the harder it will be to find one another in a time of persecution. We must see in our brothers and sisters not a burden of obligation but the blessing of our own freedom from loneliness, suspicion, and defeat. (181)

CHAPTER TEN
The Gift of Suffering

Now, in liberty and relative prosperity, the children of the last communist generation have fallen to a more subtle, sophisticated tyranny: one that tells them that anything they find difficult is a form of oppression. For these millennials, unhappiness is slavery and freedom is liberation from the burden of unchosen obligations. (184)

If they have been taught the faith at all, it has been a Christianity without tears. (185)

Suffering As Testimony to the Truth

…if we latter-day believers are not able and willing to be faithful in the relatively small trials we face now, there is no reason to think we will have what it takes to endure serious persecution in the future. (185)

You have to suffer for the truth because that’s what makes you authentic. That’s what makes that truth credible. If I’m not willing to suffer, my truth might as well be nothing more than an ideology – Mária Komáromi

Admirers or Disciples?

cf. A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick

The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no. The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires. And then, remarkably enough, even though he is living amongst a “Christian people,” he incurs the same peril as he did when it was dangerous to openly confess Christ. – Kierkegaard, Provocations, 88.

Suffer Without Bitterness

“Bless You, Prison”: Receive Suffering As A Gift

And that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison! … Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, 313.

Expect the Worst, Show Mercy to the Broken

Let the Weakness of Others Make You Stronger

A Christianity for the Days to Come

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. Pastor Wurmbrund once wrote that there were two kinds of Christians: “those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe. You can tell them apart by their actions in decisive moments.” (204)

| The kind of Christians we will be in the time of testing depends on the kind of Christians we are today. (204)

[via: There is much here that I appreciate, and with which I concur. Richard Wurmbrund is exactly the person who came to mind when reading pages before Dreher quoted from him.]

See, Judge, Act

To recognize the value in suffering is to rediscover a core teaching of historical Christianity, and to see clearly the pilgrim path walked by every generation of Christians since the Twelve Apostles. There is nothing more important than this when building up Christian resistance to the coming totalitarianism. It is also to declare oneself a kind of savage in today’s culture—even within the culture of the church. It requires standing foursquare against much of popular Christianity, which has become a shallow self-help cult whose chief aim is not cultivating discipleship but rooting out personal anxieties. (205)

CONCLUSION
Live Not by Lies

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? (209)

The message [Križka] found was this: The secular liberal ideal of freedom so popular in the West, and among many in his post-communist generation, is a lie. That is, the concept that real freedom is found by liberating the self from all binding commitments (to God, [210] to marriage, to family), and by increasing worldly comforts—that is a road that leads to hell. Križka observed that the only force in society standing in the middle of that wide road yelling “Stop!” were the traditional Christian churches. (211)

Once again, we are all being told that Christian values stand in the way of the people having a better life. History has already shown us how far this kind of thing can go. We also know what to do now, in terms of making life decisions.

Accepting suffering is the beginning of our liberation. Suffering can be the source of great strength. It gives us the power to resist. It is a gift from God that invites us to change. To start a revolution against the oppression. But for me, the oppressor was no longer the totalitarian communist regime. It’s not even the progressive liberal state. Meeting these hidden heroes started ar evolution against the greatest totalitarian ruler of all: myself.

Križka discovered a subtle but immensely important truth: We ourselves are the ultimate rulers of our consciences. Hard (211) 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… (212)

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

[via: Tell this to Christian Nationalists.]

This is the cost of liberty. This is what it means to live in truth. There is no other way. There is no escape from the struggle. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance—first of all, over our own hearts.

God’s Saboteurs

And so: We need not be the first to set out on this path, Ours is but to join! The more of us set out together, the thicker our ranks, the easier and shorter will this path be for us all! If we become thousands—they will not cope, they will be unable to touch us. If we will grow to tens of thousands—we will not recognize our country!

But if we shrink away, then let us cease complaining that someone does not let us draw breath—we will do it to ourselves! Let us then cower and hunker down, while our comrades the biologists bring closer the day when our thoughts can be read and our genes altered.

And if from this also we shrink away, then we are worthless, hopeless, and it is of us that Pushkin asks with scorn:

Why should cattle have the gifts of freedom?

Their heritage from generation to generation is the belled yoke and the lash.

-Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, “Live Not by Lies!” in Orthodoxy Today, accessed June 2, 2020

 

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

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