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Seeing deeper and farther

By Ralph Bowles - posted Thursday, 26 November 2020

"Sometimes, a stranger who sees deeper and farther than the crowd appears to warn of trouble coming. These stories often end with people disbelieving the prophet and suffering for their blindness." Rod Dreher wrote his latest book to relay to us the warnings of others about a looming soft totalitarianism in the West. Dreher himself fills a prophetic role in his call.

Dreher is a journalist, editor, blogger and writer of a Christian conservative stamp. This book extends the goal of his previous The Benedict Option to offer practical help to Christians who want to survive in an increasingly intolerant, difficult social and political environment. But all dissidents can benefit from his warnings.

The genesis of the book came in response to his blog posts. He was contacted by people whose family had lived as dissidents under Eastern bloc European communism before 1989. Their parents were telling them that they were seeing in America similar signs that appeared as communism tightened its grip in post war Europe; outbursts of illiberal intolerance, 'cancel culture', social media mobbing, firing of employees and hostile rejection of differing views. The older generation were in no doubt that a shift towards totalitarianism was emerging in the West.


The old timers were unnerved to see elite institutions abandoning liberalism and the defence of the individual's rights, and replacing it with a creed of social justice in terms of group identity. Laws, language and culture were to be changed at the behest of the utopians. People were losing their jobs because of their speech violations under codes of 'diversity and inclusion'.

These observers noted the presence of another phenomenon of life under communism - the self-monitoring of expressing one's own views, watching who is listening, who might report you.

The book's title comes from a speech of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who urged people never to allow themselves to join the distortion of reality by saying things you do not believe: "Live not by lies!"

Dreher decided to make a closer study of the experience of those who lived under totalitarianism to find out how they survived. His book shares the lessons for those who find their liberalism and freedom threatened.

This book has two parts: Part One, "Understanding Soft Totalitarianism", then Part Two, "How to Live in Truth".

The analysis of "Soft Totalitarianism" is sobering reading. Soft totalitarianism aims to control your mind, not just your life.


Today's totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic - and certainly with Christianity.

It was not just the Christians who were the dissidents. They were allies of others with liberal, freedom-loving outlook.

Dreher analyses how liberal democracies are degenerating into a soft totalitarian or pre-totalitarian culture. The combination of progressive ideology, the insidious efficiency of surveillance technology and the emergence of woke capitalism are combining to remove pluralism and real diversity of thought.

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This article is a review of Live Not By Lies by Rod Dreher. 

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About the Author

Ralph Bowles is an Anglican clergyman. He has a BA (Hons) U Syd.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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