Book review: “Live not by Lies” by Rod Dreher

Book review: “Live not by Lies” by Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher has noticed a connection between what is happening in our cultures today and what has happened in the past. In his latest book, “Live not by lies”, Dreher compares the rise of “soft totalitarianism” and identity politics to the situation Christians found themselves in under the communist regimes of the 20th century.



I know that this comparison seems a little extreme. Most of us do not live in fear of the secret police, and we are not generally banned from meeting in church. Yet I found Dreher’s analysis compelling. He interviewed a great number of Christians who lived under communist rule in Russia and the former Czechoslovakia. These people all noted that some of the aspects of our culture felt similar to how their oppression started: constant surveillance, the rejection of any beliefs that fall outside the accepted ones, and people becoming suspicious of religion and religious groups. Interestingly, many who lived under this oppression still avoid smart phones and any device that might be used to spy on them.

The real strength of this book is the interviews of those who had lived under extreme conditions where their faith was monitored and church gatherings were excluded. In many cases, pastors and church leaders were imprisoned, and Christians needed to gather and grow in smaller groups in houses without trained ministers. Not knowing a great deal about this part of history, this was eye-opening for me.

What lessons can we learn from those who have been in that situation before? The fundamental takeaways are pretty simple. We need to have our theology of suffering right; too often, we are surprised when anything slightly uncomfortable happens to Christians. We need to have a Biblical understanding of this and be prepared. We need to have strong devotional practices and know our Bibles and theology well.

One thing that really struck me was the importance of the family unit. Imagine that you could no longer attend a church or Bible study group. Your children might be forced to attend school and be taught whatever the State wants with no input from a larger church. Would your discipleship of the children in the home be enough to resist that? Would your intentional teaching of the Bible and theology to them, while living out the example of Jesus before them, be compelling? This line has stayed in my mind:

“The days of living like everybody else and hoping our children turn out for the best are over.”

I do fear that many Christian families don’t intentionally cultivate a love for Jesus at home. So often I hear of people who never read the Bible with their parents when living at home, or people preparing for marriage who have never had Christian marriage explained to them by their parents. We need to do better than that. We live in a world that is opposed to Christians and by most accounts becoming more so. Resistance to the culture begins at home.

I strongly recommend this book. It’s not a hard read, though some of the accounts are harrowing. It will challenge you to consider what you might do if society continues the way it is; will you resist and be prepared to serve Jesus when the pressure rises?