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‘Live Not by Lies’ in the New Purity Culture

By Charles Snow posted on:
May 21, 2021

I first read the work of writer and commentator Rod Dreher in 2014. He had written a poignant book about the life of family and community in a small town. The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is the story of his sister’s battle with cancer and their fraught relationship. Since that time, I’ve followed his evolving work.

Dreher inspires very few half-hearted responses. He’s been branded as both alarmist and prophetic. His most famous work, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, has been debated endlessly in Christian circles. Through the lens of St. Benedict of Nursia, Dreher “calls on American Christians to prepare for the coming Dark Age by embracing an ancient Christian way of life.”

His most recent contribution, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, is inspired by the lives of Christian dissidents in the age of the Soviet Union and the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who encouraged his fellow countrymen to “Never knowingly support lies!

The Benedict Option is a call to prepare a life and a faith that can withstand the pressures of contemporary western life. Live Not by Lies is a guide on how to resist a culture of lies. In it, Dreher argues that the West is overrun by a “soft totalitarianism” that thrives on a commitment to left-wing ideology and “woke” capitalism.

There is far too much in Live Not by Lies to discuss in a single blog post. But one idea has stuck with me: the importance of loyalty in the new “purity” culture.

Loyalty and Lies

Let me explain. In one section of the book, Dreher goes point by point through the conditions that laid the groundwork for acceptance of totalitarian ideologies in the 20th century. One of those values, Dreher explains, is “a society that values loyalty more than expertise.”

While you can find many a story about “woke” and “wokeness” online, Baylor Professor and author Alan Jacobs has argued that “Left Purity Culture” is a better term for our current cultural climate. In this culture, loyalty to the ideology is valued above all.

In fact, Dreher argues that valuing loyalty above all else “is at the root of ‘cancel culture,’ in which transgressors, however minor their infractions, find themselves cast into outer darkness.” (While there are debates as to what cancel culture is and what it isn’t, there is broad agreement that it’s real threat.)

Dreher goes on to cite the story of former Mozilla Firefox CEO Brendan Eich. He was forced out of that position for a private donation he made supporting California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman in 2008.

The list is continually growing of public figures who are “canceled” for being insufficiently loyal to left-wing ideology. Consider J.K. Rowling. Once the target of scrutiny and criticism among some Christians, Rowling has now come under fire from leftists for believing that biological sex is real—and that it matters.

As we have seen over and over again, any ideology based in lies demands acceptance and rejects debate. It takes people who are courageous enough to refuse to endorse lies and, instead, stand by the truth.

Truth Over Lies

At Alliance Defending Freedom, we are honored to defend a myriad of clients who have refused to compromise their beliefs in favor of ideology.

  • There are creative professionals like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman, who have fought for years to preserve artistic and religious freedom in the face of state pressure to abandon them.
  • There are professors like Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, who was disciplined for declining to refer to a male student using female titles and pronouns.
  • There are students like Jack Denton, who was pushed out of his position as Student Senate President at Florida State University because of his religious beliefs. He was falsely accused of being “transphobic” and “racist,” among other things.
  • And there are athletes like Selina Soule, who refused to stand by while males who identify as female compete against girls and women—depriving them of equal athletic and educational opportunities.

Dreher’s Live Not by Lies is a book worth your time and attention. These examples prove as much. The fact is that the influence of secular leftist ideology continues to grow, and along with it a laundry list of things that you cannot say, do, or believe.

But we can take heart. As Christians we know that the truth ultimately wins. And as these examples show, there are people out there who are loyal to the truth—and who are standing up for it no matter the cost. We are proud to stand with them.

Will you join us?

To learn more about how ADF is standing up for the truth in courtrooms across the nation, sign up for our newsletter.


Charles Snow

Charles Snow

Contributing Writer

Charles is a Tennessee native and lover of books and basketball.

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