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Best of 2022: Embracing God’s Truth in a Hostile Culture (Part 2 of 2)

Best of 2022: Embracing God’s Truth in a Hostile Culture (Part 2 of 2)

Rod Dreher describes how you can teach your children to honor God, find fellowship and solidarity with other believers, and even discover value in suffering for the Gospel. He shares powerful stories of Christian dissidents under communism and encourages families to live counterculturally as radical disciples of Jesus Christ. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 17, 2022

Preview:

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. We’re continuing a really important conversation about standing for God’s truth in a culture that is headed in a very different direction. Here’s Rod Dreher.

Rod Dreher: Read the signs of the times. God is giving us the freedom to prepare before the persecution starts. And some people think I’m being alarmist. I-I hope I am. I would love to be proved wrong. But if I’m not wrong about this and we have not taken the time that the Lord has given us now and the liberty to prepare, then we are in serious trouble.

End of Preview

Jim Daly: John, our conversation yesterday was so intriguing and I know some people are so busy they may not even be recognizing many of the signs of the times that are right here in front of us. But I’m telling you if you’re watching what’s happening in the culture right now. If you’re paying attention, you know that America is different than it used to be. Something is askew. Traditional values are being abandoned in exchange for a secular world view. What was normal a year or two ago now is on the other side of the tracks. The big institutions have changed like we talked about last time. The media, universities, big business, have really embraced that woke culture. Today we’re going to return to one of the best programs from 2022 as we hear a great conversation with Rod Dreher. And I know you don’t want to miss this.

John: Rod has written a New York Times bestseller, Live Not by Lies. And we have those here. We’ll send a copy to you. Call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Make a donation when you contact us, if you can. That’s 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and rejoin the conversation now. Here’s Jim Daly and Rod Dreher on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Rod welcome back to Focus.

Rod: It’s great to be back.

Jim: So good to have you here. I-I feel like I’m a bit of a culture nerd, because (laughs) I do, I’m into this and I, I get excited about it. Because I think it’s a very exciting time to live even though things look a little gloomy when it comes to religious freedom, religious celebrity expression of faith. People that may not like what we’re thinking or expressing and that’s kind of the baseline. You mentioned soft totalitarianism. Uh, explain a-again what that is referring to and how we’re experiencing it here in the U.S.

Rod: Sure. Well people think of totalitarianism we think of the Soviet Union. We think of Gulags and prisons and secret police. We think of George Orwell’s, “1984”. Well we don’t have that today, so people wonder, “Why can you call this totalitarianism?” Well I’ll tell you why. Totalitarianism is an ideology that emerged in the early 20th century and it takes authoritarianism, in… a system in which only one leader or one party has all the political power and it expands it to cover all of society. In other words all of society becomes political. You can have this kind of system even within a liberal democracy, when one ideology gains control of all of the, the heights of culture. We’re seeing that happen now. So what we’re seeing is people being driven to affirm this single ideology which we call “wokeness” but nobody’s being threatened by being sent to prison for it. At least not yet. So, but it is totalitarianism. I can give you uh, a comic example but it’s true. This past summer I was in Hungary on a fellowship and I was talking to the minister for family affairs over there. She told me that they were about to introduce into parliament, two days hence, a bill to prohibit LGBT uh, propaganda for children and minors. And I said “Oh, have you heard about the Blues Clues pride parade?” And she was like “What?” I explained to them Blue’s Clues is a popular American kids cartoon for pre-K kids and they had just, this summer during LGBT pride month, put out a pride march about all the different kinds of rainbow families, transgender families, polyamorous families, etc. To colonize the minds of children. Who all of the Hungarians they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. And I said “Yep, this is normal in America now because the wokesters are not content just to conquer politics, they want every aspect of life to be political.” And we also see this too in the way that the critical race theory and these woke ideologies are classifying people according to race, to gender, to sexuality and so forth. This is straight out of the communist playbook. In 1918 the head of the secret police in the new communist state in Russia, told his agents in Ukraine to go out there and don’t look to see if anybody actually committed crimes against the Soviet Union, just check and see what their social class is. That will tell you if they are an enemy of the regime who needs to be killed or sent to prison. In a similar way, this kind of totalitarianism is coming into being here in America through our institutions. Again there’s not coercion, yet, but it’s still happening.

Jim: Y-Yeah let me ask you though, of course in November there was an election in Virginia that got a lot of press coverage, obviously. But one of the things that we found out through the media reports is that the current administration encouraged the Department of Justice to apply the Patriot Act to work against these parents to surveil these parents to um, you know see what they were thinking and what they were doing, what they were talking about I guess. But I mean that’s beginning to tip beyond soft totalitarianism. Just as an example of how government can turn on its own people and begin to put a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Rod: Exactly I mean, the people who came to this country from the communist country say that totalitarianism may be solved now but it’s not going to stay soft forever. And what you bring up is a great example of how the government is starting to turn in a harder way. I just emphasize soft totalitarianism to wake people up who are looking for Orwellian signs and are not seeing too many of them. I want to let them know that, wait a minute this is more like Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World style totalitarianism and I’ll give you an example. When I was in Budapest reporting on this book I was traveling with my interpreter, a young Christian woman. Married with a little child at home and was pregnant at the time. We were headed to do an interview and she said “Rod, you know, I really struggle as a Christian mom. I try to talk to my friends, even my Christian friends, about the struggles I have as of wife and mom. And they just don’t understand it. If I say that my husband and I are arguing they say, oh well get a divorce, put your son back in daycare. You’ve got to be happy. Live for yourself.” She said I tried to tell them, “I am happy. I’m happy being a mom. I’m happy being a wife, but it’s not always easy.” She said, “They don’t understand that uh, life involves… a good life involves struggle.” I looked at her and said, “Ana, it sounds like you’re fighting for the right to be unhappy.” She looked at me and said, “That’s exactly it. Where did you get it?” I went to chapter 17 on my smartphone, a Brave New World of Aldous Huxley’s book. I-in that case the dissident in this fictional dystopia, uh, confronts the world controller for Europe and he’s not threatening to torture the guy he’s like, “Why wouldn’t you want to join our society?” You’re kept happy all the time. You’re kept comfortable with drugs and entertainment. It’s great. Why don’t you want to be part of it?” And the dissident says, “Because it’s not human.” He says, “I want suffering, I want beauty. I want love. I want God. I want sin.” In other words, he wants to be human. Well the controller of this world says, “You’re welcome to it.” This gem is the totalitarianism we are facing now. The totalitarianism that wins people to it by promising them comfort.

Jim: Oh yeah.

Rod: Comfort and security over everything and if we have raised our children to believe that anything that makes them anxious is wrong and should be avoided then we’re setting themselves up to be drones in this coming totalitarianism dystopia.

Jim: Mm. Uh, Rod let me ask you uh, that’s soft totalitarianism. Let’s talk about surveillance capitalism.

Rod: Hmm.

Jim: That’s an interesting term. I think I understand it but what does it mean?

Rod: Well the term comes from a woman named Shoshana Zuboff. She was a former Harvard Business School professor. Not a believer. She wrote this book called, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. And what she meant by it was, that around the year 2000, Google figured out a way to monetize all the, they call it exhaust. All the data generated by people doing their normal activities online. There was nothing that could be thrown away. They figured out a way to figure out how to read the data that people generate just by their Google searches, by where they go in the world, that was all tracked on, uh, later on smartphones. And figured out how to sell people things that way. We have become a country that is willing to give over all of our information to Facebook, to Google, to Microsoft, Apple, etc. And it tells them where we are, who we hang out with, what our preferences are. And we don’t even notice this. We’re doing this, because it makes our lives more convenient. What Shoshana Zuboff says is that we are setting ourselves up to be ruled by the dictatorship one day, because all of this information is being saved. And what happens if Google, or one of these big companies, decides that, “You are a domestic terrorist because you go to… you protested against the school board.” They have ways to tell this. They, if you carried your smartphone in your pocket, you get put on a list. The government is collecting all this information too. I’ve been told by people in the intelligence community it is being saved. Now it’s not being used against us now but in the future if they want to use this against us, they’ll be able to.

Where I think this is all going Jim, is to something called the social credit system. You’ve been to China?

Jim: Oh right.

Rod: Yeah, you know about this.

Jim: Yeah.

Rod: In China, the totalitarian state is using the fact that everybody in China is wired into the Internet to control the people. They know everything you do, everybody you meet, everything you buy, etc. Now China is almost a cashless society, so all transactions, almost all transactions, take place electronically. Well the government also gives each citizen a social credit rating. If you do things that government considers to be positive, um, then like download the speeches of Xi Jinping, for example. You’ll get a higher rating and more privileges. You can travel more, you can shop in the best stores etc.

Jim: Mm.

Rod: But if you do things that the government considers to be antisocial, like go to church, like spend time with people who have low social credit ratings, you’ll get a low rating too. And eventually it can get so low that you are not able to buy or sell. To participate in the economy. Now I don’t have to tell this Christian audience what that means. We now have the technological means to make it impossible for people to buy or sell if they don’t sign off on the ruling ideology. I fear this is going to come to America too and it’s not going to come primarily from the government. It’s going to be instituted by major corporations.

Jim: You know this idea of spying is so critical right now. I heard from a friend, who has a friend in the Ivy League law school, i-in Ivy League law school and he is part of the committee that reviews applications. I don’t know if it’s nine- or 11-member committee of the faculty. And what he has observed and has not responded, he’s quiet. He’s a Christian but he’s on this committee. Nobody on the committee knows he’s a Christian but these applications if there’s a mention of a missions trip or a mission of any church affiliation, this Ivy League law school rejects that application. And that’s done behind these closed doors with these nine or 11 faculty members who are reviewing it and he has not yet found the spine, according to my friend, to say, “Wait a minute this is not right in fact it’s illegal.”

Rod: Right.

Jim: “You can’t discriminate based on religion.”

Rod: Right.

Jim: And yet they do it and it appears like it’s happening every day in the workplace or in schools.

Rod: It happens all the time. I hear constantly from people uh, in big business, in universities, in the military who are talking about this very thing. That Christians or anybody who’s a-a social conservative are being systematically discriminated against, beneath the notice of anybody else. I wonder if this, your, your Ivy League uh-

Jim: Friend of a friend.

Rod: … Friend of a friend, I wonder if it might be the same person who reached out to me six, seven years ago. Ivy League law school faculty, a closeted Christian. He told me that Christians in this country had no idea what’s about to hit us. Again this was 2014 I believe. He said that, “Here at his law school,” he said, “Nobody is a Christian, except me and I’m in the closet. He said “That the people who, uh, at this law school who produced the elite class of lawyers, who go on to populate the federal judiciary. They don’t know anybody who’s religious. They don’t understand why religious liberty is important.” And over time this is going to matter.

Jim: Let me reference something and get your response to this. I was at the National Religious Broadcasters and they had a breakfast panel and I was added at the last minute because somebody who they had p-planned for couldn’t be there. And I get there and it’s a discussion very similar to this, how do we fight the culture war? How do we push back on the culture? And I mentioned, I’m not going to name the person’s name that was the moderator because it doesn’t matter, but I mentioned this story to him on this panel discussion of where I was in China. Uh, I’d spent a week or 10 days there meeting people, leaders in the church etc. As I was dropped off by this internal missionary couple, so Chinese husband and wife, they dropped me off at the airport and they said, “Oh Mr. Daly we’ll be praying for you in America.” And I just had the presence of mind to turn to them and say, “Well how do you pray for us?” And I remembered they looked like, “Uh-Oh.” (laughs). “I shouldn’t answer the question.” And I said, “No how do you pray for us?” And the gentleman said, “Well we pray for greater persecution because from where we sit, Christians in America are very weak.” Well I shared this on the panel and the host, who is a radio personality that all of the listeners would know, said to me, “That’s hogwash theology.” I’m serious. And I, I sat there, immediately as he attacked me for that. I started getting texts from people in the audience saying, “You are absolutely right. Keep saying that.” And I-I just find it amazing that we in the Christian community wouldn’t understand what suffering in Christ is all about.

Rod: And you know one thing that occurs to me. And I’ve used this myself to bolster my own faith when I’ve been discouraged. I think about the man I talk about in the book called, Silvester Krčméry. He was a young physician who was part of the underground church in Slovakia. He was the right-hand man to Father Kolakovic. And sure enough the secret police grabbed him off the street in 1951 or ’52 to take him to prison. He tells in his memoir that he laughed when they got him and the secret police said, “Why are you laughing?” He said, “Because it is an honor to suffer for my Lord.” You know and he went into prison with that attitude.

Jim: Yeah.

Rod: And he said that he knew that if he pitied himself, he would fall apart because they kept him in prison for 10 years and they tortured him. He said, “I told myself every day that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and I’m God’s probe here in the prison. I’m here to learn more about myself and deep in my own repentance and to serve others.” So he went forth to pray for people. To witness to people. He did not complain, even though he had every right to. But he said, “This is the mission the Lord has given me.” I tell another story in the book about this amazing Russian Christian, um, named Alexander Ogorodnikov who was a late convert. Came from a prominent Communist family. Converted in like the early ’70s and began holding prayer meetings in his apartment in Russia… in Moscow. They threw him into the worst prison in Russia. Put him on death row even though he didn’t have a death sentence, because they wanted to make an example of him. He went in there determined just to evangelize, to witness to the hardest criminals in the whole, all of Russia. He was so successful at it that they put him in solitary confinement to keep him away from the other prisoners and they began to torture him. I talk to him in Moscow, his face is still partially paralyzed from the beatings he took. Well Ogorodnikov told me that he got really discouraged. He began to wonder, “Lord, have you abandoned me here?” An angel woke him up one night and gave him a vision. In which he saw a prisoner being led to his execution with his hands behind his back by two guards. And uh, it was a real live vision. This vision came back night after night with a different prisoner. What Ogorodnikov finally realized that the Lord was showing him the men who were being led to their execution, condemned murderers, but they had accepted Christ because he had been there to witness to them in that prison and they were going to be with the Lord in paradise forever because he was there. And that’s how Ogorodnikov got back his faith because he knew that the Lord had picked him to be his apostle there to wretched of the Earth. This is the attitude that all of us Christians need to adopt from these precious believers who really suffer for Christ.

Jim: Well in the summary statement of that is there’s purpose in suffering in Christ.

Rod: Yeah.

Jim: And we are, you know again as a comfort-oriented culture, we are immature in understanding what that means.

Rod: It’s true. Even in our churches. So many churches are all about helping us to be comfortable with where we are. There’s that phrase you probably heard, moralistic therapeutic deism.

Jim: Right.

Rod: It’s about a sociologist Christian Smith who said this is the defacto of religion of American Christians. He said it’s a philosophy of, sort of a, feel good Christianity. That says, “God loves us. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be nice and he wants us to be successful. And that’s it. This is what Aldous Huxley called Christianity without tears. It’s Christianity without the Cross. And this as Bonhoeffer said is the deadly enemy of Christians. And this is especially so as we’re moving into this soft totalitarianism, which operates by making us afraid of losing our status, our money, and our comfort.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Rod let me uh, point this to the family as we come in for a landing because again I’ve always said that when you look at um, the Lord and the Lord’s work, there’s three institutions that He established. Uh, the church, the government and the family. And I think that’s why the church and the family are under such assault by the government right? And uh, the family in your book and you point out in the Eastern Bloc under communism, how the family became a vital tool to maintain Christian discipline and that hope that you talk about. And that does bring us back I think to the Benda parents.

Rod: Sure. Sure.

Jim: So why don’t we work that in to as how they use the family rightfully to raise their kids in a healthy way.

Rod: I’m so glad you asked about them. This is the most impressive family. They live in Prague. Václav and Kamila Benda were the parents. Václav died in 1999, but his wife Kamila’s still going. They were the only Christians in the inner circle of Václav Hovel in the Czech dissidents. And in fact I asked Kamila about that I said, “Wasn’t it difficult for you as Christians to be there with all these hippies?” And Kamila said, “No actually it wasn’t.” They said that uh, courage was the rarest quality under communism and when you found someone who was courageous it didn’t matter. That was the most important thing, you didn’t matter what else they believed. She said, “We would be better off with a few of these courageous hippies who had the courage to stand up to the machine then with 1,000 Christians who shared our beliefs but who didn’t have the courage to stand up. Anyway, the Benda family, pr, uh, raised six kids in communism at a time when the parents were targeted by the regime because of their activism. In fact, the dad went to prison for four years. But they understood that the family had to be where the resistance to totalitarianism began. So what would they do? When the kids would come home from school, they had to go to communist schools, Václav, the dad, a mathematician, would sit down with them and help them to understand what they had heard that day and to pick out truth from lies. Kamila, her main role was to read to the kids. She, too, was a professor and she would read to them two or three hours a day, um, even when her husband was in prison because she knew that to build their moral imagination was vital. So I asked her, “Kamila what did you read to them?” She said, “I read myths. I read the classics and I read a lot of Tolkien.” I said, “Tolkien? Why Tolkien?” She looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Because we knew that Mordor was real.” And I began to understand what she meant by that.

Jim: Interesting.

Rod: Yeah, that these children they couldn’t understand Marxism, Leninism. They did not get the details of this but they could understand the “Fellowship of the Ring.” They could understand the dragons, they could understand what Mordor was. And they began to understand that the men and women who would come together to, in their parent’s apartment to fight this Mordor, they were like the Fellowship of the Ring. I found this to be so important, because all of these kids grew up knowing that they had a role, a God-given role to fight for freedom. Today at 30 years after Communism all of the Benda kids have kids of their own and all of them are faithful Christians even though the Czech Republic is the most atheist country in all of Europe. Because they know that now they went from fighting the hard totalitarianism and Marxism to fighting this new soft totalitarianism of secularism and consumerism. That also threatens to take their faith away. It all started in a family though with the family… c- the Benda family. The mom and dad consciously raising these kids to be counter cultural. The kids too talk, now adults, talked about how their father and mother were such icons of courage for them. They saw their mom and dad taking tough stands and be willing to pay the price for it. And the dad also showed them movies that helped train the kids into what it means to be virtuous and courageous. They show them “High Noon” all the time and talked about it.

Jim: (laughs)

Rod: And they saw their own father, Václav, as being like Gary Cooper’s um-

Jim: Character.

Rod: Sheriff.

Jim: Yeah.

Rod: So I just love this family so much. I dedicated a whole uh, chapter in the book to them because they are a real model for all of us Christians today. Who may wonder, “How can we resist this?” You know we tend to think of resistances only like, going out to protest or, or voting. In fact the Benda’s say there are things that you can’t do and you must do in the daily life of your family to build this resistance into your case.

Jim: Yeah, it with so reinforcing with what you’re saying is this innate understanding in our hearts as human beings that there’s good and evil. Even when academicians and others are trying to say, “No t-that’s a construct of religion.” But we know.

Rod: Yeah.

Jim: You know what evil is when people treat other people so aggressively and so harshly. When you murder somebody.

Rod: Sure.

Jim: Or many people, right? So it’s interesting that they turn to literature that illustrated that concept of good and evil.

Rod: Yeah.

Jim: That’s the whole struggle.

Rod: And you know that again the suffering thing comes back when Václav Benda was in prison he was there for four years. At one point the government made an offer to him. That he said… the government said to him, “We’ll let you leave the country with your wife and kids if you will just resign from the dissident movement.” And he wanted to do it. He missed his family and you know Kamila was struggling with six kids at home. And he wrote to his wife and said, “Should we accept this?” That lady wrote back to him, spine of steel, and she said “No. If we abandon the people who are looking to us uh, for courage and inspiration. If we abandoned them to save ourselves by going West, we will have abandoned God. So stay in prison. Keep praying we’ll fight the fight on the home front.” That, I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Now that’s the quality of people that they had. That they were. But we, this is the quality of people that we have to become in the American church if we’re going to survive what’s coming. If you’re soft it’s not going to go well for us and we also have to be prepared to be persecuted from within, in our own churches. I’m hearing this too from a lot of Christians that so many uh, people in churches, pastors too just want to pretend that everything’s okay. They don’t want to upset people. In fact, read the signs of the times. God is giving us the freedom to prepare before the persecution starts. And uh, some people think I’m being alarmist. I-I hope I am. I would love to be proved wrong. But if I’m not wrong about this and we have not taken the time that the Lord has given us now and the liberty to prepare, then we are in serious trouble.

John: What a great conversation with Rod Dreher. It’s one of our top programs of the past year here at Focus on the Family and I do hope you’ve resonated with what’s been shared and that you’re going to want to get a copy of the book by Rod. A best-selling book called, Live Not by Lies.

Jim: And John, people need to get this book this is the one that with my boys I pay him 20 bucks to do a book report just so I know that they’ve read it. And this is one of those opportunities. It will equip you to better understand the world we’re living in and help you respond appropriately as a Christian and help your children understand the environment we’re all in. And if you can help support Focus on the Family to do the ministry of encouraging people and giving families hope in the midst of this chaos, please join us in doing that mission. We’ve introduced hundreds of thousands of people to Christ over the years or helped them rededicate themselves to the Lord. And uh, I want you to be a part of that. So donate today to Focus on the Family. A gift of any amount and we’ll send you Rod’s book, Live Not by Lies, as our way of saying thank you and at this time of year as we do almost every year, uh, some friends have put up a matching gift so if you make a gift of $50 it’ll be $100. And it’s just their way of encouraging giving. I so appreciate their contribution and those to give to match.

John: Mm-hmm. Donate today and see your gift double. And then ask for your copy of the book by Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6549 or stop by on focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help to you and your family thrived in Christ.

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Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents

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