Solzhenitsyn: Live Not By Lies

From the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Center: On the day Solzhenitsyn was arrested, February, 12, 1974, he released the text of “Live Not by Lies.” The next day, he was exiled to the West, where he received a hero’s welcome. This moment marks the peak of his fame. Solzhenitsyn equates “lies” with ideology, the illusion that human nature and society can be reshaped to predetermined specifications. And his last word before leaving his homeland urges Soviet citizens as individuals to refrain from cooperating with the regime’s lies. Even the most timid can take this least demanding step toward spiritual independence. If many march together on this path of passive resistance, the whole inhuman system will totter and collapse.

— by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Solzhenitsyn Reader

There was a time when we dared not rustle a whisper. But now we write and read samizdat and, congregating in the smoking rooms of research institutes, heartily complain to each other of all they are muddling up, of all they are dragging us into! There’s that unnecessary bravado around our ventures into space, against the backdrop of ruin and poverty at home; and the buttressing of distant savage regimes; and the kindling of civil wars; and the ill-thought-out cultivation of Mao Zedong (at our expense to boot)—in the end we’ll be the ones sent out against him, and we’ll have to go, what other option will there be? And they put whomever they want on trial, and brand the healthy as mentally ill—and it is always “they,” while we are—helpless.

We are approaching the brink; already a universal spiritual demise is upon us; a physical one is about to flare up and engulf us and our children, while we continue to smile sheepishly and babble:

“But what can we do to stop it? We haven’t the strength.”

We have so hopelessly ceded our humanity that for the modest handouts of today we are ready to surrender up all principles, our soul, all the labors of our ancestors, all the prospects of our descendants—anything to avoid disrupting our meager existence. We have lost our strength, our pride, our passion. We do not even fear a common nuclear death, do not fear a third world war (perhaps we’ll hide away in some crevice), but fear only to take a civic stance! We hope only not to stray from the herd, not to set out on our own, and risk suddenly having to make do without the white bread, the hot water heater, a Moscow residency permit.

Continue reading

The Problem of VP Pence

Mike Pence’s presence on the Trump ticket has always been confounding to me. How someone who refers to his own wife as “Mother” can stand by the Stormy-Daniels-hush-money episodes is bewildering to me. How a Manhattan narcissist could select an Indiana governor, beleaguered by passing RFRA legislation, befuddles me.

I was especially thrown for a loop when, impeachment looming, so many conservative (and especially Evangelical) supporters preferred to see Trump come through unscathed in Jan 2020, instead of seeing impeachment as a gift that removed all the troublesome aspects of the Republican ticket (namely, POTUS himself) and put Pence in the Oval Office. This would give you all the conservative policy and judges, without the narcissism and bad tweets. But almost unanimously, the circles I traveled in preferred a dumpster fire to a sputtering candle.

Now that Pence has refused to monkey with the electoral ballots, a portion of Trump’s supporters show their true feelings for the VP.

video of Trump riot chanting “hang Mike Pence” inside the US Capitol

Now a thoughtful critic might say, “If this administration has taught us anything, words are cheap. Don’t take the mindless chanting of the mob as worth very much.” To which, I agree, and yet they brought visuals:

Do I really believe they would have lynched or executed the VP? No, because I doubt their resilience, but not because I believe in their sanity or moral character.

It is clear that on Jan 6th, 2021, VP Pence did the right thing in certifying the electoral ballots and calling for the National Guard. We will undoubtedly learn more good that he has done to be a preserving and sanctifying presence in the White House administration.

But this episode reveals what those who voted for him (admittedly, a perhaps small minority) really thought of him. His presence in this administration will continue to be a closely scrutinized and problematic issue for the movements of conservativism and Evangelicalism for decades to come. As Michael Horton recently wrote in “The Cult of Christian Trumpism,” anyone who fails to “touch not the Lord’s anointed” will fall into the wrath of the cult. Pence’s behavior, and subsequent treatment, might be the most recent proof of this truth.

6 Truths to Stand On When Voting

Dear Zion,
With the campaign advertisements, donor & polling phone calls, it is clear that election season is upon us! Christians are, often rightly, concerned over where the country is going, what candidates do and say, and the pressure cooker of the election season only adds to that. But what truths from the Bible can we stand on, even leading up to the election? Here are six:

  1. God is sovereign over whoever is elected in November. It is clear from Scripture that ultimately the White House, as well as every position of power, comes from God’s power and authority. He “brings kings down and He sets kings up” (Daniel 2:21). The rise and fall of nations is in His control (Daniel 4:30 – 37). If even such little things as the life of sparrows (Matthew 10:29) and the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33) and under God’s control, will God not also oversee the heart and decisions of rulers (Proverbs 21:1)? The citizens of America will elect their leader on Nov. 6 by voting, but this is simply the means that God uses to install the leader He has chosen.
  2. God can use bad leaders to accomplish good things. Even if the person who gets elected is not the person we wanted, God is still able to accomplish His purposes! In fact, God always accomplishes what He wants, and no force in heaven or earth can thwart Him (Ephesians 1:11)! God called the pagan king Cyrus to be His “messiah” in setting His people free from exile (Isaiah 45:1 – 4). The apostle Paul reminds us that even an emperor as wicked and notorious as Nero was still the Lord’s civil minister keeping peace, rewarding righteousness and punishing evil (Romans 13:1 – 7). Ultimately, all rulers, kings and presidents will be subdued before the King of Kings and President of Presidents, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2)!
  3. Therefore, our ultimate hope is in God, not politics. Continue reading

Mapping Out the Zealot vs. the Tax Collector

Aside

How do we apply the fact that Jesus made room in the Twelve for both Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector? Certainly, it must remind us that Jesus’ invitation was to a wide and deep mercy in God. Simon, who was ready to take down the institutionalized, status quo, Roman occupation is at one end of the spectrum. On the other, Matthew earned his bread and maintained a social status feeding off of the very institution Simon was seeking to destroy. Both of them need salvation found in Christ alone.

So are these political opposites, with the application being Jesus calls neo-socialists as well as fascists? Democrats and Republicans? Or does Rome function more as an icon of the passing-away-world, and not politics per se? In this case, Simon is the ascetic, jihadist, fundamentalist; Matthew the cosmopolitan, worldly promoter of any/every zeitgeist. Or is there some other taxonomy that these two disciples map on to?

How to Speak Truth to Power?

Aside

Michelle Obama: “He [Jesus] was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.” (source: ABC news)

True. But the question is, how did Jesus speak truth to power? As Spartacus, or as Julius Caesar?

Both Spartacus & Caesar “spoke” to the powers of their age. Spartacus did it as a rebel and insurgent, leading a revolt. And Caesar did it as the power, controlling and squashing those who abused authority they derived from him.

So in which way did Jesus speak to the Pharisees, the “Temple system,” and the political powers of 1st Century Judea? As Lord or Servant? And how should the followers of Jesus follow Him today?

Get Out the Conservative Christian Vote?

We had an election on Tuesday last week. I paid my dues.

What was interesting for me were some the mailers and adverts being sent out to local pastors in an attempt to encourage the vote. (Side rant: Just after taking a full time call in the Midwest, I was shocked and awed at the amount of mail that comes through a pastor’s inbox, assuming that the pastor and/or church will serve as a bully pulpit or free advertising for nearly any cause under the sun. /rant) What was surprising was the ideological content of the mailers versus the support and foundation they were built on.

I received one such advertisement urging conservative Christians to vote (presumably for neo-conservative policies in the Republican platform), and to spur them on five historic heroes were pictured with accompanying quotes. Continue reading

New Letter from Youcef Nadarkhani

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Youcef Nadarkhani – Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran – has now been in jail over . You can read the original letter in Farsi here (PDF).

Greetings from your servant and younger brother in Christ, Youcef Nadarkhani.

To: All those who are concerned and worried about my current situation.

First, I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the flesh and spirit. And I try to have a little different approach from others to these days, and consider it as the day of exam and trial of my faith. And in these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God’s commandments. Continue reading

Milton Friedman on Legislating Morality


I don’t agree with everything from the Milton Friedman-U of C school of thought. In fact, there are parts even in this brief segment that I have strong reservations about.

But is anyone strong enough to disagree with his opening assertion?

There is a fundamental economic law – which has never been contradicted to the best of my knowledge – and that is that if you pay more for something, there will tend to be more of that something available. If the amount you are willing to pay for anything goes up, somehow or other, somebody will supply more of that thing.

We have made immoral behavior far more profitable. We have, in the course of the changes in our society, been establishing greater and greater incentives on people to behave in ways that most of us regard as immoral.

If this is correct, how may this insight be applied to current moral challenges?