The following is an excerpt of an article written by Greg Koukl that was first published on Stand to Reason.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—Russian dissident, 10-year forced-labor Soviet Gulag inmate, Nobel Laureate, Christian—lamented the “fallacious belief” that “here such things are impossible,” that totalitarianism could not happen in one’s own country. “Alas,” he wrote, “all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
Read those words carefully. It is the point I have been building towards in the last two issues of Solid Ground.
In the first article, I chronicled my own experiences behind the Iron Curtain in 1976 working with Christians living under brutal authoritarian rule in communist bloc countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the former Soviet Union—places where believers suffered significant loss of personal liberty and, in some cases, severe persecution simply for following Christ.
In the next article, I pointed out that citizens in any culture will ultimately be ruled by one of two fundamental forces: either truth or power. Any nation whose people lack the liberty to pursue, discover, and live by truth will be destined to live as victims of lies and frequently crushed under the heels of powerful oppressors.
I then briefly traced the development of the first great lie—what I called “the primal heresy”—from its inception in the Garden to its current divinization of self that some have labeled “expressive individualism.” At the Fall, mankind replaced the external truth of God’s world and God’s morality with the internal “truth” of bald personal preference and naked individual desire. The act of rebellion that traded truth “out there” for truth “in here”—the outside/inside distinction—marked the birth of what has come to be known as relativism.
Remember, relativism is the ultimate negation of truth, and when truth dies, power is all that remains. The immediate payoff for relativism—the unrestrained narcissism of expressive individualism—may be satisfying for a season, but it’s a fleeting gratification. Bald force eventually fills the truth vacuum, and relativists’ values begin cannibalizing relativists’ liberties. Whoever has the power to nullify liberty ultimately gets to enforce his own preferences. Postmodern people are leaning on a bent reed.
These musings have not been idle reflections, however. Rather, the downward arc of the shifting ethos of the West has revealed a disquieting trend. Liberal democracy—in the best sense of those words—is becoming a thing of the past. America is moving rapidly toward the brink of a peculiar species of totalitarianism that promises to erode freedom, hinder our ability to proclaim the gospel, and compromise our liberty to live peacefully with our Christian convictions.
I have not been alone in my concern. Émigrés from former Soviet bloc countries who fled the totalitarianism of communism for the freedom of America are mortified at the trend. When author Rod Dreher asked if they thought America was drifting toward some type of totalitarianism, “They all said yes—often emphatically” (emphasis in original).
I wrote “peculiar species of totalitarianism” above because what we are experiencing now is actually an amalgam of two forms of totalitarianism—soft and hard. First, a general description, though.
Totalitarianism is not the same as dictatorship, where an individual tyrant’s jackboot stands on the neck of liberty. That is simple authoritarianism. Totalitarianism goes further. Drawing on insight from expert Hannah Arendt, Dreher clarifies:
A totalitarian society is one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology. A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is. [Emphasis added.]
Notice the militant relativism that makes totalitarianism possible. When truth comes not from the outside but from the inside, power prevails. Truth becomes “whatever the rulers decide it is.”
The indoctrination to an alternate reality at the heart of totalitarianism has a curious effect……..continue reading