Live Not by Lies: Therapeutic Destruction of Meaning

Live Not by Lies: Therapeutic Destruction of Meaning

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This is part 3 in a series.


We must not abandon truth or sense-making, yet everywhere in the West, we’re being told that on the contrary, if we do not do that, we will suffer: from snarky jibes to job loss, there are a great number of ways that society can punish a lack of conformity with its ideals.

Philip Rieff wrote, “The Triumph of the Therapeutic,” in which he said that the West’s march away from God was leading to a vacuum of purpose, which was being filled by two goals: seeking out pleasure and coping with emergent anxieties. In effect, with religiosity decreasing, men were seeing less and less actual structure to life, from having no ultimate goal—the horror of modern man being that because he ends in nothing, he is nothing—to in fact having no free will or object-directed consciousness at all.

With such being the case, man found himself simply wandering in the wilderness, neither knowing where he started nor having any actual intended destination. Indeed, man was left to create purpose for his life, such as he saw fit, acknowledging only that there was no transcendent order to life and no objective morality, and thus nothing to do other than maximize self. With no sacred order to be found, the serpent’s remark in the Garden—”You shall be as gods”—became the foundation on which the new, post-God culture could be built.

But Rieff, no theist himself, noted that culture requires cult. That is, a belief in a shared order with shared goals, because without that, what is left is the opposite of culture—and “anti-culture,” as Rieff called it. This anti-culture would seeth, having areas of low pressure and areas of high pressure; lacking any common ground, it would be inherently unstable.

Rieff believed that even Christianity would be internally parasitized by this combination of seeking pleasure and managing emergent anxieties. He’s been largely correct. Called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” by those who consider it, there is a form of Christianity which says that holiness is to be shunned and that God sees us not so much as children who are to be raised, but rather as pets of lust, made only to feed their desires: all He really wants is for us to be happy, and to live our best lives now.

This therapeutic culture is everywhere, with people seeking out how to be happy while combatting anxieties. In it, great is the sin of casting judgment on any choice that another might make in their wandering search for happiness. Everywhere microaggressions are talked (we must combat anxieties and seek never to create them, no matter how minute) about as a grievous sin, given that we’ve reached a point where macroaggressions are in short supply. If you so much as proclaim that a woman is not born with a penis, you are seen as a puritanical bigot seeking to rob another of the therapy they need: happiness created by the indulgence of any fantasy, whether through chemical or surgery, but certainly in thought.

The mere claim that sex is binary is enough to get one blacklisted in some fields. Again, the system roils and buckles and surges, having as its chief characteristic inherent instability. Its proponents seek this instability with great zeal, pushing for a system wherein there is no transcendent Creator, and certainly no Absolute Truth. Joan W. Scott wrote in 1988 of the importance of discarding “truth,” saying that practitioners of this new therapeutic must “confound, disrupt, and render ambiguous the meany of any fixed binary opposition.” Consider it: you believe that there are only males and females in this world? Only fools believe in the fixed binary! 

In his book, “Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents,” Rod Dreher remarks briefly on why Christians so profoundly lost the culture war in the West. He says,

“The Cold War and the fallout from cultural conflicts of the sixties and seventies drove many white conservative Christians to identify with the Republican Party and free-market economics as consonant with Christian morality. Relativism clad in free-market dogma aided the absorption of the therapeutic ethos by the Religious Right. After all, if true freedom is defined as freedom of choice, as opposed to the classical concept of choosing virtue, then the door is wide open to reforming religion along therapeutic lines centered around subjective experience. This is why so many conservative Christians did not see, and still cannot explain, the ongoing victories of transgenderism in the culture war. The transgender phenomenon, which requires affirming psychology over biological reality, is a logical culmination of a process that started centuries earlier.”

—Dreher, Rod. Live Not by Lies (p. 13). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

Large scale Christian resistance is likely to be fruitless for some time, Dreher tells us, because therapeutic moral deism has infiltrated the church, even among conservatives. If one is not willing to speak up for fear of criticism, one will not be willing to stand up for anything, either—not the abolition of rights, not for truth, and not for God. Relatively few Christians are ready to suffer for their beliefs, because the society in which they exist denies truth in the first place, so for many, taking a hit for the sake of an antiquated idea that no one cares about seems not only pointless, but perhaps even foolish and mean. 


The Christian who has that mindset will find that he cannot avoid Living by Lies. From part 1, we recall that Living Not by Lies entails the following:

  • Will not say, write, affirm, or distribute anything that distorts the truth.
  • Will not go to a demonstration or participate in a collective action unless he truly believes in the cause.
  • Will not take part in a meeting in which the discussion is forced and no one can speak the truth.
  • Will not vote for a candidate or proposal he considers to be “dubious or unworthy.”
  • Will walk out of an event “as soon as he hears the speaker utter a lie, ideological drivel, or shameless propaganda.”
  • Will not support journalism that “distorts or hides the underlying facts.”

Many Christians find themselves unable to bear the weight of even those principles. Though they maintain an inward resistance, they find themselves able to take any outward action, and thus their silences prevails. This silence, rather than saving them, ends up corroding them, until they slip into a moral coma.

On a recent podcast, Angela McArdle, a proponent of liberty and taking voluntary human action, said that she was so active for a specific reason.

“I want to remind everyone that it’s challenging to do this, but it’s worthwhile. Ron Paul talks about the remnant, and when he talked about that, he explained what Isaiah’s job was, and that God told Isaiah, “I need you to go out and preach to the masses. I need you to tell these people how bad things are; just don’t pull any punches. Tell them that they’re all on the brink of destruction. They’re going to laugh in your face, and spit on you, and ridicule you, but I need you to keep on preaching anyway.

Isaiah kind of balked and was like, “Well I don’t know, God. That sounds like a pointless, fruitless endeavor.” And God said, “Well you don’t get it. There’s a remnant out there of good people that you don’t know about, and your job is to preach to everyone, but your messaging is targeted toward the remnant. So you need to go out there and find these people, and build them up and encourage them, because when everything burns down, when civilization is just wrecked, the remnant is what’s going to rebuild, and those are the people who are going to give us hope for the future.”

—Angela McArdle with Peter R. Quinones

That is a great message and not uncommon. Elijah felt like it was all pointless, too. God found Elijah hiding and asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And Elijah responded, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The Lord said to Elijah,

“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” —1 Kings 19:9-18

In an age that seeks to force you into mental compliance, because surely you alone are left, do not give in. Live Not by Lies.


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