‘To Defeat the Lie’


In my last blog I celebrated a ‘Christian’ writer whose activities are recorded in Scripture, Baruch the scribe. He wrote down the prophecies of Jeremiah, directed against the wicked ruling class of Judah, and on one occasion was deputed to read them out publicly in the temple. In response to my blog, somebody suggested that things are different now that Christ has come into the world. That really made me think, and though I completely see the point, I’m still not sure exactly what difference it makes to the writer’s role in society.

The obvious difference is that in ancient Israel and Judah, ‘church’ and state were not separate. The country was supposed to be governed by the rules laid down in the Torah. It was the duty of a true prophet of God to expose and denounce any practices and policies of those in power which went against God’s Law. So a literate person might well be called upon to write documents opposing such sins of the State as lying, breaking promises, denying justice to the poor, oppression of the weak, and idolatry. But we live in secular societies in which church and state are separate. So does that mean that Christians have no business to write critically about the society in which they live or the ruling elite who govern?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1974crop

For some reason, at this point in my deliberations, the name of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn entered my mind. Many ACWers have probably never heard of him, but in my young adult days he was on a level with Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, and Janani Luwum. You may not be old enough to remember what life was like before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The world we grew up in was divided by a north-south line. To the West was a realm of light and liberty, where free speech prevailed, no one interfered with an honest person’s life, and Christians worshipped freely. To the East lay a realm of darkness under the oppression of communism, where secret police watched your every move, there were thousands of political prisoners, and Christians worshipped in secret.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent years in Soviet Russian communist labour camps. Some of his experiences were published during a period of relative liberality and translated for Western readers. A committed Christian, he measured the Soviet state against the standards of God, and found it wanting in multiple ways. He was celebrated in the West for his courage in speaking out against an oppressive regime which could destroy him. Christians raised on tales of Bible smuggling and torture for Christ applauded him.

After he had revealed the full horror of the Soviet network of prison camps, the authorities considered assassinating him, but instead sentenced him to exile. He went first to Germany and then to the United States. He continued to write critically about society. But now he began to criticize the West. What was the point of living in political freedom but being in bondage to a culture of trashy consumerism, degrading entertainment, and corporate corruption? People recoiled: surely we were the good guys, weren’t we?

In his Nobel Prize lecture (1974) he said:

The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions. His rule: Let that come into the world, let it even reign supreme — only not through me. But it is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie! For in the struggle with lies art has always triumphed and shall always triumph! Visibly, irrefutably for all! Lies can prevail against much in this world, but never against art.

What do you think?

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