Are You Living Under a Dictatorship?

The answer’s probably yes, regardless of your nationality.

The Dictator’s Playbook

PBS has a new series out called The Dictator’s Playbook. An intro from the site:

They were ruthless men with unchecked power, ruling their nations with an iron fist. Suppressing dissent, they demanded absolute loyalty, jailing or killing those who opposed them. They ruled by force of personality, but were plagued by secret fears and private demons. They were dictators, tyrants who shaped the 20th century and left their mark on our own.

As we meet some of the most ruthless rulers of recent history, we trace their rise and fall—and discover that they traveled a well-worn path. As different as these men were from each other, they followed a series of essential steps, from seizing power to eliminating enemies—an unwritten Dictator’s Playbook.

So what’s in this playbook? Some of the moves Kim Il Sung made:

  1. Create a cult of personality
  2. Gain consent with the carrot and the stick
  3. Control the elites
  4. Use propaganda
  5. Crush the enemy

Land of the Free?

Let’s talk about Merica for a moment. Sure, Trump is a low point in our nation’s history; a uglier reflection of us than him. But we’re no North Korea. We’ve got our checks and balances and our rule of law and our millions of angry people empowered to get out the vote and elect someone new (fingers crossed).

Land of the free, baby! Hardly. Most of us live under at least one of the following three dictatorships, regardless of our political environment.

Get to Know Your Dictators

1) We live under the dictatorship of the world.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

2) We live under the dictatorship of the flesh.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” John 8:34

3) We live under the dictatorship of the devil.

Those who oppose God’s truth have been held captive by Satan to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2:25-26).


The irony is that we’ve become so indoctrinated by and accustomed to the regimes of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that we genuinely believe we’re free when we’re actually slaves. We’ve bought into the propaganda that we are liberated, empowered, and open-minded, when we are really addicted, weak, and held captive by lies.

There are lowly Christians in North Korea who are more free than lofty liberals in America. Because freedom isn’t ultimately outside-in; it’s inside-out.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful for the rights our country offers and the sacrifices of those who’ve made it possible. But Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world” and if yours is, you’re living under a dictatorship.

Finding Freedom

“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  James 4:4-10


Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon put out an excellent series on fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil. You can check out the teachings here.

I’ve also written more about spiritual warfare in the past. You can browse those entries here (keep clicking  “older posts” to see them all).