Out of the Progressive Orbit and Into Our Own


Conservative Christians are stuck.

Our institutional and ascendant class is comprised of outright progressives, undercover progressives, privately-conservative-but-outwardly-progressive, and naïve herd-followers who blindly follow, you guessed it, the progressives. It’s often hard to tell who belongs in which bucket, but the effect is the same: a leftward drift in our churches and communities.

There are hordes of conservatives who do not wish to move left but cannot seem to gain traction.

Ed Litton can plagiarize a catalogue of sermons and still be president of the SBC. Seminaries teach using critical theory language and concepts. Egalitarianism springs up everywhere. Marriage is treated as an idol to be cast down, while barrenness is held up as a virtue. Good men are slandered. Bad men are praised and promoted.

And the only thing conservatives get is gaslighted.


I believe it is because conservatives often lack what Edwin Friedman calls self-differentiation. Conservatives are emotionally focused on the other side, and so the other side keeps trucking.

An institutionalist does or says something outlandish and we cry foul. We tweet about it. We rant about it. We write blog posts about it. We apply some good old-fashioned logic to it.

And nothing happens. Ed Litton is still going to hold the gavel in Anaheim.

We forget something else Friedman taught in A Failure of Nerve: people don’t make decisions based on logic. They make decisions emotionally and then deploy logic to rationalize their decisions.

Notice where all the attention, emotion, and energy are focused: on the progressive. Conservatives get caught up in a cycle of outrage and reaction. Of course nothing happens—we’re stuck in the progressive’s orbit.

We need to get out. We need to self-differentiate. Here’s how.

Disciplined Tongues (and Fingertips)

The very first thing we need to do is discipline our tongues and fingertips. Too many on our side are like yapping puppy dogs, nipping at the ankles of the institutional class. They hover over every Big Eva tweet, ready to bark when they step out of line. But they have neither the stately bark of a Great Dane nor the fearsome one of a Rottweiler. Rather, they have the high-pitched yelp of mutt puppy. Yes, it annoys and frustrates our opponents, but doesn’t do much to stop them.

A self-differentiated man does not feel the need to respond to everything, nor to add comment or critique to every error or outrage spotted on the internet. He’s not emotionally affected when someone else does something stupid. He’s too focused on his work to let responding to progressives become his work.

We must guard our lips, control our tongues, and discipline our fingertips. I am not saying we never engage online or comment critically. Rather, we should do so selectively and from a place of strength. If we swing, we need to know we can land a punch.

Get Up To Stuff

That place of strength will come from what we build. As we say around Servants & Heralds, we need to Get Up To Stuff. Build churches, schools, businesses, organizations. Build counter institutions or coalitions to retake the existing ones.

“Doing something” beats “wishing someone else would do something” every time. Producing trumps consuming. Constructive kingdom work will differentiate the faithful man from the pretenders.

As Douglas Wilson says often, authority flows to the one who takes responsibility. So, we need to take responsibility to build the things that ought to be built. The world belongs to those who build it.

Focus Locally

The stuff we get up to needs to impact and influence those closest to us. A Christian localism movement has been brewing for a few years and this is a very good thing. We need to focus our efforts and give the bulk of our energy where we have the most influence, which is our local communities.

Strong local communities give us a place to fight from, but they are also what we fight with. The deep relational bonds and particular rituals of strong local communities are the guerrilla tactics we need to fight off the progressive takeover of our society.

The man who can say, “this is my place, these are my people; everything I do, I do for them,” is a man who is differentiated from the online masses. He may engage there, but he belongs elsewhere, which is why he is not tossed about by the internet outrage of the day. He is building something better where he has the opportunity and the influence to do so.


It’s not enough to know the right things, believe the right things, read the right articles, listen to the right podcasts, or be on the right side of issues. These are enough to make you a fan, but not a player. To make a difference, we need competence.

The self-differentiated man knows what he is good at, and he works to develop his aptitude in those things. Then, he can use that competence to provide value to others, equipping them to be better at who God made them to be and what God has given them to do. He makes their lives better with his skills.

Now, he has leadership and influence with those people. And because he has leadership and influence with some people, he has more leadership and influence with other people. Like interest, leadership compounds.

But it starts with competence.

Make Them React

Doing the above makes conservatives actors rather than reactors. It gives us gravitas, taking us out of the emotional orbit of our opponents so that we can chart our own course forward to our desired future. And in so doing, we make them react to us and pull them into our orbit.

This is the cultural leadership we need.

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