Reconquista: Plausible and Necessary

A Response to Philip Derrida

Ever since hundreds of young traditionalist mainline Protestants trudged through the snow to post 95 Theses against liberalism on the doors of hundreds of mainline Protestant churches this past Reformation Day, their movement, Operation Reconquista, has gained much criticism from the liberal elites in mainline denominations. However, there has also been criticism from the right, fearing that Reconquista is sending sheep into packs of wolves. In his article “The Mainline Question,” Phillip Derrida writes: “the mainline churches are not only unworthy of saving, but also there is no realistic path for saving them.” He goes on to critique the necessity and plausibility of retaking mainline denominations. However, there are several key details he did not address in his criticism of the movement.

Many Mainline Churches Are Still Conservative

Most criticisms from the right of Reconquista start by assuming that most, if not all, churches in mainline denominations are completely apostate. If that were true, Derrida’s criticism would be entirely sound. And yet, in every single broadly liberal mainline denomination, whether the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodists, Episcopalians, or even the United Church of Christ (UCC), there are traditionalist, conservative factions that oppose the liberalism in their denominations. Even if these factions only amount to about 10% of the whole denomination, that still means there are hundreds of conservative churches, and even more members, in each mainline denomination. Hundreds of pastors have unique experience fighting liberalism. PCUSA still has figures like Bruce Gore, whose views are nearly identical to the likes of Doug Wilson and the postmillennial crowd, except that Gore teaches at a beautiful, historic church in Washington state. The Episcopal Church has many strongly traditionalist parishes that refuse to ordain women, and several conservative dioceses like Dallas and Central Florida. The strategy of Reconquista is not to launch an amphibious invasion of liberal churches from the outside. Rather, it is to migrate to existing allied fortresses within them. Reconquista explicitly advocates against sending sheep into churches pastored by wolves.

Legitimate Heirs of the Reformation?

In his critique, Derrida claims the mainlines are “not the legitimate heirs to their great Western traditions.” In a sense he is correct, but he misses the greater picture of what it means to inherit a tradition. He is right in saying that the mainline churches (usually) do not inherit the theological convictions of the traditions they are named after, due to the rampant apostasy of leaders within them. But, despite not being legitimate heirs of their traditions, they have indeed captured such traditions. In the case of Germany’s occupation of France during World War II, it is right to say that the German puppet government of France was not the legitimate heir to France. That does not mean, however, that loyal French exiles could have or should have just started a new “France” elsewhere. They would have needed to recapture their land to restore their heritage. Progressives currently occupy—illegitimately, in this theological sense—the leadership of mainline denominations, so it is right to say they are not true heirs of their traditions. However, in order for those traditions to continue at all, faithful believers must recapture the lost territory of the institutions that are under occupation.

It is crucial to recognize that the Kingdom of God is not simply made out of individuals plus their ideas. Derrida seems to echo the ideas of Radical Two-Kingdoms (R2K) theologians—even though he does not hold to the R2K outlook—in saying “the church is primarily a spiritual body of the heavenly kingdom,” and arguing from that perspective to say that “earthly” possessions of the mainline churches such as historic buildings and brand names do not ultimately matter. However, many in the Reformed tradition might dispute this. The church is the means by which the “heavenly kingdom” colonizes earth, so it does, indeed, start in heaven, but it does not end there. It is meant to permeate every area of earthly society. Thus, the accomplishments the church makes in and for the culture are invaluable and irreplaceable. In a real way, earthly possessions, the historic holdings, so to speak, of the church do matter. Heritage matters, buildings matter, and names matter. These things grip the imagination. They are testaments to God’s work even if they have strayed or been acquired by hostile forces. Repossession of such heritage and property is not a ridiculous ambition. It is an ambition driven by justice, rootedness, tradition. Did the crusaders desire any less in their efforts to recapture Jerusalem from Islam, or is it just ironic, trad-memeing when triumphant, A.I. generated images bearing the Templar cross circulate on twitter?   

Why Conservatives Previously Lost

Derrida goes on to argue, referencing past conservative defeats, that a conservative victory in the mainlines is utterly implausible. Contra Derrida, such losses can easily be explained by bad strategies that must be avoided going forward. The lesson is to learn from mistakes, not to abandon hope. There are three primary reasons as to why these conservative factions have failed to win over their denominations:

1: Retreatism

There is a common theme in all denomination splits – they always split into “original” and “conservative.” Whenever conservatives lose a denominational battle, they split off and form a new denomination. Whenever liberals lose a battle, they double down and fight harder. The clearest example of this was the recent United Methodist “split” if it can even be called such. In 2019, the conservatives had a victory with the UMC narrowly voting against same-sex marriage. The progressives responded with a firm commitment to stay in the denomination and fight for their agenda. Seeing that they had a robust battle-plan, hundreds of conservative churches panicked and split off to form the Global Methodist church, despite having won the vote, being forced to pay the UMC gobs of money to add to their humiliation. Conservatives tend to split off over what they fear might happen, whereas liberals will stay and fight despite having already lost battles. The result of this has been progressives conquering almost every major cultural institution, whether universities, churches, or media.

2: Complacency

Despite painting themselves as tough stoics and painting liberals as sensitive snowflakes, conservatives are often far more timid in speaking up and getting involved in high positions to make change than progressives. Progressives are far more likely to make a stink, protest aggressively, and strike fear into the hearts of their opponents than conservatives. They are also far more likely to get involved in leadership committees and administration. In any given denomination, the conservative factions try to sound moderate and avoid being offensive out of fear of retribution, while the progressive factions use the most charged and shocking rhetoric possible and constantly push the boundaries.

3. Libertarianism

Both inside and outside the church, progressives tend to demand everyone agree with them, whereas conservatives merely demand the freedom to believe and do as they please. This causes moderates to feel far more pressured to appease the progressives. Conservatives hope that moderates will be won over by their fairness and sympathize with them, but in most cases, the moderates will simply try and satisfy the loudest complainers.

If progressives could hijack Christian denominations, then Christians can re-hijack progressive denominations, unless God’s soldiers are somehow weaker than a few old liberals. Given that there are hundreds of faithful pastors left in the mainline and that heretics have stolen what was created for God’s glory, Reconquista is absolutely both plausible and necessary.

Image Credit: John Hilling, First phase, burning of the Old South Church, Bath, 1854.

Print article

Share This

Richard Ackerman

Richard Ackerman is a confirmed member of the PCUSA and a Christian internet influencer going by Redeemed Zoomer on Instagram and YouTube.

6 thoughts on “Reconquista: Plausible and Necessary

  1. If my God can make the blind see, the lame to leap, and save me, a sinner, He can bless this movement. We will retake the church. It is just a matter of time. We are praying for this movement from Colorado.

  2. I think, ironically, that you are simultaneously overstating your case and demonstrating why it is so implausible.
    You write, “in every single broadly liberal mainline denomination, . . . there are traditionalist, conservative factions that oppose the liberalism in their denominations.” Are there? Are there really? I think the only way that statement can be true is if we assign a very particular value for the term “oppose,” i.e., “at a low enough level to avoid being run out of the denomination on a rail.” Because that’s what happened to those pastors who did/said anything that might have made any kind of tangible difference.
    In particular, your point about “Retreatism,” while certainly on point, isn’t the whole picture. Not all the conservatives who exited mainline denominations did so voluntarily, or as a result of “panicking”. Many of them were either directly and forcibly ejected or followed in solidarity with those who were. J. Gresham Machen didn’t choose to leave the PCUSA. He was forced out. And when many conservative churches exited the PCUSA sixty years later to form the PCA, it was because they had lost the fight against women’s ordination and the merger of conservative and apostate denominations.
    So what does this say about the allegedly “conservative” factions that remain in the mainlines? Well, to my lights, it says that however conservative they might be, their conservatism isn’t sufficiently energetic to attract the attention of the progressive hegemony. At best, it’s a commitment to lose as slowly as possible. Rearguard, defensive actions. Or, more likely, negotiated capitulation. But not going on the offense. Never that. Not even, I would argue, standing one’s ground and holding the line. Because while progressives will tolerate any amount of inconsequential bloviating, they absolutely will not tolerate meaningful resistance.
    And while I agree that there’s no reason to think orthodox Christians can’t be just as effective in controversy as heretical progressives, you yourself have articulated three excellent reasons for why they haven’t been. The problem you face is that the exact same people who demonstrated the three phenomena you describe at the end of your essay for most of the twentieth century are, for the most part, still in charge!
    Oh, and you’re wrong about the moderates. It’s not just that they tend to seek to appease the loudest complainers. It’s that deep down, they’re already on the road to progressivism. They won’t go along with the progressives with any enthusiasm, but they will always align with the progressives as soon as the conservatives attempt to assert themselves.
    Ultimately though, as much as I admire your ambition. . . it’s too late. Far, far too late. God will always preserve his church, granted. But sometimes that involves taking away one body’s lampstand and giving it to another. Because even if the mainlines did repent, at this point the best they can hope for is a Manasseh outcome. Manasseh repented, and God delayed judgment until after Manasseh died, but even that repentance could not forestall the coming judgment. It was too late. For your part, I fear the best you can hope for is a Nehemiah situation. Yes, the Exiles returned from Babylon. Yes, they rebuilt the temple. But the glory had departed, and it wasn’t coming back.

    1. I agree, I think he misses the history of how the splits happened in the first place. The new denominations didn’t just “leave”, they were kicked out for not submitting to liberal theology. The ones that remain appear to be able to do so primarily because they fly under the radar. The moment they start trying to make a difference in the institution itself, they could easily be removed.

      Say what you will about Baptists, the decentralized model has proved far more resilient to hostile leftist takeover.

      1. Well. . . here’s the thing. There have always been quite a few liberal Baptists. And while large organizations like the SBC have a reputation as conservative, before the conservative resurgence in the 1980s, the momentum was definitely moving the other direction.

        There are no solutions here. Only trade-offs. Here’s my immune system metaphor for ecclesiastical polities:

        – Cancer is internal rot. So, corruption, bureaucratic inertia, political paralysis, etc.
        – Infectious disease is infiltration from outside influences. Here I mean less “current members having new ideas” and more “new people associating with a polity”.

        Episcopal polities tend to be highly resistant to infectious disease, but highly susceptible to cancer. The risk of the latter goes up over time. Centralized systems of authority can be very good at controlling the impact of outside influences. But if someone already part of the hierarchy starts to go rogue, it can be very, very difficult to do anything about it. Similarly, because episcopal polities tend to include a large number of congregations over a potentially large geographical area, all an aspiring leftist needs to do is capture a handful of key positions to acquire a lot of control over the entire organization.

        Congregational polities tend to be highly resistant to cancer, but highly susceptible to infectious disease. There isn’t any kind of centralized authority that can screen newcomers, so a new bad actor only needs to fool a handful of local people, none of whom are likely to be up to scratch. But the flip side is that influence can’t really spread very quickly internally, congregations being so independent of each other. Yes, there are still important institutions like seminaries, associations, etc., but changing their direction takes a lot more organization by a lot more people than in episcopal environments.

        Presbyterian polities split the difference.

        It’s all trade-offs.

  3. If we want to take over the biggest and oldest organization with the fanciest buildings, that would be the church of Rome. Any takers for that project?

    For Presbyterians in particular, intentionally submitting to unqualified presbyteries is a no-go unless you dispense with traditional presbyterian understanding of the presbytery’s authority and adopt the local session or congregation as the ultimate earthly church authority with the presbytery as an advisory body. The PCA is this way de facto since congregations can leave with minimal consequence. The PCUSA is the old style.

    I also think that we can build new sooner than we can retake the old. So let the old rot and build new.

  4. I continue to admire the Reconquista efforts and the detailed organization with which they’ve been undertaken. Don’t listen to the naysayers, Richard. God bless you and the Generation Z cohorts who have found a society-changing endeavor to tackle for the spread of the Kingdom and the glory of God! May the Lord bless you and bring many new believers to salvation through this important work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *