Why Conservatives Lose (And What We Must Do About It)

It is Easier to Destroy than to Build

Roger Scruton once observed, “Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.” Take the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, for example. It took 183 years to build but was almost completely destroyed by fire in a matter of hours in 2019. This is a fitting metaphor for the modern West, which was carefully built to sustain our civilization for generations, but is now crumbling after decades of relentless attack by a progressive ideology hell-bent on destroying it.

Progressivism is a demon-possessed ideology that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The progressive disease has also infected evangelical Christianity, poisoning its bloodstream and spreading the contagion through trusted and once-conservative media outlets and educational institutions.

Conservative Christians, contending for “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), are being assaulted on multiple fronts by openly hostile secular progressives in government, business, news media, and Hollywood, not to mention apostate progressive pastors who claim to represent “the way of Jesus.” 

As Christian schools are overrun by tenured leftist professors and publishers sell cloaked leftist propaganda to unsuspecting conservatives, naive Christians convince themselves that “this too shall pass.” If they keep their heads down, silent and compliant, they’ll leave us alone.

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Sooner or later, conservatives must rediscover our fighting spirit and realize that we cannot play nice with progressives. They do not want to peacefully “coexist” with conservatives. They want to destroy us. Ordinary Christianity is the last major obstacle in their path.

Conservatism Operates Within Reality

Conservatism is only as good as the thing being conserved. In our day, what most needs conserving is nothing less than reality itself. Reality is conservative, and the more one accepts it as such the more conservative one will become. The progressive left is a reality-denying cope for those who would alter reality to match the idealized fictions of their minds.

This puts them at odds with God himself, for God is the ultimate reality. As Joe Rigney recently wrote, “The first imperative is to love the indicative.” We must accept reality as it is, as God made it. Daniel, describing God to Nebuchadnezzar, said, 

“He changes times and seasons; 

he removes kings and sets up kings; 

he gives wisdom to the wise 

and knowledge to those who have understanding; 

he reveals deep and hidden things; 

he knows what is in the darkness, 

and the light dwells with him” (Dan 2:21-22). 

This is reality. God made the world, set it on its foundations, made springs gush forth, and caused grass to grow. Finally, he entrusted it to the stewardship of man to subdue and exercise dominion (Gen 1:28-29). He orders the world such that it sustains life. God provides for all man’s needs through the ordinary means of discipline, skill, and work.

God also establishes limits, hierarchies and inequalities, and requires man to live within these constraints. These are not the result of the fall, but built-in manifestations of God’s wisdom in creation. Every restriction or inequality is an opportunity to trust God and work within the boundaries he put in place.

This is the world as it truly is, the world as God made it, that which is revealed in God’s word and observed in God’s world, a reality that must be respected for any society to thrive. Conservatism is a worldview of giving, receiving, and blessing. It dignifies work as a legitimate expression of Christian service, and dignifies man by beckoning him to discover the wonders hidden within creation. Such is the glory of God to conceal a thing, and such is the glory of kings to search it out (Prov 25:2).

Any kind of political or social conservatism that does not acknowledge God as the ultimate reality will inevitably fail. Christians are conservative not merely because we admire the constitution or love tradition, but rather for the sake of the transcendent, eternal reality upon which those things stand.

In other words, Christians aren’t merely conserving a nostalgic political worldview, but rather the application of Christian truth to all of life, including our society. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Paul said, “God” commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Christ is “highly exalted” and has been given the “name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

This is the worldview that built Western society. To be sure, not all of our founding fathers were regenerate Christians, but they did draw upon centuries of Bible-saturated political theology and wisdom. In short, we’re not merely conserving something political, but convictional: we’re fighting to conserve and rebuild a once-respected Christian heritage that is now under siege by a demonic ideology of pagan progressivism. 

The progressive project is not a matter of alternate policy preferences in pursuit of a shared, common vision for society. Progressivism is a political and cultural attack directed squarely at Christianity itself. It is more than a political ideology, it is a rebellion against nature, nature’s God, and an attack on all who worship him.

The Sin of “Equalatry”

Contrary to what we’ve been told, human differences inevitably produce inequalities–divinely established natural hierarchies hard-wired into creation for his glory and our good. While some inequalities can be exploited for sinful gain, a virtuous society organizes them into a productive division of labor that benefits everyone. The most fundamental, inescapable human difference is sexual: God made us male and female from the beginning (Matt 19:4). The inequalities between men and women are a divinely designed gift for the harmonious joining of the sexes in mutual love and the creation of new life. Similarly, other human inequalities are positively presented in scripture as gifts for the edification of the church.

The left cannot accept this fact. Their sin is “equalatry,” which is making equality into an idol. The sin of equalatry is what Murray Rothbard once called a “revolt against nature,” rooted in envy and resentment towards those with superior skills, intelligence, beauty, or accomplishments. It regards all inequality as oppression and all hierarchy as tyranny. Since it bears a superficial resemblance to fairness, a biblical virtue, equalatry makes the left’s demands for “social justice” feel virtuous to Christians. But since the left defines justice as the elimination of all inequality, exceptionalism must not be tolerated.

The left subverts reality through media “narratives” that reward grievance. A man’s feelings of envy are merely a byproduct of his oppression. All inequalities are “privileges,” unjustly acquired. Their propaganda campaign that relentlessly categorizes the whole human experience as an epic struggle between oppressive villains and oppressed victims slowly brainwashes ordinary people into vicious cycles of self-righteous indignance or self-loathing guilt.

Deep down, people intuitively know that society cannot function without the basic virtues of hard work, competence, and honesty, yet they are gaslit into affirming the opposite.  They gradually find themselves nodding along with the guilt-inducing narrative that they are oppressors whose sins can only be absolved by yielding to the irrational demands of the state, BLM activists, and the rainbow mafia. Over time, the propaganda wears them down. One can only resist for so long.

The left regards our Christian heritage as a blight that spawned injustices that can only be remedied by tearing it all down and rebuilding anew. Captivated by the social Darwinist “myth of progress,” humanity must break free from the antiquated shackles of Christianity and march towards their vision of an eschatological, secular utopia.

As Thomas Sowell once said, we have “reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today.” Americans have now reached peak efficiency in our ability to manufacture victims at warp speed through a malicious parade of patriarchs, homophobes, and white supremacists. It doesn’t matter that their thinking is irrational, because they have already determined that rational thought is yet another tool of oppression.

Progressives arrogantly believe reality itself can be bent to their wishes. With enough funding and power, they can refashion the world any way they choose. With enough medical technology, they can overcome the dreaded gender binary. They act with high-handed moral certitude, believing they possess sufficient wisdom to save our planet, end hunger, correct injustice, house the homeless, eliminate suffering, maximize erotic pleasure, turn men into women—you name it. This is delusional, of course, but they can’t see it because their worldview is predicated upon a carefully curated denial of reality. Like Babel of old, their god-like lust for reality manipulating dominance is “only the beginning of what they will do” (Gen 11:6). 

When their ideas fail, and they will, they will insist these failures were due to either conservative sabotage or insufficiently progressive implementation. Their worldview is a closed system of circular reasoning that rejects all disconfirming data from outside the system. “It will be better next time, you’ll see,” they promise. All they need is more trust, more power, and more money. They should not be judged by results, they claim, only the moral purity of their intentions. 

In short, progressivism cannot build, it can only destroy. By “wisdom a house is built” (Prov 24:3), but “wisdom is too high for a fool” (Prov 24:7). Progressive ideology hates wisdom and loves death (Prov 8:36). As it metastasizes and matures into full-blown cultural cancer, we now have a society filled with fools who can’t cope with basic reality. This surely explains why progressives exhibit higher rates of mental illness. You can’t deny reality and keep your sanity.

It is vital that we not become blind to what progressivism is. It is not a different way of accomplishing good and agreed-upon goals for our society, it is rather a godless force that is eagerly seeking to destroy it. The left is at war with the natural order. Their worldview is not worthy of respect or charitable disagreement. It is a wicked, demon-possessed ideology that must be defeated. It seeks to undermine, erode, and hollow out everything decent and good in our society. It is animated by a full-throated opposition to God, to the rule of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:25–26), and to reality itself.

Thus, conservatism and progressivism represent two fundamentally opposed, mutually exclusive, utterly irreconcilable visions of the world. Political polarization will continue to divide and infect every cultural institution. Conservatives who resist should prepare for irrational struggle sessions from immature progressives who use emotional outbursts to manipulate others into compliance. Don’t give in. “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Prov 25:26).

Why Do Conservatives Lose?

The road ahead is, frankly, daunting. Russell Moore once positioned himself as a conservative hero who could lead us through cultural decline like Moses through the Red Sea. In an article written in 2016, he said, “Throughout history, conservatives have ultimately lost every single culture war they’ve waged, from Mormonism to Roman Catholicism to Prohibition to the Moral Majority.” As it turns out, Moore was not a conservative voice standing up for conservatives, but a leftist sympathizer standing up to conservatives. 

But his assessment was basically correct in that article. In the cultural battles of our day, conservatives always seem to lose. Some say progressives win because of their superior funding, organizational prowess, and cultural dominance. Others say conservatives lose because we are disorganized, factious, and lack an activist spirit. Perhaps they’re right on both counts. But that’s not why we lose. 

We lose because we have a much more difficult position to defend. That doesn’t mean we’ll always lose, but we cannot win when we don’t see the field properly. We cannot go on thinking the left is acting in good faith for a good purpose, when in reality, conservatives and progressives are completely different projects with different goals and definitions of victory.

Conservatives Build and Protect

Conservatives are builders and protectors. Christians are called to build a just society that operates within the constraints of the real world as God made it. And our need to protect what we’ve built is what makes us conservative. The Western world was built upon this basic premise. God created the world and then created us to continue his work of creation in the world.

Modern progressives are not builders, at least not in the normal sense. Indeed, they cannot. Just as people can’t change their sex by cutting off or sewing on body parts, the left doesn’t build because one cannot build in a world that doesn’t exist. Rather, they can only plunder and distort what others have built by taking concrete realities and imposing their irrational ideology on them. Eventually, it all breaks down as reality asserts itself. Gravity always wins in the end.

Many conservatives are blind to this fact and for understandable reasons. Still clinging to the old habits of a high-trust society, many Christians reflexively “believe the best” about others who “assume the worst” about them, making them naive to the nature of the evil at work in the world. Christians assume conservatives and progressives are like two rival teams, playing the same game on the same field by the same rules. So we run onto the field expecting a fair contest, not realizing that progressives have changed the game, rewritten the rules, and bribed the refs. We expect honesty and fair play from cutthroat, win-at-all-costs progressives. Naivete is a luxury we can no longer afford. We’re better at being “innocent as doves” than “wise as serpents” (Matt 10:16). We cannot allow the left to continue exploiting our virtue.

A free and prosperous society requires a populace that inculcates virtue in its people. This fact was famously observed by John Adams, who said “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Maintaining a “critical mass” of basic human decency in our society requires a collective effort. If it is not taught and enforced at the cultural level, it will naturally decline by entropy or be deliberately subverted by wicked men.

The moral neglect of one generation is all that is needed for a free society to die. Conservatives need to win every generation to keep the vision alive. Progressives need to only win once. The left wins in society the way a forest fire wins over trees. It is destructive; all it has to do is burn. The left wins the way towers are toppled more easily than they are built. Gravity takes over; all it has to do is fall.

The damage done by the left looks different from forest fires or toppled towers, however. It destroys by capturing, twisting, and repurposing good things into orc-ish monstrosities that serve dark purposes. Harvard University, for example, one of many Ivy League schools founded to train men for Christian ministry, has established itself as the premiere educational institution in our country. But now it is more known for its blatant opposition to all things Christian. When progressives take over a church, conservatives flee to more faithful pastures, leaving robed ministers behind to preside over drag shows in stained glass halls. Every cherished American tradition and institution will soon receive the same treatment if they are not stopped. 

The Challenge of Complexity

Conservatism conserves the best of the past and builds upon it. The cycle of building and protecting propels society into further advancement, inevitably leading to greater and greater levels of complexity. More complicated systems require more parts working properly. A breakdown in one part can cause the whole system to collapse. For example, automotive manufacturing delays during COVID caused massive fleets of new vehicles to sit inoperable on parking lots awaiting shipment of Taiwanese microchips. Ford lost millions in potential revenue due to a single fail point.

Conservatism is similar. The blessings we enjoy in our advanced society are enabled by many complex and interrelated systems that need to coordinate harmoniously to continue. In other words, we face the complex challenge of conserving numerous cultural fail points that are necessary for our survival. A breakdown at one point weakens the whole.

For example, traditional marriage is an indispensable, bedrock institution that enables our whole society to function. Our society cannot survive without human capital. Any healthy society needs to produce large numbers of well-adjusted, hard-working citizens, the kind of people typically raised in stable, loving homes, where they are trained in self-discipline, character, and how to relate well to the opposite sex.

Progressives have been working tirelessly to replace the natural family with the state for decades. Just as previous generations attacked it through the sexual revolution, abortion, and no-fault divorce, our generation has further damaged it through innovations like “gay marriage,” “gay adoption,” and surrogacy. Fathers have been replaced by daycares and public schools. Women have abandoned their primary vocation of motherhood to pursue careerism. And now, prominent Christian publications celebrate permanent singleness over the biblical duty to establish households.

We’ve only yet begun to feel the catastrophic ripple effects of the collapse of traditional marriage in our society. Undermining traditional marriage undermines every other institution that relies on it, including every sector of our economy that relies on capable, responsible adults in the workforce.

If Western society were a Jenga tower, the traditional marriage piece would be at the very bottom, stabilizing the whole structure. When you pull that piece out, the whole tower destabilizes, teeters, and eventually topples. And yet, marriage is itself only one among many essential pieces at the bottom of the tower. While conservatives are preoccupied with defending the traditional marriage front of the culture war, progressives open up new fronts in local libraries, school boards, social media, think tanks, politics, think tanks, immigration, inflation, tax policy–on and on it goes. Progressives only need to succeed in a few key areas to destabilize the whole country. Conservatives have to defend multiple positions at once while progressives can concentrate their firepower on one vulnerable target.

The point is this. Since conservatives are trying to conserve an advanced society that is irreducibly complex, we have the more difficult task, which is why we must be motivated, organized, and persistent. 

A failure at any point weakens the whole. As failures accumulate, we approach the point of no return where societal collapse becomes inevitable. Have we already reached that point? Honestly, I don’t know. I pray that we have not, but there is one thing I do know. Every progressive victory brings us one step closer to the edge of a cultural abyss, and faithful Christians cannot sit on the sidelines while progressives openly defy God and take advantage of our passive, do-nothing “faithful presence.” We must fight.


To be certain, Christians have a political agenda, but not the Beltway pundit class kind. Our agenda is to assert the rule of Christ over every sphere of life. In other words, we can’t vote our way out of this mess. Elections matter, but we don’t win by elections alone. The need of the hour is a positive, Christian vision for society.

Just as Adam was told to “work” and “keep” the garden (Gen 2:15), and just as Nehemiah’s men rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other (Neh 4:18), our task is to build and protect in our homes, churches, and broader culture.

The work begins locally, in the home, by establishing faithful, multigenerational households that are committed to giving children a rigorous Christian education. Children must be disciplined and trained to behave in God-honoring ways so they can be productive members of society.

In our churches, we need pastors and elders who teach the old ways, not novel innovations so commonly found in giga-churches which are often breeding grounds for apostasy. Modern Christians desperately need doctrine and discipline.

We need Christian institutions of higher learning that are anti-woke, antifragile, and future-proof–the kinds of institutions that are built to resist incursions from the left. There are wide-open opportunities for these kinds of institutions because large numbers of conservative Christians are hungry for them.

In the workplace, Christians can build new businesses, form partnerships with other Christian businesses, create jobs, and employ other hard-working believers. In an age of deteriorating standards, Christians can be the ones who raise the bar by recovering the protestant work ethic.

In the public square, Christians need to rediscover our prophetic voice. For far too long, we’ve ceded ground on key issues to progressives who frame them according to their priorities. Having been bullied into silence by the left, Christians comfort themselves with the dim hope that their personal kindness and winsome tolerance will have accumulated enough goodwill to persuade them to become Christians. Don’t count on it.

We need to have courage, speak out, and break the left’s taboos. Our task, as Paul said, is to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:5). We should be prepared to be called bigots and narrow-minded fundamentalists because that’s what they already think of us.

The citadel of Christianity in our country is under siege. Thieves and vandals have breached the gates, climbed the walls, and are setting fires in every room. The task before us is daunting, but we serve a God who raises the dead. Win or lose, to God be the glory. Regardless, may we be found fighting for the truth of the gospel and the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life, knowing he will surely win in the end.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Michael Clary

Michael Clary is the lead pastor of Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, OH. Michael’s book, “God’s Good Design: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Guide to Human Sexuality,” has just been published by Reformation Zion. Michael and his wife, Laura, live in Cincinnati with their four children.

7 thoughts on “Why Conservatives Lose (And What We Must Do About It)

  1. If conservatism is what the above article says it is, then is conservatism Christianity, Christianity as it is defined by the Scriptures, or is it equal to Christianity? Is conservatism based on Christianity infallible? And are all of our social relationships defined by hierarchy? If so, then which race is the superior race? Which economic class is the superior economic class morally speaking? Which is the superior biological sex? If conservatism built on Christianity never falls, then why did Christendom fall? If conservatism builds while progressivism destroys, why are there so many historical precedents where it is conservatives who silenced people and burned books?

    It is a human trait to canonize one’s own group and demonize another. But such a practice is based on black-white thinking and such thinking both psychologically unhealthy and is a key trait in authoritarian personalities. In addition, remember that it was the Pharisee, who was the religious person, who canonized himself and demonized the tax collector and whose prayer resembles the above article (see Luke 18:9-14). We should note here that conservatives don’t have a monopoly on canonizing themselves and demonizing others. This canonizing of one group and demonizing their opponents is the fatal flaw in Marx’s analysis of and solution to capitalism. This act of canonizing one’s own group and demonizing others is the epitome of self-righteousness. And self-righteousness, with its pride based on a belief in one’s superiority over others, is completely antithetical to the Gospel (see Romans 1-3 in general and Romans 3:9, 27 in particular).

    Perhaps Clary can tell me whether it was conservatives alone who founded and led the non-violent arm of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s to 1970s. And perhaps Clary can tell me the percentage of those who opposed the Civil Rights Movement who were conservatives? After all, both the SBC and the PCA have publicly apologized for their part in practicing and promoting discrimination and for resisting the Civil Rights Movement. And since conservatives deal with reality and progressives don’t, how many of today’s conservatives deny climate change, or deny that same-sex behavior (SSB) has been observed in over 1,000 species of animals, or are even aware the scientists have discovered possible physical causes for gender dysphoria? How many of today’s conservatives acknowledge the past atrocities committed by conservatives during Christendom?

    Because of the implied conflation of conservatism with Christianity along with the canonization of conservatives and demonization of progressives, the above article is not just psychologically unhealthy and historically incorrect, it introduces a theologically heretical self-image for conservatives to embrace. And I am not using the term ‘theologically heretical’ lightly; I am using it in its full force. Remember that when Paul compared the atheists described in Romans 1 with the believers in God in Romans 2, he said that those in the groups were equal in terms of sin. The message of the before mentioned parable of the two men praying (again, see Luke 18:9-14) applies here. Why does it apply? It is because we must ask ourselves this question: When is it safe to pray the prayer of the Pharisee? The answer to that question is in the text of the parable itself.

  2. I feel we are fast headed towards political revolution, and that everyone sees it but has no idea what to do about it. I don’t think that it will be stopped. So then, what do we as Christians do? To be frank, whoever is the most organized and committed tend to be the ones that “win” the revolution. This plays out over and over again. Its the radicals that win because they are usually far more organized than moderates. Christians need to organize AS CHRISTIANS and begin formulating political strategies for when things kick off. Maybe this is already happening at high levels that most Christians aren’t aware of, but it doesn’t seem like it.

    1. Dylan,
      I have one question for you. Should Christians fight for their revolution as radicals would fight for theirs?

      I don’t disagree with your assessment of the situation. But, IMO, the driving force for any upcoming revolution is the insularity that many groups are complying with.

      1. Maybe not with the exact same means and methods. After all, a Christian cannot simply dispense with our morals to achieve short term secular goals.

        But should we fight for our revolution? Yes. History has shown again and again what happens when the radicals revolt. Do we really want the far-left progressives, the alt-right BAP-ists, or the groypers in charge? I don’t believe so. So, my contention is that the church needs to be organized and ready.

        I can agree with you that the insularity and division is the driving force. But that insularity isn’t going anywhere, it is only intensifying and barring some major shock to society, it will only continue to do so. So either we can sit idly by and allow others to determine the course of the country, or we can be the ones who shape it.

        1. Dylan,
          It would be more helpful to me if instead of using pejorative labels whose meaning you understand but are not apparent to people like me. If instead of using those labels, could you list the specific agenda items that merit Christians using physical violence to resist?

          As for insularity, it is driven by fear. And so if insularity is going nowhere, where else will that fear lead us?

  3. Why do Conservative Christians always end up losing? Either there is no God, or God doesn’t like Conservative Christians very much.

  4. It’s a mishmash of an article.

    If I’m still alive in November, I won’t be voting Democratic, but would voting Republican be a much better option? It might be a slightly better option, but if the author doesn’t think Big Money runs both parties, he’s naive. He writes about the tragic decline of the family, but who in politics has any policy which, if it could be implemented, would make the ideal of a nuclear family with a father in the workplace, a stay-at-home wife and mother, and an affordable, decently built house something more than a fantasy for most young people?

    The Republicans may be marginally better on an atrocity such as transgenderism, but name a Republican politician who has made a memorable speech about the insanity of it.

    The one thing he asserted which was valid was the notion of a Christian America within America. It’s been forming gradually for many years now, but does the author believe that if it acquires the power to do so, The Regime won’t try to crush it?

    Watch Tucker Carlson’s episode with the cyber expert whose name I do not recall. It was uploaded in the last couple of days. It may be on Carlson’s YouTube channel, in fact, I think it’s likely to be.

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