Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Why Do Those Wanting to Transform an Institution Almost Always Claim the Institution…

 

. . .and the people who want to preserve what the institution has stood for must leave and create a new institution to preserve the values of the old institution?

The United Methodist Church, which I recently joined in the hopes of avoiding just such a fracturing, has before it a proposal to split over whether to adhere to traditional church teaching. Although the triggering issue is listed as human sexuality, sexuality is merely the surface issue for a much deeper conflict over many aspects of traditional church doctrine, the authority of scripture, the value of traditions, and questions of how God has related to His people throughout history. But this is not the thread in which to discuss the specifics of the Methodist controversy. For better details on the Methodist proposal, go to the thread entitled, “This Week in the UMC” by @jimchase.

The proposal in the UMC is just another example that (according to the proposal) the faction that seeks to retain the existing values of the institution is required to leave the existing institution and to establish a new institution, while the faction that seeks to fundamentally upend the values of the existing institution gets to claim the shell of the existing institution (the name, most of the physical property, and any people who don’t actively transfer to the new institution).

This dynamic (those who seek change get to claim the shell of the institution while those who seek to preserve what the institution has always been must leave the institution) has played out many places, most prominently universities and other churches, but also sometimes in business corporations.

Why is this? It seems to me that those who disagree with an institution’s existing principles so much that they are willing to split the institution to achieve their fundamentally different vision should be the ones forming a new institution. They aren’t really interested in the existing institution. They want a different institution. So why are they so intent on claiming an existing institution in order to transform it, rather than seeking to build a new institution?

I don’t think it’s that transforming an institution is easier than starting a new one. Fundamental transformation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) took about 40 years from first formal transformation proposal in 1978 to complete takeover in 2016. And there probably was background work going on before the first formal proposal. Some of the largest companies in the world have been built in less time than that.

One of my cynical views is that those who want a different institution understand that there is not enough public support for their desired vision on which to build a new institution. So their only hope is to take over an existing institution and remake it. My other cynical view is that they want the public “goodwill” that comes with the name of the existing institution. Although they want to change the institution to be something very different from what the name of the existing institution means, they know it will take a while before the public realizes that the name no longer means what it used to mean.

Is the value of physical property really enough to justify the effort? So, why does this dynamic keep happening?

Why don’t people who want something that does not currently exist not start a new institution, and instead take over an existing institution in order to remake the institution into something different from what the institution has always been?

Are there approaches people in existing institutions might take to reduce the possibility that the institution will be captured by those who seek to fundamentally change it?

This is not the thread to discuss the details of the proposal for splitting the United Methodist Church. For that, go to the thread by @philo.

Also, my intention is not to discuss here the correctness or incorrectness of traditionalists vs. transformation seekers. Here I am curious about why the transformation seekers keep taking over institutions rather than starting new institutions.

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  1. RightAngles Member

    I’ve noted this phenomenon as well. I’ve always thought that every generation produces its own crop of little Crusader Rabbits who want to go forth and Change the World, and they have a need to be able to point to an institution they’ve changed and proudly say “See that? That happened because of MEEE! I did that!” If it’s a brand new institution they just invented, it doesn’t give them the same feeling of achievement as when they take a known entity and leave their stamp on it.

    So it isn’t as much fun to say, “Look! I made a new church and it’s called the Church of Abortions and Tranny Youth Ministers” as it is to say, “See the United Methodist Church that was founded in 1745? Now it has tranny ministers and we direct women where to get abortions, and that’s because of MEEEE! I made that!” They just have a need to leave their footprints on the sands of time. A selfish need, if you ask me.

    When we lived in Michigan in the 90s, a group of women from a United Methodist Church spent a weekend in the Upper Peninsula running around the woods topless and worshiping “Christa.” My then sister-in-law, also United Methodist, taught her young children that God is a woman. Our local United Methodist was featured in the Lifestyle section of our Sunday paper, and in the article they proudly said that they direct women where they can go to get abortions.

    • #1
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:00 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  2. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    • #2
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:05 PM PST
    • 23 likes
  3. The Dowager Jojo Inactive

    Could it be that they do not even care about promoting any institution, but they desire to destroy the old one?

    Seems to me it’s not about “building” anything. It’s about childish resentment of the existing “power” structure and the will to seize, redirect, and transform it in order to feel powerful.

    It is always easier to destroy than create.

    Edit: I wrote this without having read the above comments (we were typing simultaneously) which pretty much said the same thing. Only better.

    • #3
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:07 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. JoelB Member

    The Pope didn’t let Martin Luther do that. Nor did the Lutherans give way to the Anabaptists and Pietists and so on and so on until about the mid to late 19th century. What happened then that changed things?

    • #4
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:09 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. The Dowager Jojo Inactive

    JoelB (View Comment):

    The Pope didn’t let Martin Luther do that. Nor did the Lutherans give way to the Anabaptists and Pietists and so on and so on until about the mid to late 19th century. What happened then that changed things?

    It doesn’t happen to a strong institution. I guess the Catholic Church was strong enough…..then. 

    • #5
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:13 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. MarciN Member

    Full Size Tabby: So why does this dynamic keep happening?

    I have seen this happen to local organizations as well. It’s very frustrating. I’ve wanted to ask the usurpers, “Rather than destroy this one, why don’t you join an organization you actually want to belong to or form your own?” 

    • #6
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:15 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Vectorman Member

    Red – United Methodist Church
    Orange- Disciples of Christ
    Grey – Presbyterian Church
    Yellow – Episcopal
    Light Blue – Evangelical Lutheran
    Green- American Baptist Church
    Dark Blue – United Church of Christ

    • #7
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:21 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. RightAngles Member

    JoelB (View Comment):

    The Pope didn’t let Martin Luther do that. Nor did the Lutherans give way to the Anabaptists and Pietists and so on and so on until about the mid to late 19th century. What happened then that changed things?

    We let them now.

    • #8
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:24 PM PST
    • Like
  9. Al French of Damascus Moderator

    Another example: Boy Scouts.

    • #9
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:25 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  10. RightAngles Member

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):

    Could it be that they do not even care about promoting any institution, but they desire to destroy the old one?

     

    Solzhenitsyn wrote that to destroy a people, first you sever their roots.

    • #10
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:27 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. E. Kent Golding Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    Not another SSM Post!

    • #11
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I’ve noted this phenomenon as well. I’ve always thought that every generation produces its own crop of little Crusader Rabbits who want to go forth and Change the World, and they have a need to be able to point to an institution they’ve changed and proudly say “See that? That happened because of MEEE! I did that!” If it’s a brand new institution they just invented, it doesn’t give them the same feeling of achievement as when they take a known entity and leave their stamp on it.

    So it isn’t as much fun to say, “Look! I made a new church and it’s called the Church of Abortions and Tranny Youth Ministers” as it is to say, “See the United Methodist Church that was founded in 1745? Now it has tranny ministers and we direct women where to get abortions, and that’s because of MEEEE! I made that!” They just have a need to leave their footprints on the sands of time. A selfish need, if you ask me.

     

    Interesting point. We (as human beings) do like to feel important. 

    • #12
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    Not another SSM Post!

    It’s surprising how many friends simply don’t realize what’s happened in recent decades to many institutions they respect, some of which may have always tended towards liberalism but retained some sense of balance, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, even the Southern Poverty Law Center, many newspapers & periodicals, foundations (even the Democratic Party!) etc, which have been completely pre-empted by radical progressives yet retain the patina of respectability because of the pre-existing brand.

    • #13
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:43 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  14. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    The Dowager Jojo (View Comment):

    Could it be that they do not even care about promoting any institution, but they desire to destroy the old one?

    Seems to me it’s not about “building” anything. It’s about childish resentment of the existing “power” structure and the will to seize, redirect, and transform it in order to feel powerful.

    It is always easier to destroy than create.

     

    I briefly considered that possibility, but then thought I was being too cynical. Maybe not. As I have read more about some of these movements, there does seem to be a considerable amount of interest in hurting people who don’t bend to their will regardless of whether it helps build the institution. 

    • #14
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:43 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Dr. Bastiat Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby: So why does this dynamic keep happening?

    I have seen this happen to local organizations as well. It’s very frustrating. I’ve wanted to ask the usurpers, “Rather than destroy this one, why don’t you join an organization you actually want to belong to or form your own?”

    Groucho Marx said something like, “I would never lower myself to belong to an organization that would accept me as a member.”

    • #15
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:45 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  16. RightAngles Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    Not another SSM Post!

    It’s surprising how many friends simply don’t realize what’s happened in recent decades to many institutions they respect, some of which may have always tended towards liberalism but retained some sense of balance, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, even the Southern Poverty Law Center, many newspapers & periodicals, foundations (even the Democratic Party!) etc, which have been completely pre-empted by radical progressives yet retain the patina of respectability because of the pre-existing brand.

    Yes. We’re like the frog in the boiling water. I remember when the ACLU meant something. I wonder how much in donations they raked in before people realized they weren’t the same anymore. Same for the SPLC.

    • #16
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:47 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. EODmom Coolidge

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby: So why does this dynamic keep happening?

    I have seen this happen to local organizations as well. It’s very frustrating. I’ve wanted to ask the usurpers, “Rather than destroy this one, why don’t you join an organization you actually want to belong to or form your own?”

    I’ll say that if you will…… 

    • #17
    • January 4, 2020, at 12:56 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    Not another SSM Post!

    It’s surprising how many friends simply don’t realize what’s happened in recent decades to many institutions they respect, some of which may have always tended towards liberalism but retained some sense of balance, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, even the Southern Poverty Law Center, many newspapers & periodicals, foundations (even the Democratic Party!) etc, which have been completely pre-empted by radical progressives yet retain the patina of respectability because of the pre-existing brand.

    Yes. We’re like the frog in the boiling water. I remember when the ACLU meant something. I wonder how much in donations they raked in before people realized they weren’t the same anymore. Same for the SPLC.

    • #18
    • January 4, 2020, at 1:10 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. The Dowager Jojo Inactive

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Because it’s an effective strategy:

    From David Burge (Iowahawk)

    1. Target a respected institution
    2. Kill & clean it
    3. Wear it as a skin suit, while demanding respect

    Not another SSM Post!

    Why not? 

    • #19
    • January 4, 2020, at 1:18 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Henry Racette Contributor

    Full Size Tabby: I don’t think it’s that transforming an institution is easier than starting a new one. Fundamental transformation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) took about 40 years from first formal transformation proposal in 1978 to complete takeover in 2016.

    Tab, I think you really did answer your question: it is easier to transform an existing institution than to create a new one.

    Forty years sounds like a long time, until you consider that the PCUSA is (through its predecessor churches) more than 150 years old, with roots going back to before the Civil War. So there’s one reason: it’s usually faster to change an existing institution than to create one of comparable stature, as was demonstrated in this case.

    Part of that is that, when you transform an institution, you retain a lot of the membership and resources, because a lot of people who would not join a new organization espousing the same ideas will nonetheless remain with the transformed institution out of ignorance, apathy, or familiarity and loyalty.

    So why do those who seek transformation (I’m going to call them “radicals”) win, and get to own the original organization? They don’t, always — maybe not even usually. Every time someone proposes a radical idea that gets shot down, the institution remains in the hands of the conservative faction. It’s only when the radicals finally get enough strength that they get to transform the institution. And transforming the institution is really the goal, not creating a new institution, because, as I said, it’s easier to do that than to start anew.

    Radicals represent special interests; conservatives represent common interest. That’s the nature of radicalism and conservatism. That relentlessness and focus gives radicals their power, and it’s a significant advantage. Conservatives have the advantage of numbers and inertia, but are less focused.

    Incidentally, this is why I think conservative third-party movements are almost certain to fail, and why I argue against them. If Republicans aren’t conservative enough (and they certainly aren’t conservative enough for me), we should work to make them more conservative, or to slow the rate of leftward drift.

    • #20
    • January 4, 2020, at 1:25 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  21. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Because Satan is only capable of degrading and distorting that which is good. 

    • #21
    • January 4, 2020, at 1:37 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  22. Henry Racette Contributor

    I’ll add one additional comment to my earlier one (#20), in defense of (some) radicals. I’m not a radical, I’m a conservative, and I don’t like radicals or want to see them prosper, but I do want to be fair.

    Some of the radicals who transform institutions rather than starting new ones do it because they value the institution, but think it should be different — even radically different. I’m sure many radicals don’t think of themselves as transforming or replacing the institution, but rather as improving it.

    Of course, I think they’re usually wrong.

    • #22
    • January 4, 2020, at 1:39 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  23. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Radicals represent special interests; conservatives represent common interest. That’s the nature of radicalism and conservatism. That relentlessness and focus gives radicals their power, and it’s a significant advantage. Conservatives have the advantage of numbers and inertia, but are less focused.

    Thank you for your thoughtful articulation. This point nicely puts into words a reason it is hard for the “radicals” to build a new institution – the special interest that motivates them is often not, by itself, enough of a foundation on which to build an institution. 

    • #23
    • January 4, 2020, at 2:44 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    So why do those who seek transformation (I’m going to call them “radicals”) win, and get to own the original organization? They don’t, always — maybe not even usually. Every time someone proposes a radical idea that gets shot down, the institution remains in the hands of the conservative faction. It’s only when the radicals finally get enough strength that they get to transform the institution. And transforming the institution is really the goal, not creating a new institution, because, as I said, it’s easier to do that than to start anew.

    Radicals represent special interests; conservatives represent common interest. That’s the nature of radicalism and conservatism. That relentlessness and focus gives radicals their power, and it’s a significant advantage. Conservatives have the advantage of numbers and inertia, but are less focused.

    Good point. A special interest can keep pounding its point, time after time, year after year. But, I’m not sure it’s necessarily when the radicals get enough strength that the transformation happens. It often seems to be that a small group of radicals just keeps hammering the group’s issue until the broader organization is fatigued of the distraction that defending against the hammering requires and the broader organization just gives up. 

    • #24
    • January 4, 2020, at 2:51 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Henry Racette Contributor

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Radicals represent special interests; conservatives represent common interest. That’s the nature of radicalism and conservatism. That relentlessness and focus gives radicals their power, and it’s a significant advantage. Conservatives have the advantage of numbers and inertia, but are less focused.

    Thank you for your thoughtful articulation. This point nicely puts into words a reason it is hard for the “radicals” to build a new institution – the special interest that motivates them is often not, by itself, enough of a foundation on which to build an institution.

    That is an excellent point, and one I hadn’t considered. And it has a significant implication: efforts to keep radicals from transforming established institutions are particularly valuable, because radicals, due to their narrow focus, will find it challenging to create robust institutions of their own.

    I like that.

    • #25
    • January 4, 2020, at 3:10 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I think that Gumby Mark and Henry pretty much nailed it.

    I have one additional point to add, and which I think is implied in their explanations but not made explicit. Deceptive infiltration seems to be a more effective way to push Leftist, and now Wokeist, ideology. The transformation has to be gradual, or too many people will object.

    It’s the whole boil-a-frog metaphor. I don’t know if it is literally true as to real frogs, but many people seem willing to go along with gradual change.

    In the Mainline Protestant churches in particular, they’ve been going along with increasing Leftist and now Wokeist infiltration for about 50 years now. Probably longer, in less obvious ways, as my impression is that even Niebuhr was tending in this direction (though he was, himself, a critic of the more Leftist Social Gospel movement).

    In my view, this view transforms Christianity in a Leftist direction, and most of the congregation goes along with it for a while because the change is gradual. Eventually, the true believers realize that it is inconsistent with Scripture and leave, and the remaining Leftist/Wokeist folks realize that they aren’t really Christian any more. 

    This seems most advanced in Unitarian Universalism, which isn’t actually Christian and doesn’t claim to be – — though our friend GrannyDude does seem to be a true Christian believer, and seems to be having increasing difficulties with the organization.

    • #26
    • January 4, 2020, at 3:25 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  27. Henry Racette Contributor

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    So why do those who seek transformation (I’m going to call them “radicals”) win, and get to own the original organization? They don’t, always — maybe not even usually. Every time someone proposes a radical idea that gets shot down, the institution remains in the hands of the conservative faction. It’s only when the radicals finally get enough strength that they get to transform the institution. And transforming the institution is really the goal, not creating a new institution, because, as I said, it’s easier to do that than to start anew.

    Radicals represent special interests; conservatives represent common interest. That’s the nature of radicalism and conservatism. That relentlessness and focus gives radicals their power, and it’s a significant advantage. Conservatives have the advantage of numbers and inertia, but are less focused.

    Good point. A special interest can keep pounding its point, time after time, year after year. But, I’m not sure it’s necessarily when the radicals get enough strength that the transformation happens. It often seems to be that a small group of radicals just keeps hammering the group’s issue until the broader organization is fatigued of the distraction that defending against the hammering requires and the broader organization just gives up.

    I agree. Unfortunately, that passion is their power. Normal people figure it’s more important to the activists than it is to themselves, so why be churlish and stand in the way. And there are so many activists, so many nutty things to oppose. You get to feeling like a real stick in the mud, digging in your heels all the time.

    But we have to do it anyway.

    • #27
    • January 4, 2020, at 3:26 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. RightAngles Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    … In my view, this view transforms Christianity in a Leftist direction, and most of the congregation goes along with it for a while because the change is gradual.

    And one way they succeed is that the Left always couches its agenda in emotionally appealing terms. When they try to make changes under the guise of compassion, who could oppose it without seeming like a heartless monster. My mother grew up Methodist, and her brother was a Methodist minister. Her ancestor was one of the first Methodist circuit riders in Virginia and North Carolina in the 18th century. I do not like any of this at all.

    • #28
    • January 4, 2020, at 3:54 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  29. Belt Member

    My own denomination, the Reformed Church in America, is facing a similar trial. I don’t know where it will end up, but I do trust my church.

    Two comments. First, those who want to reform the denomination in a progressive direction believe that they have time on their side. If they can run out the clock, institutional inertia and the younger congregants coming into positions of responsibility will eventually overwhelm the misguided old guard. They have solid grounds for believing this.

    Second, always remember that they genuinely believe that they are in the right. They are making things better, more closely adhering to Christ’s vision of the church, adapting to changing cultural winds but remaining true to God’s will. Why should they be the ones to leave when they are the ones who are more perfectly living up to the ideals of the church?

    • #29
    • January 4, 2020, at 4:01 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  30. RightAngles Member

    Belt (View Comment):

    My own denomination, the Reformed Church in America, is facing a similar trial. I don’t know where it will end up, but I do trust my church.

    Two comments. First, those who want to reform the denomination in a progressive direction believe that they have time on their side. If they can run out the clock, institutional inertia and the younger congregants coming into positions of responsibility will eventually overwhelm the misguided old guard. They have solid grounds for believing this.

    Second, always remember that they genuinely believe that they are in the right. They are making things better, more closely adhering to Christ’s vision of the church, adapting to changing cultural winds but remaining true to God’s will. Why should they be the ones to leave when they are the ones who are more perfectly living up to the ideals of the church?

    They do think this. How many times have we all seen that meme that “Jesus was a Socialist” based on his admonition to help the poor, conveniently omitting that pesky part of 2Thessalonians where He said we must work for our food. I think it’s no accident that our schools have pretty much abandoned any pretense of teaching critical thinking.

    • #30
    • January 4, 2020, at 4:27 PM PST
    • 4 likes

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