I'm coming back late to this post because I just found out about another interesting example of conservative institutional capture: the Latvian Lutheran Church reversed a 40-year rule allowing female ordination. It happened in 2016 but I, an LCMS Lutheran, didn't know about it until now.


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"they can devote all of their efforts to institutional capture and transformation. Conservatives are often bad at stopping this because they are more interested in the mission than organizational politics."

This is interesting- because I've definitely experienced this in a professional setting and it's very frustrating, feeling pulled into both small-p office and big-P public sphere politics when one is simply seeking to focus on their job, do good work, and enhance the mission of the organization.

There is a line in the book "Zero to One" something like, "in the most dysfunctional organizations, signalling that work is being done takes the place of actually doing work. If this describes your organization, you should leave immediately."

I think this is also a temptation and problem in the church context for "moderate" evangelical churches in an urban progressive context, who try to take a certain approach to missiology and evangelism along the lines of "we really believer the same thing we just understand it more fully" (what Jake Meador recently wrote about in Mere Orthodoxy). The sense in which this posture has a temptation or effect of leading the church to adopt whatever the mainstream approach is, which among other things, can lead to an "organizational" culture that is toxic and driven too much by political considerations.

EDIT: but also, in my experience unfortunately, even confessionally "orthodox", non-liberal churches can fall into this mode of trying to protect the organization, or people committed to the organization above the mission. For example, churches closely policing attendance and engagement for membership, while not emphasizing pastoring, shepherding, and getting to understand the lives of everyone in their "flock", to the extant possible (of course), seems to suggest an imbalance and an undue commitment to the church as an institution, not as a spiritual body entrusted by God to deliver the Gospel. It begs the question also of what churches view their purpose and mission as, which seems to have gotten increasingly unclear, even among those who believe the Nicene creed and have creedal/Evangelical statements on paper.

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Aaron said, "The left seems to do well at burrowing into organizations, working their way into positions of authority or leverage, and then using those to transform the institution from the inside out."

A significant factor which aids the Left in taking over organizations is the synergy between feminism and our anti-discrimination laws.

Women are typically more liberal than men. We see this, for example, in their political affiliations. Consider the Squad or the Women's Political Caucus in congress. Women are also very concerned about maintaining good relations with their friends and won't contradict them if they disagree with them. Taking a strong stand to correct problems is also disfavored since it is viewed as being unkind or unfair.

As a result, as more women have entered the workplace, a strong conduit for the introduction of liberal ideas has been introduced. This wouldn't matter if people in the organization with damaging ideas could be fired, but it is very difficult to fire employees today, especially if the employee is a woman. A man might be fired for insubordination or for working counter to the organization's goals, but try that with a woman and a discrimination suit would be filed the next day. So the feminists remain on the payroll, and if they're not advanced through the organization, they will again claim discrimination to the terror of management if it hasn't already capitulated.

Thus, the two-headed monster of feminism and labor law works against the integrity of organizations.

None of this is to say that there aren't excellent conservative pragmatic women in organizations. It's just that they are in the minority. Opportunistic men, or those who benefit from liberalism due to their own pet sins, also assist in the liberal takeover of organizations, but that is not the subject of this particular post.

A conservative top-down take-over works because with the announcement of a new, conservative management philosophy, many of the bad actors will leave voluntarily or can be fired as part of a layoff.

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The asymmetry thing is a big deal, and there are many examples. There's one I hesitate to mention, but I've become convinced is true: progressives are different from conservatives in that they are *liars.* In the specific cases of seminary theological statements, or organizational mission statements, or academic codes of conduct, progressives simply don't mind signing their names to things they absolutely don't believe. This allows them to burrow into organizations committed to hateful conservative ideals.

I almost wonder if progressives justify such behavior due to a belief in the leftward ratchet theory. "This mission statement I'm signing is conservative for now," they must tell themselves, "but it will drift leftward in the next 10-20 years because that's what always happens. History is on my side. What I'm signing is secretly the version that will be, not the version that is."

Of course, that leftward drift *does* happen in a lot of cases. Regarding church bodies and seminaries and universities in general, there was a moment in the 1960s where it looked like the leftward ratchet was an iron law of nature. Now, thanks to the counter-examples you've highlighted (and Calvin University looks like it's going to be another), progressives are going to experience their own crisis of faith in the leftward ratchet.

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It's also notable that DeSantis appointed Ben Sasse president of the University of Florida. Too many Republican governors of deeply red states [looking at you, Nebraska] haven't even attempted to rein in leftist state Universities.

Also keep an eye on the current big fight in the LCMS: the board of Concordia University Texas in Austin filed papers with the state declaring their independence from LCMS governance, daring their own church body to sue them, which it did. It's similar to Baylor vs. the SBC only with a much smaller and less prestigious college. The stakes are basically who gets title to the campus real estate. It goes to show that these battles never end, conservative victories are never final.

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Thank you, Aaron. As someone who used to be on the left, I see this a bit differently. During the GW Bush years, I watched with real respect the (i) alternate conservative media system, (ii) the conservative legal network, and (iii) the conservative work at the local level, say, with school boards in particular. I think this last one goes all the way back to the John Birch Society and, as a leftist, I always lamented the left's unwillingness to engage in local politics -- almost as if it were beneath us. At the time, I felt we'd lose in the long run as a result of this elitism. We wanted the federal gov't to fix things for us and so tuned out following national elections. Arguably, the Dodd ruling reversed this inclination.

Regarding (i) and (ii), I think this is what Hillary Clinton was pointing toward when she lamented the 'vast right wing conspiracy.' There's an incredibly tenacious decades-long effort to build infrasctructure that seeds jurists and drives conservative messaging. Here I think the conservative movement is far, far ahead of the left. In sum, I think the conservative movement has been very effective at seeding alternatives and working locally while simultaneously diminishing trust in the authority and validity of mainline institutions. I guess this is not so much institutional capture -- and so adjacent to your points -- but you could call it a VC alternatives approach to supplement your PE analogy.

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You've essentially restated Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, which is laid out here:


This is a simple but profound insight that explains many aspects of modern societies.

These different strategies (gradual institutional capture versus direct takeover) are analogous to strategies employed by different kinds of organisms in the natural world. Institutional capture is essentially parasitism, whereas direct takeover is more like predation.

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