PROJECTION: It’s Not Just For Movies.

[CONTENT NOTE: f*-bombs.]

I have long been interested in subverting the U.S. conservative movement, which I am certain is the root of all evil despite what you may have heard elsewhere. If you are not convinced of this proposition, consider for a moment precisely what it is that conservatives wish to conserve: a status quo that is violently racist and sexist, patriarchal and heteronormative, ubercapitalist and imperialist, ableist and classist, Christian supremacist and anti-intellectual, sadistically punitive and social-Darwinist—I could go on (and on and on).

What the fuck. Two sentences in, and I've already bummed everyone out. :

But it's not all bad news! Having dedicated much of my adult life to the study of conservatives in the wild (and not coincidentally, much of my childhood to navigating those worlds to survive), I am here to provide you with practical tips that can save you a whole lot of time you would otherwise spend scratching your head in dumfounded bewilderment. The most important thing to know about conservatism is this: there is nothing new in any of it. Not one single thing. I have pored over tracts by Buckley, Schlafly, Will, Friedman, Rand, Coulter, Kristol and Krauthammer; I have listened to Limbaugh and watched Fox News; I have read The Wall Street Journal editorial page and countless right-wing blogs. And I have satisfied myself beyond any doubt that it always—always—boils down to a comically grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about panty-sniffing Catholic bishops or reckless Wall Street traders, the entire "intellectual" basis of conservatism can be summed up thusly: “I’ve got mine, Jack. Fuck you. And especially, fuck them.”

Naturally this point of view leads conservative minds to spin increasingly bizarre rationalizations for their own privilege, and corresponding justifications for oppressing others. One of the more common manifestations of this phenomenon is psychological projection. Projection is a theory in psychology whereby people avoid acknowledging dissonant thoughts and unsavory impulses in themselves by attributing them to others. Everyone is prone to this, especially in times of crisis. But right-wing conservatives deploy it to such an extreme degree and with such a total lack of self-awareness that it borders on comic farce. Allow me to illustrate.

So, some conservative Christians made a terrible movie based on a silly chain email endlessly promoted by a bunch of Liars 4 Jeezus™. (Here's the trailer, if you're a masochist.) Of course I have no intention of seeing this film. (See: nothing new in any of it.) Happily, it turns out we don't have to see it because some d00d named Neil Carter did and wrote about the film's egregious characterizations of atheists. For example:

Atheist professors are predatory, and they are out to convert everyone into ideological clones of themselves. Clearly the concept of people committed to “freethought” and “liberal arts” is utterly foreign to the writers of this flick. Ironically, while no secular university I’ve ever heard of would hesitate to fire a professor who demands a signed renunciation of religion from his students, I have heard of Christian schools which demand written statements of belief from both their students and faculty. In real life only one of these two cultures threatens people with everlasting torment for not believing the right things, and it’s not the group being caricatured in the movie.

Christian colleges require sworn statements of faith from their students, under threat of eternal torture in the next life [sic] and expulsion in this one. So, the filmmakers conjure up a villainous atheist professor who demands Christian students renounce their beliefs under penalty of failing his class. (Okay, strictly speaking they didn't conjure him up. They heard about him from an awesome email.) Except that such a professor is complete fiction. Pure projection.

See? Lets try another:

Atheists are cocky, self-sure, and totally enamored with their own superiority.

Reminder: the entire point of this movie is to illustrate the superiority of Christians.

Projection: it's what's for dinner.

Atheists will openly threaten you, bow up, get in your face, stare you down, and even chase you down a hallway and grab you to force you to listen to their angry diatribes because your faith makes them so angry!

We don't have to imagine this is what some Christians would like to do to non-believers: they already do it—and worse. [TW: extreme bullying, violence, rape and death threats, animal cruelty.] Project much?

Atheists are clearly incapable of love. If you’re hurting or sick they’ll abandon you.

Translation: "I'd be a horrible person if not for…Jeezus nagging me not to be."

Atheists lack ethical boundaries, so they’ll date students against virtually every university’s rules.

But not Christians. Never happens. Got projection?

Atheists have no basis for morality…If there’s no God, then there can’t be any good reason to follow rules or be honest or do anything moral.

Translation: "The reason I'm not a murderous, thieving rapist is because of an invisible Sky Daddy.” Okay, player. Stay away from me.

Obviously, none of this paints conservative Christians in a positive light. And it’s all pretty amusing, if you don’t think too much about the consequences for their children. But there is a frightening aspect, too. For example, if the religious right fears Obama coming to put them all in FEMA camps for their beliefs, consider what that might mean if (when?) they obtain such power for themselves. Even now, while we laugh at their ridiculous claims of persecution, conservative Christians are busy enacting religion-based laws that harm, oppress and yes, persecute their fellow citizens.

Christian Reconstructionism and the Non-Christian Family

I am about to become a mother in just eight weeks. My husband and I are very excited, but like all new parents we are worried about finances, healthcare, daycare, etc. We’re very lucky to have sufficient income and enough money saved that, though we will worry like all parents do, we are not likely to need public assistance. Of course, anything can happen. We could lose our jobs and not find others for quite some time. One of us could become severely ill. In that case, we would find ourselves grateful for public assistance. It would allow us to pay the bills and feed our baby. It would help us, as a couple, to be less stressed out about money and, therefore, our relationship would not suffer as much. In short, public assistance and programs that serve families do more than just feed people; they allow families to be emotionally healthy, keeping them intact.


Have you ever wondered why so much of the religious right is opposed to life-saving programs that serve families? Why would someone, who claims to promote family values and family togetherness, want to abolish the very programs that for many keep their families together and thriving? The answer for some is quite simple – because Christian Reconstructionism.


Christian Reconstructionism is a Calvinistic philosophy founded by Rousas John Rushdoony, a man who has had a profound influence on the Christian right. The underlying premise is that god demands separate roles for government, church, and family. Government, though theocratic, is meant to be limited and all moral offenses are dealt with by the church. These distinctions can become confused because Christian Reconstructionists call for Old Testament law, which would naturally involve both the criminal (government) and the moral (church). Furthermore, Christian Reconstructionism demands that only staunch adherents participate in government, further mingling church and state. However, one area that believers are convinced is firmly in the realm of the church is family assistance or charity. In the eyes of the Christian Reconstructionist, government has absolutely no business whatsoever creating programs to help needy families because god has intended this role for the church alone. To summarize, it is not only a bad idea to create government programs, it is absolutely going against god’s laws.


This might sound like a fringe philosophy, and twenty years ago you would have been correct. However, nowadays, you can find it in the mouths of such right-wing luminaries as David Barton, who said, “It’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and needy. It’s the church’s responsibility.” The Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and other notable right-wing groups have also espoused this philosophy. Even more terrifying is that Michael Petrouka, the Republican nominee for an Anne Arundel County, Maryland council seat, openly embraces Christian Reconstructionism and will quite possibly be making and passing laws that negatively impact families in that state. Still more “mainstream” right-wing politicians have made common cause with many Christian Reconstructionists and have worked tirelessly, both in congress and state legislatures, to slash budgets and find other ways to put their theological views to work.


The problem for us as non-Christians is obvious. If the right continues to be successful in cutting programs to families in need, what will be our lot? The Christian Reconstructionist says that we should then look to the church for help. This is problematic in many ways: under a theocratic government, a church may refuse to grant help to non-members or unequal treatment may be given to families who don’t believe. Perhaps a family may not wish to convert and compromise their integrity. Of course, the reality is that many would compromise if it came down to feeding their children and that is exactly what the Christian Reconstructionist would like to see. In short, the religious right is working to destroy the integrity of your and my non-Christian family in its pursuit of what it sees as god’s mandate, that America embraces biblical law. It is time for non-Christian families to make economic justice a priority in the fight against religious oppression.