Projection Junction… What’s Your Function…
I’d like to start out by apologizing for the terrible, terrible title. Really. I’m so sorry.
Christians often end up in conversations and musings, it seems, about other viewpoints and beliefs. I just landed in one this last week, which, I have to confess, I regret a bit. It got me thinking about how we tend to approach these kinds of discussions, how we perceive those others.
One of the things that I see pop up rather often is a quick judgement. They are unreasonable. They are evil. They don’t see their illogic. They play with fire. It seems to me that we have this fervent impulse to find and point out the flaws whatever others we’re looking at, sometimes going so far as to flat out declare them evil. This is, of course, warranted at times. What’s being said are often true statements. But why do we stop there?
The reality is that we as Christians can also be unreasonable, and we often fail to recognize our own faulty thinking. Evil comes out of us and not just them.
But sometimes we don’t stop there, and we do point out those issues within Christianity. We point to the hard-heartedness of the conservative Christians or the faulty theology of the liberal Christians. We decry the lack of missional values Christians have or the lukewarm ardor among Western Christians. But why do we stop even there?
Let me take this a step further. I can be unreasonable. I can produce evil. I sometimes (often) think poorly. I indulge in dangerous things. I can be lazy. I often value my own comfort over the good of others. I regularly love poorly. I am quick to judge.
So many of the things that are true of them, out there, are true of me, right here. Rather than face the issues that we have to deal with, we find those issues elsewhere. Psychologists call it projection, the attributing of qualities inherent to oneself onto others.
It’s not always projection. Projection implies that what we’re finding out there isn’t actually there, though that’s a bit of a blurry line. Often what we’re finding in others is really there. But having found it out there, we stop. The problem is out there; we found it. But what if the real problem is not out there, but is diffuse throughout us all? What if the real problem is inherent to the human condition, of which you are participating, and what if the primary thing that you can deal with it not out there, but right there with you?
Pointing to problems in the broader world isn’t necessarily bad, but it can become a hindrance to us if it becomes a substitute for dealing with our own problems. It can almost become a sort of detached bullying – I feel better because I have pointed out that someone else has problems. If we point to evil out there, then we are disconnected from it. If they’re evil, and I’m not them, then that means I’m good (if you notice, I’ve secretly snuck in another black-and-white thinking post without telling anyone until now). We raise our status by pointing to the low status elsewhere, and so we feel secure. Of course, we aren’t secure. Our stuff is still right there with us.
Thankfully, God tends not to be as condemning as we are about it all. Like the prodigal’s father, He’s just waiting for us to figure out that we’re screwed up and come home. We don’t even have the resources to take care of our problems while we’re sitting in the pig pen. We have to come home where we’ll be embraced and called family again. But so long as we’re pointing out how torn that guy’s robe is, we can forget about the fact that we’re sitting in the mud.
Islam is evil! Liberals are evil! Republicans are evil! Methodists are evil! Secularists are evil! Atheists are evil! Evolutionists are evil!
You know what? They are. And so am I. I am evil.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go talk to my Father about the log in my eye…