THE THEOLOGICAL ENGINEER
Mike Pence and the Cultural Rorschach
By Jeff Laird
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Rorschach test: "...projective method of psychological testing in which a person is asked to describe what he or she sees in 10 inkblots, of which some are black or gray and others have patches of colour." (Encyclopedia Britannica)Judging by reactions from the always-fair, level-headed, and well-informed world of social media entertainers and self-appointed "journalists," U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is a woman-hating rapist-in-waiting, who fears and loathes females so much he refuses to be around them. That, or a certain segment of the population is so desperate to see what they want to see that they'll find it even where it doesn't exist.
The current firestorm of breathless commentary comes in the wake of a single line from a recently published a story in the Washington Post. This one sentence set off quite a kerfuffle, especially in "progressive" circles.
Given the hyperventilating happening on Twitter, Facebook, and left-leaning webpages, one would assume this revelation laid bare some filthy scandal, a blatant affair, or a Trump-esque hot-mic moment. Did Pence declare his derision for women, his refusal to hire, speak to, or interact with women? His exclusion of women from his work, his meetings, his social circles? His condescension and belittling of 50% of the world population?
Actually, it was this (brace yourself):
"In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either."Gasp...clutch...stagger! For the last 15 years, Mike Pence has chosen not to meet with women alone, and does not drink socially unless his wife is with him. Oh, snap! Mike Pence sure is...uhh...square, or something.
To grasp how senseless some of the backlash has been, consider the details of this earth-shattering statement. Pence isn't refusing to eat with women, ever. Nor to meet with women, at all. He's avoiding a fairly narrow set of circumstances: namely, being alone with women other than his wife. No part of his statement indicates women are excluded lock, stock, and barrel from meetings, meals, mentoring, hiring, and so forth.
Frankly, the Washington Post's wording is fairly specific; it doesn't leave room for a reasonable person to get the wrong impression. And yet, it seems to be acting as a kind of cultural inkblot test, leading critics of Pence to claim this as evidence of his wanton, oversexed fear of losing self-control. Or that The Vice President's conduct in this matter is actually a crime.
Pseudo-theologians from Facebook pages far and near are citing John chapter 4, claiming that Jesus wouldn't have made such a sexist, sinful, anti-spiritual choice. I guess part of the Google Theology curriculum is understanding that a spontaneous, outdoor, daytime evangelism, initiated by the Son of God, with a total stranger, in an extremely public place, is exactly the same thing as a modern married politician holding planned, semi-private dinner meetings entirely alone with a female co-worker. So...yeah.
One talking head even claimed Pence's policy as an example of rape culture. Yes, really, and she did it via a headline egregiously misrepresenting Pence's actual policy. Because — apparently — women didn't have a hard enough time as it was getting their concerns about objectification taken seriously.
The above reactions are not just silly and embarrassing. They come across as examples of the concept of "projection." This is the idea of subliminally casting one's faults onto others, as a psychological defense mechanism. The Rorschach test, defined above, is based on a vaguely-related approach: using peoples' reactions to something external as a way to gauge their personalities. The Rorschach test itself isn't thought of as very compelling today. However, the principle looks downright prophetic when social media gets ahold of Mike Pence's dinner plans.
Lacking some internal guilt over sexuality, personal control, self-esteem issues, flat-out shame, or just plain old socio-political prejudice, it's hard to explain how some of the aforementioned criticisms could have been assumed, let alone published. Sympathize with the Vice President or not, the purpose for Pence's behavior should be obvious. Even if you disagree with his method, it shouldn't be that hard to respect it, and his motivations.
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