Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. A person who is judgmental will accuse others of being judgmental. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to listen carefully to the things we criticize about others because we may also be prone to those errors.
Sometimes in the things that I hear from people at church about how they perceive God, it seems that God is conditional in his ability to love others. There seems to be an underlying fear that if we aren’t perfect, God will reject us. And “perfect” usually means outwardly conforming to the group’s norms, not the actual contents of one’s heart which can’t really be seen by fellow members. Instead it’s things like what you wear, the things you say, etc. This tendency ignores the universality of the atonement and turns Jesus into one of the Mean Girls from Tina Fey’s hit comedy from a decade ago. In reality, it’s a human tendency to behave like the Mean Girls: cliquish, competitive, and well . . . mean.
One of my favorite Stake Presidents took our stake to task over this tendency among the members. He talked about visiting with some of the less active members in our stake, and a few had expressed feeling hurt and rejected because they smoked and people at church would wrinkle their noses and look down on them when they came. Or they had a child out of wedlock. Or they didn’t serve a mission. Or they didn’t feel they had anything nice to wear. Visible differences are so easy to pinpoint. Our stake president told us very forcefully that he would place ashtrays at every entrance of the stake center to get the message across that everyone was welcome if that’s what it took. He talked about being a surf bum as a teen, someone whose parents didn’t attend church, and how a local leader took him under his wing and made sure he felt welcome even though he as a youth didn’t look the part and didn’t act the part.
I’ve heard comments all over the place about how people feel they won’t be accepted by their wards, by their families, or even by God, if they don’t meet some superficial characteristic that is the norm.
And thus, the Mean Girls Jesus meme came about. When people are imbuing Jesus with suspect qualities that sound more like human failings, just remember how ridiculous Mean Girls Jesus sounds.
What philosophies of Mean Girls mingled with scripture do you hear at church? Discuss.
 Not that we should become wanton hedonists. But we are all sinners. Some sins just get a pass at church.