The Christian Right’s Ease With Lies And Dishonesty

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 14:33 EDT
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Why are people who claim to own morality so damn immoral?

What is it about the war on reproductive rights that causes conservatives to think they get to lie even more flagrantly than usual? By “flagrant”,  I mean lies that are so obviously lies that even the people that most want to believe them have to know they are lies. What struck me about the whole situation with Dr. Bryan Calhoun, who appears to be straight up lying with his claim to see patients “weekly” who need E.R. treatment after getting abortions in legal West Virginia clinics, is how obnoxious and obvious he’s being. Anyone who knows anything about abortion could immediately tell that this just isn’t true. The way that abortion is performed is so simple and safe that even the most dangerous, unsafe clinics that flout basic regulations that apply to all clinics wouldn’t be seeing weekly emergencies. If he wanted to lie, it would have been smarter to say “monthly” or go even more vague with “periodically”. Busting out “weekly” suggests a man who doesn’t even care if you know he’s lying.

Similarly, Pat Robertson is busting out a “fuck you” level of lie with this one:

During Tuesday’s edition of The 700 Club, Robertson highlighted a former Indiana Planned Parenthood nurse who accused the organization of existing “for no other reason than to kill unborn babies.”

“Planned Parenthood is enormously rich,” he opined. “And some of these individual chapters may have as much as a billion dollars in cash on hand. They are getting right now from the federal government — it’s in the budget — $550 million a year. Taxpayer money to go into that abortion mill.”

The notion that any random Planned Parenthood clinic is sitting on a billion dollars is so laughable that there’s no way that even his extremely stupid audience would believe it. One can sort of see how anti-choicers all for the trap of thinking that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit, is only about abortion or is a profit-driven enterprise. I mean, you have to be terminally stupid, but there are terminally stupid people out there. Hardcore anti-choicers clearly have very dim, paranoid ideas about sex and reproductive health care, so I get it. But the notion that humble little Planned Parenthood clinics are secret vaults full of cash obtained by, I don’t know, robbing fetuses or something is just beyond even the stupidest person’s ability to believe.

This is just one of those things that is super fascinating about the Christian right, which is that they have this deep-to-the-core disrespect for the truth that manifests in telling really obvious fairy tales and fantasies. The pleasure derived from demonizing abortion providers or Planned Parenthood outstrips any concerns about the immorality of lying about people, but it also outstrips any concerns about people realizing you’re a sleazy, no-good liar. Robertston and Calhoun don’t worry about being caught in flagrant lies, because their own people will never hold them accountable for it. There’s just a broad understanding in the religious right that you can’t take people’s claims about things like abortion providers literally, even though they still demand that political action be taken as if their fantasies were literal truths. But Dr. Calhoun is now facing demands that he be reviewed by the medical board, so hopefully the real world will interrupt the self-satisfied habit of just saying whatever you wish were true, no matter how obviously false it is.

I think the problem is that because they’ve convinced themselves they’re the only moral people left in the country, they, perversely, feel entitled to do any immoral thing they want without consequence. “Morality” is a tribal identity issue, in other words, and not a result of your actual behavior. They’re convinced they’re good and pro-choicers are bad, and so that means that everything they do is good and everything we do is bad, even if they’re lying and we’re telling the truth.

To be fair, this kind of tribalism pops up in all sorts of corners. But most of the time, the “fuck the truth” mentality isn’t dominant in a group.  Sure, you have examples of, say, feminists shrugging of intellectual honesty in pursuit of their identity of self-righteous indignation, but they are hardly the majority of feminists and they are subject to extensive criticism from other feminists. With the religious right, however, the tendency to put fantasy in front of fact is the dominant cultural imperative. Conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood are the norm. Entire laws are being passed based on the lie that legal abortion is dangerous. For other interest groups, being a bunch of dishonest hacks is a legitimate obstacle, and understandably so! It’s interesting how much the Christian right is an exception. Theories about why that is welcome in comments!

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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