The chance to stand on an elevated platform and deliver truth to parishioners beneath him appeals deeply to the Know-It-All Narcissist. He thrives on the feeling of power and control he exercises as a result of what he (supposedly) knows. When charismatic, the narcissist in the pulpit often promotes a cult like atmosphere within his congregation.Joseph Burgo, The Narcissist You Know, Page 149
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another End Times post.
Narcissist. That word is very popular these days, too popular. People are so quick to throw that word around that many no longer understand what it even means. If they ever understood at all. It’s important to know who really is a narcissist and who isn’t. Who’s being ridden by the evil and manipulative Jezebel spirit, and who simply needs to practice the Virtue of Humility??
We can’t deny we live in a narcissistic world and there are narcissists all over, including in the church. The Jezebel spirit really does ride people, including Christians in leadership positions. Such Spiritual narcissists are dangerous if they get into a position of leadership. They can mislead their entire congregation. They’re deadly false teachers.
The New Testament warns us over and over about the appearance of such people in the End Times. And I’m not only talking about false teachers, but also narcissists. People who are lovers of themselves and entirely self absorbed. We can find various New Testament verses warning of this narcissist situation in the End Times. So for many people the rise of narcissism we see today (although I say Western society itself has been narcissistic for a very long time already) is one more sign of the End Times, as if we even needed another one.
But I’m not here today to talk about narcissists in general. Let’s talk about the Spiritual narcissist. The person with a Jezebel spirit who rises to power in a church and takes over. The person who’s obsessed with power and control and manipulates others to get what they want at any cost. The cult leader type, the person who exploits their following for their own gain. And more often than not, the person who lives a secret (or not so secret) life of immorality while preaching purity.
This kind of narcissist is very dangerous, deadly for a church. The New Testament warns us to be on the lookout for them. So to help do that, today I share an excerpt from an excellent book I’m reading right now about narcissists. And that book is called The Narcissist You Know, by Joseph Burgo. Let’s see what kind of wisdom a secular expert on narcissism has to offer.
What Is a Spiritual Narcissist??
The Narcissist You Know, by Joseph Burgo is an easy to read book all about narcissists. Each chapter profiles a different type of narcissist, and it’s very interesting. I definitely recommend this book if narcissism is something that interests you.
One chapter is about a type of narcissist Burgo calls the “Know-It-All Narcissist.” This is the kind of person who pretends to have knowledge of every single subject under the sun and loves to tell you everything they know, or loves to tell you that you’re wrong. This is the kind of person who likes to show off—needs to show off—in the realm of intelligence. Have you ever met someone like this?? They’re very obnoxious.
But this kind of narcissist doesn’t always use intelligence to show off and feel superior. Sometimes they present themselves as highly spiritual and enlightened. They present themselves as having special knowledge that puts them above all other seekers. Many narcissistic people like this appear in the New Age movement. When they appear in New Age they present themselves as having special knowledge and insight.
But they also appear in Christianity. And when they appear in Christianity, they present themselves as people who have a special relationship with God (such as claiming to be a prophet, etc.) or people with some special insight into the Bible and how to be Christian. They present themselves as “super Christians,” people who have the closest connection imaginable with God and an almost supernatural ability to be a great Christian.
Joseph Burgo explained that this outward presentation, this external image, is a central part of the narcissist’s strategy. But beneath that external image is a narcissist.
The Know-It-All Narcissist doesn’t always come across as self-important or pretentious. Especially if he happens to be a charismatic individual, he may instead convince his audience that he actually does possess special knowledge that makes him superior. Religious or spiritual leaders, physicians, and teachers may at first appear to be reliable guides rather than narcissists.Joseph Burgo, The Narcissist You Know, Page 147
Narcissists crave power and control. So does the Jezebel spirit, the spirit that rides the Spiritual narcissist. If a Spiritual narcissist can gain control over a church, then they have plenty of the power they crave. But Joseph Burgo explains that there’s another thing that drives the Spiritual narcissist.
The Spiritual narcissist, whether they follow Christianity or another faith, wants to appear enlightened. They put on an external appearance of having the most Spiritual knowledge in the faith. They present an image of having a deeper connection to God in the case of Christianity, or the false god demonic entity in the case of other faiths. They like the idea of standing on an elevated platform (pulpit) above their flock, who sit below them for having less knowledge than the narcissist. At least in the mind of the narcissist this is the case.
Bottom line, the Spiritual narcissist wants to be seen as superior and enlightened. And they want to be admired for this superiority. They also want the control and power over their congregation that (in their mind) must rightfully come with this superiority they believe themselves to have. Joseph Burgo explains:
Ministers, preachers, rabbis, and other religious figures may also exploit their congregations in a similar way. In theory, it is having special access to spiritual truth that qualifies one for the ministry, drawing those who have a genuine calling, but it also appeals to Know-It-All Narcissists who want to be seen as superior and enlightened. The chance to stand on an elevated platform and deliver truth to parishioners beneath him appeals deeply to the Know-It-All Narcissist. He thrives on the feeling of power and control he exercises as a result of what he (supposedly) knows. When charismatic, the narcissist in the pulpit often promotes a cult like atmosphere within his congregation.Joseph Burgo, The Narcissist You Know, Page 149
The visual motif of above and below, upper and lower, is one that appears many times in this chapter of the book. The Narcissist You Know explains that narcissists see the world divided into winners and losers only. But the spiritual narcissist, a sub-type of the know-it-all narcissist, sees the world with him on top and everyone else below him.
A good leader—especially a Faith leader—must Love, respect, honor, and guide their congregation. They should have the attitude of Humble Servants, ready to attend to the Spiritual needs of their people. Church leaders have a very important role to play, and we need to have good leaders who are ready to fill that role with the correct attitude. Unfortunately, people with the wrong attitude or even people with a manipulative Jezebel spirit can and do rise to the top in a church.
If a narcissist gains a position of leadership in a church, they can manipulate and control the entire congregation. And if they reach this level, they can easily exploit their followers for their own gain. We’ve seen this situation play out many times in the past; the distant past, the recent past, and even today.
Over the last several decades, a number of charismatic televangelists have built enormous cult followings only to be exposed as liars and Extreme Narcissists who ruthlessly exploited their congregations for personal gain. Robert Tilton and Jim Bakker both fell from grace once their apparent godliness was revealed to be a fraud. While purporting to offer enlightenment, these men actually bilked their followers of millions of dollars in orders to support their own lavish (and immoral) lifestyles.Joseph Burgo, The Narcissist You Know, Page 149
As we can see, nothing good can ever come from a Spiritual narcissist reaching a position of leadership. But is there anything that can be done to stop this from happening?? Can we stop the Spiritual narcissist before they harm the Spiritual health of an entire community??
Sure. Let’s hear from Joseph Burgo first. And then let’s consider some Biblical truths and how they apply to this situation.
If You See Bad Fruits … Say Something!!
At the end of every chapter, Burgo gives advice on how to deal with the kind of narcissistic in that chapter. Here’s what he had to say about the Spiritual narcissist sub-type of the know-it-all narcissist:
As priest, therapist, or guru, the Know-It-All Narcissist presents a more dangerous threat and a greater challenge because we’re predisposed to believe in him. Coping with this type of narcissist involves staying awake, so to speak, and continuing to think for yourself. Of course it’s beguiling to believe that someone else has the answers. Finding one’s way in life is a challenge for all of us. Bearing emotional confusion and spiritual doubts can be a painful experience; you may therefore feel eager to entrust yourself to a therapist or guru who will light the way forward. Without quite acknowledging it to yourself, you may long to relinquish authority for your own life to someone who appears to have the answers.
Remain skeptical. When you notice behaviors that seem inconsistent with the role of spiritual or psychological guide, don’t rationalize them away. Don’t let your predisposition to defer to authority cloud your judgment. Coping with this type of Extreme Narcissist once again means turning inward and knowing yourself well. Many of us long to be saved, to believe someone else has profound insight and can tell us the answers; but in the end, we still have to think for ourselves.Joseph Burgo, The Narcissist You Know, Page 158
As reasonable and true as this is, it’s still a secular viewpoint from a secular psychologist.** Nowhere in this paragraph does he say anything about going to God in prayer for guidance. But he still gives wise advice. By involving the Bible and God, we can make this into appropriate Spiritual advice for a Christian.
**(That doesn’t mean Joseph Burgo doesn’t have any Faith; there’s no way to tell that from this book. All we can know for sure is that he did not write this book from a spiritual perspective, but rather a secular one.)
How can we deal with the spiritual narcissist in our church or community?? By standing firm in the Word of God. By taking all our questions to God in prayer rather than relying on the wisdom of humans. We can listen to wise people, but our final arbiter must be the Lord. As far as looking to people to Save us, we know only Jesus Saves. Jesus, and no one else.
For that matter, we must remember to never make gods out of people. No one should ever be idolized, we must always remember that Jesus is at the center of everything. Jesus is the reason we come together at church, not a charismatic pastor. Idolizing people and making gods out of them is exactly how these cults of personality form. And when those cults of personality form, it creates a situation where Spiritual narcissists can prey on who they want in the congregation. The recent posts I’ve made on Christian leaders committing sexual immorality show the consequences of the wrong people getting into high positions.
We can never let Spiritual narcissists—people being ridden by the Jezebel spirit—get away with what they do. We have to speak out against their misconduct, especially their sexual misconduct. If we see something, we have to report it, we have to make it known. We have to stop it, challenge it. We must never tolerate immorality from our leaders, most especially sexual immorality. When things like this get swept under the rug, the spiritual narcissist—the person with the Jezebel spirit—is emboldened and enabled. Ignoring their actions allows them to continue wreaking havoc in the church and creating victims.
People with a Jezebel spirit on them—Spiritual narcissists—are indeed extremely dangerous, as Joseph Burgo says. They have to be checked, challenged, contained, and finally converted and brought back to Christ. If the manipulative and deceitful actions they do to gain control in a church are tolerated, they will ruin that church and its ministry if no one stops them.
We can still love our enemies, we can still have compassion and sympathy for these wounded people. They can still be brought to Christ, they can still accept Jesus and the salvation he offers. But these things must only be attempted after they have been challenged on their behavior and stopped. After their manipulative influence has been checked and contained.
Be on the lookout for the Spiritual narcissist. The New Testament has many things to say about these wolves in sheep’s clothing, these false teachers. And we know that such people will be all over the place in the End Times, including in the church. But we can always know a person by their fruits, like the Savior taught us. And a person’s fruits are their actions. What a person does tells us almost everything we need to know about who they really are.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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