Sunday, February 16, 2014

Megalomania in the American clergy

This morning, I turned on the TV and it was set to a channel that I did not recognize. At the center of the stage, a charismatic speaker was entertaining a large audience who were fully captivated by his message. Their responses shifted from wild applause to unrestrained laughter and I initially presumed that the speaker must have been a comedian.

As he continued to talk about God, it seemed that he was merely be facetious and poking satire at the religious fundamentalists. To the best of my recollections, his story could be summarized along the following lines.

"My wife and I were driving at night on an empty interstate in Texas and she urged me to slow down or else I'd get a ticket. I retorted that there was nobody on the roads at this hour, so there was no danger in driving fast and there would be no policeman to discipline us. Then suddenly, I saw lights flashing behind us and I pulled over. As the cop approached our car, my wife anxiously began looking through the glove compartment to find our proof of insurance and registration. The already vexed officer was becoming increasingly impatient, but suddenly God's grace shone through! My wife found our first wedding ring in the glove compartment that she couldn't find for three years! And suddenly, the police officer recognized me and asked me if I was that famous pastor he saw on TV. I responded with a nod and he inquired if I'd save him a spot at my next sermon and he left immediately when I told him that I'd save him the whole section!"

Wild applause erupted in the audience and the lecturer seized the moment to provide his own interpretation of this event. "You see, God works in mysterious ways!" He elaborated as the audience cheered enthusiastically. "Everything in your life is strategically ordained and if it wasn't for that police officer, we would have never found that ring. If I wasn't God's servant with a large following at my Church, he would not have let us off with a warning".

I could not refrain from laughing and the comedian appeared to be an outstanding job ridiculing televangelists with delusions of grandeur. After all, I thought, how could this guy possible be serious!? There is no way any reasonable person can honestly believe that God "strategically ordained" the circumstances of his life to turn him into a popular preacher so police officers do not give him tickets. Even by the standards of public figures such as movie stars and politicians, it takes a megalomaniac of stupendous proportions to even entertain so preposterous of a notion that God purposefully put a police officer on the streets of rural Texas JUST SO he can find the ring that he lost three years ago.

To my astonishment, the speaker then promoted his book "Fearless" which he promoted with even fiercer missionary zeal than his faith. Despite his cheery demeanor and the wild applause from the audience, it turned out that the speaker was not a comedian but a popular pastor, John Fischer.

The hubris of televangelists knows no boundaries and their self-centered thinking habits never cease to confound me. The famous Oxford Psychologist Kevin Dutton cited several studies showing that similarly to politicians lawyers and CEOs, psychopaths and narcissists are quite common among the religious leaders. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!

Never-mind that our most popular televangelists live in mansions, drive luxury sedans and preach in opulent Churches when thousands of people live in poverty just miles away from where they preach. Forget about the allegations that Paul Robertson was involved in the smuggling racket of the Congolese blood diamonds .

Just try listening to the messages of these self-centered demagogues and judge their character on that basis. Keep an open-mind and see if in all honesty, you can see these individuals as anything but raging megalomaniacs.

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