Narcissistic Preaching Disorder

My father grew up southern Baptist, therefore I grew up Episcopalian. There are a lot of reasons my father fled his boyhood church, but one thing he always harped on was the level of control that preachers have over their congregations. If the people aren’t careful, each preacher can become a pope.

Things become toxic when the preacher becomes more concerned with his own authority than in running the church. The Church Law Campaign put out a list of symptoms for how to recognize when a preacher has sunk into narcissism, and is likely to do harm. Here are the top ten:

1. Self-centered. His needs are paramount and take precedence over the church
2. No remorse for mistakes or misdeeds. Will not offer heartfelt apologies or ask for forgiveness.
3. Unreliable and undependable. Will change his mind and reverse decisions at will
4. Does not care about the consequences of his actions—may not even understand the connection
5. Projects his faults on to others. High blaming behavior; never his fault
6. Little if any conscience. Will do most anything he thinks will not be discovered. May ask staff to fudge the books.
7. Insensitive to needs and feelings of others
8. Has a good front (persona) to impress and exploit others
9. Low stress tolerance. Easy to provoke into anger
10. People are to be manipulated for his needs, accomplishing his desires

(via Stuff Christian Culture Likes)

What’s odd to me is how often these get spotted in protestant churches. How is it that a faith that broke away from the mother church, in part because of the abuse of power and corruption, could turn around and allow such abuse again? And how can evangelicals, who generally emphasis the priesthood of all believers, place people above themselves with this kind of power?

  • jtperkin

    Once someone is in power, their primary concern becomes staying in power. What struck me was how many of those are identical to the behaviors of two-year-olds. Except toddlers aren’t as intentional about it.

    • mikespeir

      Yep. And it’s good to note that the ones who get into power are usually there because they’re the kind who lust after power. Sadly, that doesn’t just apply to religion. :-(

  • mikespeir

    I give a lot of credit for the rise of individualism in the West to the Protestant Reformation. On the other hand, individualism manifests itself in Protestant churches such that there is usually less of an authoritarian structure to keep this kind of narcissism in check. Instead of a single Pope as prima donna, there’s more opportunity for each preacher with any charisma at all to gain an independent following.

    • ZenDruid

      There’s little enough quality control to weed out people like that among the Catholics, but for the protestant sects, any obnoxious beggar waving a bible can make the grade.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    This list is not just applicable to churches. Political groups and even atheist groups would do well to watch for any of these indicators.

  • geohump

    This is the list of properties of a Sociopath.

    • The Other Weirdo

      THat’s what I was going to say, but you beat me to it by 21 hours.

  • S Cruise

    I honestly think religion and politics attract people like that. I also think religion, to some extent, was invented by people with the same or similar mindset.

  • Phyllis Copeland

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Religion is built on blind faith and emphasizes trusting without question the authority your god has placed on Earth to guide you – it’s the most fertile soil for growing con men and tyrants!


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