The Charlatans Will Always Be With You

The Charlatans Will Always Be With You November 13, 2023

Charlatans are usually a minor problem for churches. However, if you fall prey to any, they can be a major problem for you. If you are a pastor who must deal with one, it may be best to move on if you lack stamina. There are those people who claim all religious leaders are posers and con-artists. Such generalizations are for the intellectually lazy. Determining whether a person is a charlatan can be difficult. How do you tell the difference between delusion and fabrication? Is intent the real issue? I argue exposing the liar is easier than exposing the deluded.

Neo-Pagan Oracles

Here is the best example of the dilemma. Is an oracle or fortune-teller a charlatan or deluded? Consider when a person suddenly sets up shop in this cottage industry. What do you make of a person who recently discovers the pagan revival and then starts card readings for a fee? I am sure some are deluded. These people have the zeal of the new convert. Others, though, have to know that some preparation, training, or practice is involved to carryout the spiritual guidance they wish to perform. Knowing this and ignoring it is the mark of a charlatan.

Prophetic Charlatans

So-called experts on end-times prophecy may begin as deluded people. But they do not admit mistakes after their predictions prove false. If their egos do not allow for that, then they are charlatans. It is curious how many people continue falling for it. At the time of this writing Israel is at war with Hamas. Several people are taking to social media warning the rest of us to prepare for the rapture and tribulation. I know some of these people. A lot of them do not bother with church, but are somehow experts on the end-times. The hypocrisy of charlatans is evident.

Christian Nationalists

I do not need to say much here about this problem for the churches. I will quote Samuel Johnson though, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Many Christian nationalists fit this description.

Charlatans As Doctrinal Purists

A recent ad made me laugh. A Christian Nationalist preacher known for bludgeoning barbie dream homes among other things is engaging in a debate with someone claiming the planet Earth is flat. “The Biblical Truth” will be revealed. “Scientific creationists,” flat-earthers, and others like them enjoy being experts on “biblical truths” that everyone must believe to be “true Christians.” These people will argue over such nonsense as whether the bottom of Noah’s Ark was round or flat. ESPN is running ads for the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Obviously, the money made is enough to show these spots in sports broadcasting.

Deliverance from Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Faith healing has a long history. Since the Bible describes miraculous healing, many people claim they can do it too. The worst cases sell addicts on the idea they will be delivered from the demon of addiction. Ignorance about addiction including belief in addiction as a moral failure contributes to this. Other addiction specialist charlatans believe they know the best spiritual methods to overcoming addiction.

The truth is, once chemically dependent people are medically detoxed, they merely need a strategy to avoid using or drinking again. One may use the 12 steps, counseling, or even develop their methods themselves. Abstinence is the best method for most people to avoid becoming chemically dependent again.

Why People Fall For Charlatans

  1. The charlatan is very charismatic individual who appeals to our narcissistic tendencies.
  2. Charlatans use the idea of sacrifice making people believe there is a monetary cost to achieving their goals. “It takes money to make money.”
  3. Stories of drastic conversions (i.e. I found God behind prison walls) appeal to people’s desire to find happy endings in life.
  4. Believing gives one a sense of identity.

These are just a few of many reasons people fall for charlatans. I borrowed from Jesus’ statement, “The poor you will always have with you.” Charlatanism is manipulation. But it is often manipulation of those who are willing to be manipulated for some social reason. It is hard to help people overcome it because no one likes to believe they have been foolish. Here again the questions may be asked. Were the people deluded? Or were they trading in lies for their own gain? Answering these questions are key to the risk of exposing charlatans.

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