Is Christianity Becoming More Narcissistic?


I cam across this post about a week ago: http://musingsonalimb.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/on-christian-narcissism/. I thought it was really well done.
Deanna begins this post by saying “’For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the Lord,’ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Many who attend prosperity type Christian churches are familiar with this particular verse. Some say it is a promise to the Israelites, that incidentally took another 70 years to even come close to being fulfilled. Their pastors proclaim this verse speaks to god’s desire to bless them and give them happy lives, if only they give and live right. They believe ultimately, god can heal their illnesses, provide them with wealth supernaturally, and buffer them from the trials and tribulations of life. I call this belief Christian narcissism, and it is damaging individually and societally in a number of ways.” I’ve never heard this idea called Christian narcissism before, but I think it’s a good name. I find that many of the people who hold this particular belief system see themselves as worthy of a free ride. The believe that praying makes them worthy. But they are often among those to demand that a homeless person “get a job” and to decry social welfare. This seems quite hypocritical to me.
Deanna goes on to say “First of all, this thought process places a carrot in front of people who need real, tangible life skills, but instead look to god to place them in favourable situations and shield them from unfavourable ones. There are plenty of times I recall hearing a Christian say, ‘Well, if I shouldn’t be here, god will show me.’ I’ve even made similar statements in my past as a believer. It takes away the responsibility for people to truly think through their choices and actions, and allows them to jump or not jump, because they are covered either way (provided they have paid the proper amount of tithes, prayed and fasted correctly.)” I think it’s the last bit that really gets me. It’s so common to hear statements like “I knew god was looking out for me” if something good happens to someone, but it something bad happens it’s common to hear “what did I do wrong?” or “I didn’t pray hard enough this time, but I know god’ll help me next time.” What I want to know is if god is the one responsible when good things happen, why isn’t he responsible when bad things happen? And if people are always responsible when bad things happen, why aren’t we also responsible when good things happen?
Deanna then argues that “Which is the second problem with this way of thinking. Christian narcissism creates within the church a group of haves and a group of have nots, wherein the have nots are looked at suspiciously. If god’s plan is to prosper you, why are they not prosperous? Why do they suffer from disease and aren’t cured readily? Why is something always seemingly going on with them? Perhaps they didn’t pray hard enough, or in the right ways. Maybe they should learn to pray in tongues. Maybe they aren’t giving as much as they can. There has to be something blocking their blessing because god wants us to be happy, healthy, wealthy and whole…right?” This is a very problematic way of thinking. The idea that someone could deserve bad things happening is problematic. And what kind of loving god would allow someone to suffer simply because they didn’t pray the right way?
Deanna then states that “Christian narcissists believe the above when looking at those less fortunate and it shows. They can actually be less likely to provide assistance to those in need because of the illusion that they have done something to cause their own trauma. People in dire straits are judged, sometimes subconsciously, for their situations, which makes them less likely to ask for help in the first place. Those in a position to help are also less likely to do so because they feel as though ‘I’ll pray for you’ is a substitute for real action. Again, in their view, if you pray right, or if you gather enough people to pray with and for you, things can turn around.” I’ve never really understood the belief that prayer could be enough. To be honest, even as a Christian, I never really understood prayer. But I was taught that praying wasn’t enough. To do good you actually had to do something. So it’s odd that there are people out there who’ll see a homeless person and walk by them without doing anything, then believe they’ve done good by praying for the person. I’ve even heard people take credit for the actions of others by saying “well I prayed for them, so god sent you to do his work.” Um…no, you don’t get to take credit for someone else’s action.
Deanna continues “Unfortunately, when things don’t turn around, depression abounds. Mothers and fathers who struggle year after year to take care of their families begin to believe they are doing something wrong, or are unworthy of this promised happiness. Couples begin to blame each other for not living up to the impossible standards that will finally grant them favour with god. Marriages fail as trust is eroded, replaced by suspicion as to what could possibly be blocking god’s blessings. Instead of turning to such things as education, counselling, healthy lifestyle changes and adherence to medical advice, people become convinced that they just have to pray harder and give more for some proverbial door to open for them.” This is sad. People are blamed for their own misfortune, and they are convinced to avoid seeking really help, which means that their problems grow. Nobody should be blamed for something they can’t control. And, regardless of what you believe, nobody should be told not to seek further help simply because others believe that faith should be enough. Even if faith were enough, why does that mean that finding other answers is a bad thing? It’s like saying that jogging is enough exercise, so no one should also take up swimming. That’s a silly argument.
Deanna goes on to say “Which brings me to the next problem with Christian narcissism: unrealistic goals that become bigger problems if ever achieved. I’ve seen memes along the lines of ‘god will give me a job I’m not even qualified for!’ as if this is a good thing. There are certainly times getting a job beyond your experience or educational level is a great accomplishment. The right person will take that opportunity, quickly and independently learn everything they can to be successful in that position, and flourish. Most of the time; however, it breeds frustrated individuals who have not taken an honest look at their personal skill sets. If they are afforded such a position (let’s face it, confidence sells sometimes,) then they can become the weakest link in an organization. Practically speaking, they don’t know what they are doing, which makes it harder on those with the proper ability to perform the task at hand. This is frustrating all around, especially when the narcissist feels as though god gave them the job. Regardless of coaching, that attitude will permeate and poison business relationships quickly. If and when this person is terminated, demoted, or otherwise called on their inability to work properly, it becomes a huge indignation because this is the job god gave them and they believed he would supernaturally provide all the tools necessary to excel.” I’ve seen this meme too. I thought it was quite silly. University graduates struggle to find jobs that they are over qualified for, so the idea of an under qualified person getting a job seems like a delusion to me. But it does happen. I agree that it’s not really something to be proud of. And the idea that getting the job means that the right skills will magically manifest in you is even scarier. Jobs take work. If you don’t want to put in the work, why are you applying for the job?
Deanna concludes “Finally, Christian narcissism is just rude. How can a person dance around, shouting about how good god has been to them, when so many people are hurting around the world? What makes it ok to praise god for your new car, when a single mother down the street walks 2 miles daily just to get to the job that doesn’t pay enough. Why do people become so wrapped up in themselves that they pray to god for a good parking space to go out to dinner, when millions starve daily? Even when I was a Christian, these things bothered me immensely. Now I see the combination of Christianity and narcissism, as outlined briefly, creates people who are able to see others who are hurting, shrug it off, and pray for the next thing on their wish list.” I think a lot of this attitude comes from the individualism of western culture. We tend to view ourselves as separate from society as a whole. We also have the silly notion of the self-made man. We’re taught by society that if you fail it’s your fault, and if you succeed it’s your own doing. We ignore the fact that we live with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people around us, and they do affect our lives. So it becomes easy to view ourselves as worthy of that good parking space while others struggle to feed themselves and their families.
Check out Deanna’s blog by clicking the link above.

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6 responses to “Is Christianity Becoming More Narcissistic?

  • Your Moderate Mama

    I agree with so much of this analysis of the issues with Christian being narcissistic. I call what they believe “the prosperity gospel”, The idea that God is going to hand you everything due to the fact that you pray of it or work for it, goes directly against what the Bible states about prayer.

    I don’t understand how Christians, at this point in history, think God has only happy things (in the worlds standards) for them. We are promised that God will not leave us and that we will suffer. Plus, if a Christian would just look at the ways the disciples lived and lost their lives one would logically think they were loved by God yet they did not live in what we would call material happiness. There lives would be viewed as “unblessed” and “unworthy” by the standards of the Christians the author writes about. Their joy came from the Lord, not from what the world offers. One situation, seemingly good or bad, has nothing to do with God loving them more or less. I know people who the materially so-called blessings of the world are wrecking their lives and marriages!!! I also know people who you would never know are wealthy because they don’t use the money on themselves… they view their money as God’s and use it to help others.

    What saddens me the most is the truth written about Christians lacking action when it come to helping those in need. The Bible tells us that if we see someone in need and don’t assist them we are not showing the love we have received. The only reason I assume my husband brings home more money then my family needs is because God wants it to be used to help others… to serve… to love!!

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  • raffine

    The connection between poverty and immorality (and absence of salvation) was discussed by Max Weber in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” (originally published in 1905 or so). In contrast, economic success was taken as a sign of salvation for Puritans faced with the inhumane Calvinist doctrine of predestination.

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  • RSampson

    Reblogged this on Tobin Peace.

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  • Bob

    The depression of Christmas…jobs or lack of, money, politics, family, gifts, giving, love,friendship and yes prayer can and does help. In God’s time and way, not ours.

    God Bless and have a very Merry Christmas!

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    • clubschadenfreude

      “In God’s time” ? So if someone prays to have enough to eat, and then they starve, was God just late? What will the excuse be? For a claim that prayer helps, we have no evidence of this and we do have a lot of evidence prayer never works. As the OP notes, it takes a certain amount of ignorant arrogance and narcissism to claim that prayers work when they don’t.

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      • hessianwithteeth

        Or a lot of faith, but Bob. If you want to give us a few substantiated papers on the effectiveness of pray please do. I’ve read a few and I’ve not come across one with significant value in prayers favor. I could be swayed, but impassioned claims are not strong evidence, particularly not on this blog.

        Liked by 1 person

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