Studying the similarities between Donald Trump and some evangelical preachers who manage to deceive thousands for years, I came across an article by Donald Miller on How to Spot a Manipulative Church Leader that rang more than a few bells:
Donald Miller - This pastor got rid of the accountability. He drove off any elder who wouldn’t submit, once again, quoting scripture and spinning the Bible so that those questioning his motives looked like infidels. He even said he felt justified using violence against them, simply because they refused to trust the leader God had appointed.
What made the situation so difficult is that the church in fact grew. His off-color sense of humor seemed relevant and even worldly while his knowledge of Scripture gave the congregation a sense of security. In fact, I’d say a sense of security is the main reason people were drawn to the church.
• • •
Don Riso and Russ Hudson, perhaps the worlds leading experts on the enneagram, talk about controlling, bully-personalities as being secretly afraid. Many of them had been molested as children and subconsciously believe people are out to get them. Determined to never be molested again, they make themselves big, try to sound tough, try to intimidate people and will never allow themselves to be vulnerable. They insist that anybody close to them be submissive and will lie and cheat to protect themselves and their empire, all the while posing as a righteous hero. When extremely unhealthy, controlling personalities are stressed, they get great relief and a feeling of power by dominating others, even sexually. It is thought that many Priests who have molested young boys did not have a purely sexual motive, but took comfort in dominating young men to gain a sense of security and power, all the while acting as a shepherd in the church.
What happens under the spell of a master manipulator is people unknowingly submit their sense of security to somebody else. They relinquish the responsibility God has given them to govern their own lives to a powerful figure who says to them “look, just do what I say and you’ll be fine.”
What they don’t realize is the extremely insecure manipulator is gaining security from controlling people, not from protecting them. Being wounded himself, he only wants to surround himself by those who are weak and who will not question him. He subconsciously considers this his layer of armor. The manipulated masses are his protection against outside intruders.
The church, then, became a revolving door. More than half the people who visited smelled him out and went away, and the pastor didn’t mind this at all. He only wanted the submissive, those who would allow him, using scripture, to guide and command every aspect of their lives. He even posted the names of tithing and non-tithing members in the lobby. Those who disagreed with him were written up as insubordinates to God in letters sent to the entire congregation, humiliating them and running them off for good. He even went as far as to threaten lawsuits.
And yet, as said previously, the church grew, filled with submissive people. The more intuitive walked away rolling their eyes.