DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR…. It was fairly amusing earlier this week when Glenn Beck told his radio audience that God is communicating with him directly and giving him “a plan … that is not really a plan.” As Beck explained it, “What He is asking us to do is to stand peacefully, quietly with anger, loudly with truth.”

As a rule, when strange men with a history of substance abuse start claiming that they’re passing along messages from above, it’s a strong hint that the audience might want to change the channel. What’s that old joke? “When you talk to God, it’s prayer; when God talks to you, it’s schizophrenia”?

Nevertheless, it was even more striking to hear Beck go a little further today.

“We are entering a dark, dark period of man. Um, I was, um, I was in the Vatican, and I was surprised that the individual I was speaking to knew who I was. And they said: ‘Of course we know who you are. What you’re doing is wildly important. We’re entering a period of great darkness, and if good people don’t stand up, we could enter a period unlike we have seen in a very long time.’”

Ben Dimiero summarized this nicely:

Of course, Beck doesn’t clarify whether the “individual” he talked to was a Vatican official or a tourist from Omaha, but the impression he wants to give his listeners is clear: the Vatican itself has identified Beck as “wildly important” in the coming “dark, dark period of man.”

You may see the ongoing debate in our country about health care reform, financial reform, and a variety of other issues in terms of how they will affect our policy decisions. Glenn Beck envisions things on a slightly larger scale – with himself at the center of it all.

Two things. First, given the support the Roman Catholic church has shown for social justice — a concept Beck believes is “code” for Marxism — I’m not sure why he would consider the Vatican a source for wisdom anyway. Just last month Beck implored his minions to “run as fast as you can” away from churches that value social justice. So, why’d he go to the Vatican in the first place?

And second, I know the phrase “delusions of grandeur” gets thrown around casually sometimes, but when someone who claims to receive messages from God, and characterizes himself as “wildly important” in some kind of global scenario to prevent a dark period for humanity, doesn’t the phrase take on a more literal, clinical meaning?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.