Globe-trotting minister has performed 6,000 exorcisms in 20 years
The Rev. Bob Larson has been kicked, bruised, choked, and spit upon. His ribs have been broken, he has been scratched and bitten, and he’s received death threats.
But Mr. Larson has not been deterred from his calling, which is casting out demons and helping people get back on the road to healing.
“I am ‘The Exorcist,’ ” he says frankly, his coal-dark eyes unflinching.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon at the Clarion Westgate Hotel, where he was the guest preacher at that evening’s service for Oasis Christian Fellowship, Mr. Larson said he discovered his gift for exorcism about 20 years ago.
“The way I got started, people would come up to me for help and would be talking about their problems, and in the middle of the conversation, a voice would take over that was not them, and it would talk to me,” Mr. Larson said. “People were being drawn to me, and I realized this was my calling from God. And I jumped in with both feet.”
Mr. Larson said most people – including ministers – have the wrong impression of fallen angels and exorcisms, partly because of the “rather bizarre picture” portrayed in Hollywood and because of a general lack of understanding of the supernatural.
“The church is to blame for failing to embrace, recognize, and allow exorcisms to take place,” said Mr. Larson, ordained by a nondenominational Christian church.
Generally speaking, Protestant churches avoid dealing with issues of demon possession and oppression, he said, but the Roman Catholic Church trains clergy on ways to perform exorcisms.
In December, Mr. Larson met at the Vatican with the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the Catholic Church’s foremost expert on exorcism. According to Mr. Larson, Father Amorth told him: “We are doing the same mission for our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Rev. James Bacik, Catholic theologian and pastor of Toledo’s Corpus Christi University Parish, said “the biblical background for exorcism is Jesus, who functions as an exorcist, especially in the Gospel of Mark where he casts out unclean spirits and liberates people from the domination of demonic forces.”
It is significant, Father Bacik added, that “Jesus is more powerful than any of the demons.”
The Catholic Church recognizes two types of exorcism. One is performed at every baptism when the priest recognizes the power of Satan, anoints the person with oil, and prays for protection over the power of evil. The second is the kind that Mr. Larson typically conducts, casting evil spirits out of a person. But the person must first undergo physical and psychological tests before a priest will perform the rite of exorcism, Father Bacik said.
Mr. Larson said the influence of demons varies according to location, with some parts of the United States and certain countries having more demonic activity than others.
“I’ve never had a problem finding demons in the Pacific Northwest, for example, because it has been such a non-church, non-religious area. Demons are more free to operate,” he said. “Ironically, the other place is the Bible Belt. The devil is where he’s not expected to be. It’s what happens when people have too much religion and not enough spirituality.”
There is a finite number of demons in the world because God created a set number of angels, he said. The evil spirits are those who followed Lucifer when he rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven.
But demons are becoming more active, Mr. Larson said, as seen in the increased incidents of violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse, and criminal behavior among Americans today.
“There has been exponential growth of demonic activity today than when I started 30 years ago,” he said. “It’s rampant.”
When he is conducting a spiritual freedom service, Mr. Larson said he gets “in a zone” with God’s anointing. He carries his Bible and uses it as a weapon against the demons.
Mr. Larson, whose motto is “DWJD: Do What Jesus Did,” has studied Jesus’ examples in the Bible, which is why he always asks the demon its name.
That’s what Jesus did in Mark 5:9, when he cast a “legion” of demons out of a Gerasene man.
“He did that because he was teaching us,” Mr. Larson said. “He already knew the demon’s name. He’s God!”
It is essential to know what you’re up against, he said, just as any military leader should know the size and power of the enemy forces.
There are demons of murder and violence, who torment people with such thoughts even if they never actually commit such acts, but the worst spirits the ones that play “head games,” Mr. Larson said.
“There are demons with mental powers, and demons with physical powers. But the most dangerous demons are mind demons. They’re mentally crafty. There’s a spiritual strategy involved.”
Most people who are demon possessed have a dissociative psychological condition in which their mind compartmentalizes their behavior, he said. In some cases, the person does not even know what they were doing while under demonic control.
“It’s astounding how distinct the personalities can be,” Mr. Larson said.
Mr. Larson has spent the last six years setting up teams around the country who can perform exorcisms and spiritual healings. He has trained 100 teams thus far, including the Toledo team at Oasis Christian Fellowship led by the Rev. Louis C. Roy.
The Exorcist is looking to build a national training center in Phoenix at a cost of around $1.2 million.
Mr. Larson said he feels blessed to be doing what he is doing and “I would not trade places with anybody in the world.”
“We’re all getting shot at by the devil,” he said. “I’m the guy who knows where the bullets are coming from.”
Feb. 11, 2006
David Yonke, Religion Editor