Demon ‘deliverance’ in Big D: ‘The Exorcists Next Door’

A burp or a yawn? Either might signal an exiting demon.

So say Larry and Marion Pollard, the subjects of a 4,400-word D Magazine profile with the provocative title “The Exorcists Next Door.”

When Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher proclaimed the piece a must-read, we knew we needed to check it out.

Let’s start at the top:

The trees and rolling hills lend a warm, suburban vibe to Marion and Larry Pollard’s West Arlington neighborhood. Shouts of children from a nearby elementary school waft in on waves of heat as you step inside the foyer of their comfortable ranch home, where you’re surrounded by portraits of the grandkids—eight of them, ranging in age from 5 to 22.

To the right is the Pollards’ office, looking like any pastor’s study, with a desk, a trio of chairs, and bookshelves lined with Bible commentaries. A box of tissues sits discreetly beside one chair. A football-sized terrier named Bella bounces in and nestles behind you when you take a seat.

You won’t hear bland Bible homilies in this place, however. The Pollards are exorcists, practitioners of an ancient specialty mostly lost since the early days of the church, and their job is to cast out demons. The demons come out through gagging and coughing and shaking and yawning, with minimal histrionics, because Larry “binds” the theatrical antics of demons, such as flinging bodies across a room. They call it gentle deliverance.

Pastors and Christian mental-health professionals from all over the country quietly refer clients they just can’t help to the Pollards, after trying everything. In the 15 years or so since the Pollards started their ministry, there has been no shortage of tortured souls.

For the next four hours, I will witness an exorcism—or, as they prefer to call it, “deliverance session”—and it will blow my mind. Not because I haven’t seen a deliverance before. I have, but it was while on Christian church missions in Nigeria and Botswana. I’ve never seen this: the juxtaposition of these plainspoken, ordinary West Texans and the Dantean drama that plays out in front of us, via the soft frame of a 38-year-old suburban mom we’ll call Ruth.

Writer Julie Lyons, whom Dreher describes as “a friend from my Dallas days and a heck of a writer,” approaches her subject with seriousness and respect — and even allows herself to become a part of the story (don’t miss the twist at the end!).

She complements her detailed narrative of what she witnesses inside the Pollards’ house with historical background and modern-day insight from theologians:

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Ghosts haunt AP story on Boy Scouts of America

When my oldest son was a Boy Scout, the entire experience was couched in church settings.

His pack meetings took place in church halls,  and ceremonies were scheduled in church sanctuaries and auditoriums. His pack leaders often doubled as congregational lay leaders, and the boys were asked once a year to don their uniforms and lead a special “Scout Sunday” worship. When the boys recited the oath, the “Under God” portion no doubt resonated within their surroundings.

I was surprised, then, by The Associated Press’ story on new statistics released Wednesday that show a 6 percent membership decline in the last year — a year during which new rules were put in place to accept and protect openly gay Scouts, from Cubs to Eagles.

The story had a Dallas dateline, undoubtedly tied to the organization’s national headquarters in nearby Irving, Texas. Beyond that obvious connection, what better area in the country to find a wide array of faith groups willing and able to speak intelligently about the impact of the change on troops with which they might have alliances or sponsorship?

But, no.

We hear from Scouting spokesman Deron Smith, who admitted the change might be partially responsible, but blamed the loss of thousands of boys and their families more on day-to-day time demands and the relevancy of its programs — and over the course of the last decade, not just nine months. And Smith touted the positives of the organization, as you might expect:

He pointed to several successes in 2013 for the Boy Scouts, which opened a new permanent site for its annual jamboree of Scouts from around the world and was featured on a National Geographic television series.

“Last year was a milestone year for the BSA in many ways,” he said.

He added that accepting openly gay boys “allows us to serve more kids.”

Well, not by the final count. Still, the most telling graf of the entire piece is yet to come — and without attribution, even!

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Got news? Obama as Antichrist prequel draws silence

Man oh man do I feel conflicted writing this post.

Let me state, right up front, that I would be the first news-media critic to argue that mainstream press folks are too quick to take a single statement by a single, often obscure, conservative preacher and then turn it into a national story about how all Fundamentalist or even evangelical Christians think about a given topic. In fact, I once went so far as to argue, at, that it was time for journalists to pay less attention to the Rev. Pat Robertson for precisely this reason.

Still, I am very surprised that the following story received a little bit of ink in conservative Christian media The Christian Post, to be precise – and then never broke out into the mainstream. While I fear what would have happened, in terms of warped coverage, when the story went viral, I still think that it was a significant story.

For starters, I am amazed that the story received no coverage, that I can find in this pay-wall age, at The Dallas Morning News. It is getting harder and harder to remember the days when that newspaper was a trailblazer in some forms of religion-news coverage.

So what’s up?

Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, made remarks on Sunday before the election that should Obama win, his victory would lead to the reign of the Antichrist.

“I want you to hear me tonight, I am not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist, I am not saying that at all. One reason I know he’s
not the Antichrist is the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes,” said Jeffress. “President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”

To some degree, this is simply a variation on the whole idea — which national polls do support in many ways — that America is slowly evolving into Europe. Then again, this is the United States, an intensely religion-haunted land in which many atheists continue to tell pollsters that they continue to pray, to Something or Somebody or perhaps Themselves.

I would have been interested to have known WHY Jeffress made this statement, doctrinally, other than the usual serious social issues linked to the sanctity of human life and the decline of marriage in our culture. When people make this kind of statement, it helps to carefully quote them on some of the specifics, to provide context (or perhaps further outrage).

The other point that needs to be made — saith Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher — is that the First Baptist Church of Dallas is not an obscure, out of the way pulpit. This is a once dominant, and still important, pulpit in one of America’s two or three most important cities, in the world of conservative Christianity.

And, yes, we are talking about THAT preacher, the same Robert Jeffress who received so much attention when he worried out loud about Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, being the GOP nominee. Jeffress called Mormonism a “theological cult,” which many reporters then shortened to “cult” — period — and all heckfire broke forth in the headline. Click here for a previous GetReligion post on the term that he used and the blunter term that reporters jumped on.

In the midst of all of that, Jeffress noted that he intended — eventually — to support Romney and to vote for him. This came to pass. Thus, The Christian Post quoted him as saying:

“I haven’t changed my tune … In fact, I never said Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney. When I talked about his theology,” said Jeffress in an interview with Fox News.

“I still maintain there are vast differences in theology between Mormons and Christians, but we do share many of the same values, like the sanctity of life and religious freedom.”

So, in context, what was it that Jeffress said about Obama — who is a liberal mainline Protestant — and the future of our land? Even as I cringe, I must confess that I am surprised that reporters didn’t find that a compelling question.