Another Satanic Panic Yarn Concluded

This one’s all over the internet; NWANews has the fullest account:

…In November 1975, [Don] LaRose’s story made headlines around Maine, N. Y., when the then 34-year-old pastor disappeared from the First Baptist Church.

The circumstances were deemed mysterious, according to a Feb. 13, 1976, story in the magazine Christianity Today. Church members suggested the disappearance was an abduction by Satan worshippers.

According to early news reports, LaRose claimed to have been teaching a course on Satan when he received threatening letters from Satanists who accused him of blasphemy.

But when LaRose was found more than three months later, his claims of abduction and brainwashing were deemed unfounded. An extensive investigation by detectives revealed that LaRose had caused his own disappearance, according to the story in Christianity Today.

He then became pastor of the Hessville Baptist Church in Indiana, but in 1980 he disappeared for a second time. Had the Satanists finally got him? Apparently not, and a few days ago he was again found, living as Ken Williams, an evangelist and mayor of the Arkansas town of Centerton. He claims to have fled to protect his family, and the story came out after LaRose set up a website explaining his own disappearance, registered in the name of Ken Williams. Here he tells us why he was supposedly abducted, based on information he gathered after his memory had been wiped:

…I had learned shortly before riding away from Northwest Indiana that my abduction in 1975 had something to do with the son of one of the church members at Maine, New York who had apparently lived in Oklahoma City.  As I understood it, this young man had been killed in Oklahoma City some days after he had talked to me on the telephone.  While the phone conversation was in the time period for which I still had no memory, I assumed from my information that the fellow was trying to get out of some group or organization with which he had been involved, and that he had given me some information which I should not have heard.  The implication was that some sort of remote control device attached to his car was used to cause his car to lurch into the path of a train.  I was told I conducted his funeral in Maine, New York.

He adds elsewhere that:

…I believe that whoever was involved in the abduction used the letters as a ploy.   There were other pastors in the area that received similar letters about the same time, I am told.   While the plot obviously was Satanically inspired, I do not believe Satan worshipers were in any way involved, and you will see that as you read through the story.   The reason I make this point is that most of the news stories have played up the Satanic part of this story.

However, he also tells us of the disappearance that “there were signs it may have been a SATANIC inspired attack”.

LaRose claims that he only regained his original identity after being brainwashed when he was given a truth serum by Dr. Marvin DeHaan, brother of the radio evangelist Richard DeHaan. Richard W. DeHaan is the author of Satan, Satanism, and Witchcraft, published in 1972 by Zondervan. The book came out at a time when popular Christian paperbacks on Satanism were in their heyday: a year later, Mike Warnke (with the help of David Balsiger) produced The Satan Seller, a now thoroughly-debunked memoir of life as a Satanist. The momentum from books like these eventually led to the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s.

As Ken Williams, LaRose just a few weeks ago published a book entitled Finding Jesus in the Old Testament. On his Ken Williams Ministries website, he explains how a visit to Israel led him to appreciate the Jewish roots of Christianity, and how the growth of Messianic Jews, who accept Jesus as the Messiah, is a sign of the “fulfillment of Bible prophecy concerning the end of the age”. He also rails against the “Social Architects and Revisionists”, who

…have attempted to rewrite our history to show that our founding fathers created a secular government and wrote the idea of “the separation of church and state” into our constitution.  That is a lie!

Evolutionary biology gets similarly short shrift:

…If you believe there is no God, and therefore anything supernatural is impossible, you can make the evidence say anything you want to make it say.  If you believe in a Creator, the very same sets of evidence show His creation.  Today, there is much more evidence to point to a Creator than to Evolution.

As Ken Williams, LaRose had been mayor of Centerton since 2001. His story, however, has met with scepticism, and recent comments left on the LaRose website guestbook have not been kind.

LaRose is not the first pastor to have lived a double life; in the late nineteenth century William James and others studied the case of Ansel Bourne, a Rhode Island evangelical preacher who switched between this identity and that of a Pennsylvania stationer and confectioner named A. J. Brown.

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