Wednesday, October 31, 2018

You Have the Power to Choose Life



[Brochure #1 for www.teamsofseven.org]


In the late 1980s, I was at Harvard Divinity School, earning a post-graduate Th.M. degree in Ethics and Public Policy. As a white heterosexual male, evangelical pro-life minister, married with three sons, and a daughter yet to arrive, I was virtually a minority of one.

And this is one reason why I was at Harvard to begin with – to be accountable to the most thoughtful and penetrating questions of those who disagreed with me. I found myself intersecting with the Women’s Studies Program, and where the assumption of legalized human abortion was firmly in place. My double thesis focused on the two leading feminist scholar critics of the Bible (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Phyllis Trible), and on human abortion and public policy.

In 1989, I organized a presence at New England’s largest abortion center, Preterm, in Brookline. We countenanced no accusatory language and no bloody pictures. As Jesus spoke of himself, he came not to condemn but to save. We worshiped, prayed, held signs, and engaged in conversation with anyone interested. In two years of Saturday mornings, we saw well over 200 women walk away from their abortion appointments of their own volition. As well, many others who merely saw the signs and our presence turned away. This was also at the height of “Operation Rescue,” a short-lived movement seeking to blockade abortion centers, and it led to some 100,000 arrests nationwide. I met with the founder, Randall Terry, on April 1, 1989, and asked some theological questions he could not, would not answer. Especially: How does vigilante action comport with the biblical order of creation in Genesis 1-2? And: How can you force someone to choose life?

Indeed, one popular pro-life sign has always been: “Choose Life.” But in front of an abortion center, where women are being forced into abortions by chauvinistic and irresponsible men, this language misses the mark since it is in the imperative tense. Elsewhere too. In the metaethics of language, this is easily perceived by such women as an “in your face” attempt to “force” them to “choose” not to have an abortion. Even as the intention is the opposite.

Thus, our slogan became: You Have the Power to Choose Life. This is gift language, it is empowering language, and it includes the life of the mother and unborn child equally. And unless the woman is empowered to choose life for her unborn child, it will not happen. As well, as the “pro-choice” feminist language is examined, “the power to choose” is supposedly central, but also, unidirectional – “the power to choose abortion …” But we redeemed the language of choice to serve human life, and the impact is always dramatic.

On June 3, 1989, when we began, the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) recruited college students to “counter-protest” us. We had some 200 volunteers turn out across the morning, and almost none of them had ever been an “activist” or done any public “protesting.” They trusted a biblical vision for “active ministry” – bringing the Good News to a place where people, especially women, were hurting deeply. Boston NOW had roughly equal numbers that day.

We started arriving at 7:00 a.m., and we sang and prayed aloud while holding our signs. The NOW recruits started yelling chants (e.g., “Anti-woman, anti-gay, born-again bigots, go away!”). But their lungs tired sooner than did ours, and by 9:30 there was a lull. It had also hit 90° Fahrenheit, and we were well equipped with cold water and cups, so we started passing the water around. Most NOW recruits accepted the water and the conversations began. Multiple dozens of bull sessions erupted.

While standing next to a reporter from the Boston Globe, one woman NOW recruit told me how she had the freedom to choose an abortion. So, I asked her if she had chosen to be born, or if she were only alive because of the choice of her parents. I concluded: “How can you, who are alive through no choice of your own, then use your choice to deny the life and future choices of the unborn?” She said, “Wow, I had never thought of it that way before,” and her whole demeanor changed.

After ninety minutes, I was standing a few feet away from the president of Boston NOW. She suddenly looked at what was happening, and said alarmingly, “We are not in control here! We must put a stop to this!” She thus ordered her lieutenants to break up the conversations. But perhaps three-quarters of their recruits said no, they enjoyed the conversations, and liked the Christian pro-life men and women there. The power of informed choice in service to human life, in action.

On our second Saturday, at the end of the morning, one of our volunteers was a few feet away from one recruit as she asked a question of an NOW leader: “How do we answer them when they say, ‘You have the power to choose life?’ ” The leader said: “Well, that is their language – we don’t use it anymore.” Those who define terms honestly will win hearts and minds. And across nine months, our volunteers had multiple hundreds, if not one or several thousand intelligent and gracious conversations with these recruits. Then, the leadership of Boston NOW gave the order for the recruits to stop coming down, for we “were persuading too many” of them.

This is at the core of biblical theology, where in the Garden of Eden, with Joshua in the Valley of Shechem, with Elijah in the face of the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel, and with Jesus in the face of his enemies during Passover Week, a level playing field is provided for all – even the devil – to pose their toughest questions of God, leaders and one another. Truth and mercy always rise to the top. The power to choose life is the bequeathal of the Gospel.

We also had twelve signs asking questions, all aiming to empower the women to choose life. Now, as this effort is reconstituted in 2018 (Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn organized through Teams of Seven [.org]), the TEI has condensed these twelve questions into five. And they are suitable not only at abortion centers, but in any context where the politics of the issue are at the forefront (political rallies, university campuses etc.).

Question #1: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion: Why Not?

I first expressed this question spontaneously in a 1985 college debate with a man representing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) of Massachusetts, the Rev. Spencer Parsons. When I spoke these words, he stopped, and then tried to come up with language that would imagine Jesus in such a capacity. He was unable, and we had several good debates and conversations thereafter.

Once, in front of Preterm, as I was holding the sign, a young woman said I was imposing my religion on her. And I said, how so? Namely, she did not have to look at the sign, and it is part of my religious and political freedom of speech. She was welcome to her selfsame freedoms. Then I said, “If Jesus means something to you, this is an important question. If he means nothing to you, then it is of no concern.” And we had a great conversation thereafter: Who is Jesus?

Question #2: How Does Human Abortion Add to a Woman’s Dignity?

Every woman knows there is no dignity in having her body violated by an abortion, and the grief of later mourning for a lost child – whether consciously or subconsciously. The Latin term for abortion is ab + oriri, and it means “to cut off from rising.” It is reactive, not proactive; destructive not creative; and women do not plan ahead of time to get pregnant in order to have an abortion.

Question #3: How Many Men Push Their “Girlfriends” into “Choosing” Abortion?

When the research data of the Alan Guttmacher Institute of Planned Parenthood is examined, and the data of thousands of Pregnancy Resource Centers likewise, the reality is that male irresponsibility and chauvinism drives the abortion ethos. Men who get women pregnant and refuse responsibility. At Smith College in 1994, in a forum with the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Patricia Ireland, I was asked a question from a woman student at the end on how I could “oppose a woman’s choice.” I had fifteen seconds to answer, and I said, “Just as much as abortion rips off women, it rips off the unborn and allows the male chauvinists to run free.” An audience of over 500, mostly in favor of legalized abortion, erupted in loud and sustained ovation. Reality has been defined.

Question #4: Are Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Industry Racist?

The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who praised Adolf Hitler in 1922. Today, about 38 percent of all abortions, in the United States, are performed on Black Americans who equal 12 or 13 percent of the population. The same racist ratio holds true for other minorities, and Planned Parenthood et al. heavily locate their abortion centers in poor neighborhoods. And they earn billions in blood money.

Question #5: Pro-Life Libertarian or Pro-Abortion Statist?

These are exact opposites. Pro-life libertarians want maximum religious, political and economic freedom for all people equally, from biological origins to natural death. People are free so long as they do not injure the lives, liberties and property of others. Pro-abortion statists support massive and enslaving top-down state intervention in people’s lives, especially against religious, political and economic freedom.

The Toughest Question: What About Rape and Incest?

This is not suitable for a public sign, since the hell of such evil and its pain cuts so deep. But it needs to be addressed. I have been asked this question many times across the years, and indeed, this is the title and content of Chapter One in my book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com).

Whether at Denison University as a college student several months prior to the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, when a fellow male student pressed me on it in a religion class; or at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), in answering the question of a woman student who had been conceived through the rape of her eleven year-old mother; or at Brown University in debating the former president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island who had been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, in addressing the question posed by a woman student; or with a woman caller on WGAN Radio in Portland, Maine, who personally knew the hell of rape and abortion; or with a “pro-choice” physician and wife of an astrophysicist working on the Hadron Collider; or in a forum at Dartmouth College with the woman head of Republicans for Choice – they all responded well, and also with others in different instances. Only in a forum at Yale Law School, with the woman president of the national Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR), did I not get any response – silence instead.

To sum up this territory, one question emerges: How does human abortion unrape the woman? She has been through hell, abortion only deepens the hell, and we who follow Jesus are here to serve her courageous power to choose life in the face of a hell that very few of us can imagine. Indeed, we are here to serve any woman who needs the courage and power to choose life for her and her unborn child, regardless of the situation.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Male Chauvinism, Human Abortion and Women's Pain at the Bushnell Theater


On Thursday night, September 20, I was asked to join a rally at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, one that was organized to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The occasion was the Connecticut Forum, as they hosted a panel discussion on women's empowerment. The marquee speaker was Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Connecticut Forum always has a good turnout for its events in the 3700 seat auditorium.

So as thousands of people passed by, I had four of my pro-life signs in place. [Addendum: What I did not realize until I reviewed the pictures later, is how most of these people had already seen the sign I was holding. Their cars were backed up, inching past where I was standing, from the State Capitol to the parking lots beyond the Bushnell.] Whereas the purpose of the organizer (and the one taking the pictures) was political, my purpose in joining was primarily theological (for which he was also glad). We used signs like these at New England's largest abortion center (Preterm in Brookline, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston) virtually every Saturday from June, 1989 to June, 1991. In that time, some 200-300 women walked away from their abortion appointments, and there were hundreds of activists with the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to counter-protest us. After nine months, the leadership of Boston NOW told their recruited volunteers (mostly college students) to stop coming down to Preterm, because we "we were persuading too many of them." Click here. And click here. And also click here.

I held the sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Our slogan sign says: You Have the Power to Choose Life. Two other signs said: Why Does "Feminism" Abort Unborn Girls? and: Is the Abortion Industry Racist?

You can see the pictures here.

As you look at the first one, look at the young man and woman behind me, as they look at the sign. Notice the greatest difference in terms of posture, gaze and disinterest versus interest. The vast majority of abortions happen because the man who gets the woman pregnant refuses responsibility, indeed, often rooted in explicit male chauvinism. The man and woman had just stepped out of a chauffeured limousine.

[And, a day after this post, a new picture was sent to me, now the second one below. (Correction: I first thought it was a reflection of some other light, looked at the possibilities, but concluded there was no other source to cause reflection, and on a granite wall. So I came to believe it was the invisible realm of the heavens interfacing with the visible human world. I even visited the site again and saw no natural explanation. But days later, the chairman of the TEI Team of Advisors drove past, and noticed it was streetlight. The lamppost is to the left, against the lines of the building. But the arm is obscured by the bright light, and as I focused on the light, it seemed to stand alone without natural explanation. The folly of an incomplete review. Still a cool and surprising photo).]

[And later, I learned that this man and woman were part of a group of young persons recruited to be trained by Planned Parenthood, and that they were to meet with Cecile Richards at the event.]



Here are some observations:

1. The Connecticut Forum has many season subscribers, others come to various events to hear opposing ideas (as I have done across the years in various venues), and thus not all those attending were necessarily in favor of legalized abortion. But I believe most were.

2. As several thousand people walked past over a 45-minute period, within feet of these signs, many eyes avoided looking at them.

3. But many did look and pondered briefly or more engagingly.

4. Of the half dozen or dozen of negative reactions that occurred, they were mostly by women in deep pain. This was clear in their curses, body language and gestures. I interacted with some, and was able to say that my deepest concern is the male chauvinism that drives the abortion industry. I had some positive responses.

5. For several who cursed us, I said "God bless you" and they did not further curse. Jesus teaches us to bless those who curse us. To do so employs spiritual power to minister to their hurting souls, and it is their persons, as created in the image of God, that we bless, not their actions or curses.

6. One woman, standing behind me, said to some of her friends, "I wish I could take that sign, You Have the Power to Choose Life, and trample it on the ground." So I turned and said that I would never do that to any sign she might be holding in favor of abortion. But she responded, saying I was intolerant, and such a sign should be destroyed. I thought afterward, how much pain is in her person, so that she would destroy such a sign? Does she believe she does not have the power to choose life, whether for herself or the unborn? Indeed, this sign is the Gospel -- for only in Jesus do we have the good news and godly power to choose life for all people equally.

7. Some passersby quietly approached us and thanked us for being there.

8. I spoke with a young woman -- with her mother and grandmother with her -- for a good amount of time. She asked good questions, and responded well to many of my answers, as did her grandmother.

9. Toward the end, one women looked at my sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Then she called me a fascist. Does she also believe the same about Jesus since that was the sign I as holding? I did not assume this was necessary so. But ...

10. Then a young woman passed by, and almost tripped when she looked up at the sign, being caught off guard by it. She was wearing a bright yellow dress that distinguished her from everyone else, and was suggestive in it, along with her gait and attitude. She looked at me, said something disparaging about the mention of Jesus, and then said "Rapist." I was taken aback, but then said, "Are you calling Jesus a rapist?" And she said, "Yes!" There has to be very much pain in her soul to say such a thing, and we pray for her that God will indeed bless her, minister to her pain and draw her to faith in him as Savior.

11. [Added to the original post}: Toward the end, a man approached me from the Bushnell and offered me a ticket to attend the event. He said it would good if I listened to the other side. So I told him a little of my history, how for decades I have gone out of my way in listening to those who disagree with me, and for example, in my Mars Hill Forum series, where I have paid honoraria to such people as Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), at Smith College, to pose me her toughest questions before 550 people, 90 percent of whom were not on my side of the issues; and Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), whom I paid likewise at Georgetown University before some 300 people, and broadcast live on C-Span. His stereotype of me vanished. I said, yes, I would be pleased to accept the ticket, but first I had to put the signs away and attend to another detail, and thus, I might be up to ten minutes late for the event. He balked, and said he had to talk with someone about it, and would let me know. He did not return, and we had more fruitful encounters with the passersby and Bushnell staff. To what degree, I muse, was he simply trying to mute my witness as well? Several years ago, when we had these signs in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion center in the Bronx, they kept asking us how long we would be there. Women, in seeing the signs, were turning away from their abortion appointments.

teidonate.org


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Is Jeff Sessions in Control of the Department of Justice?


From my distant perch, I say yes. As Attorney General, he is serving constitutional law and the office of the President with equal integrity.

Why do I believe this? Due to the reality of the image of God given to us all. Here, the pursuit of trustworthiness, in self and others, overcomes so much evil.

If we look at the public language and actions of Jeff Sessions, this is at the very core of his identity. He is a man of his word, and he will not risk anything to sully that identity.

Sessions supported Donald Trump early in the campaign, because he saw in him – a very different person – a core identity to be a man of his word in public life. Trump made campaign promises he intended to keep, and this he has done. To be successful in business transactions, and to secure genuine reciprocity as a prerequisite to economic freedom, words must be kept. Trump learned this early and knows it well.

Thus, I take Sessions at his word – he recused himself in the “Russian collusion” matter out of a clear demarcation in his own understanding. He had actively supported the Trump campaign, and this “Russian” matter was putatively one concerning the campaign. Sessions wisely seeks to avoid any hint of impropriety, even at the cost of certain freedoms that might otherwise be justly claimed.

And I also take Sessions at his word when he says he has been in control of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from the outset of his tenure.

Given this integrity – free from political compromise in any direction – Attorney General Sessions is thus able to better serve the Constitution and President Trump. He is free from becoming a false lightning rod for the political opposition, and this allows him freedom to attend to matters that have real substance. He has 27 investigations underway into classified leaks within the DOJ, and who knows what else he is looking at. Draining the swamp and on forward.

President Donald Trump uses tweets, in part, to distract the top-down media with shiny objects. Then, at the same time, he successfully goes about his positive agenda that serves religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally under the rule of law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions allows the shiny object of the ephemeral debate over his recusal to free him for his substantial work.

Now, how deeply toxic, dangerous and occultic is the swamp at the DOJ? It may be so toxic, that the free-flowing liquid has long since been drained, and now it requires pickaxes and shovels, with gas-masks in place, to remove the hardened muck.

Thus, in the serendipity of Sessions’s recusal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sets to work on a matter where Sessions knows there is no “there” there, and in time, this will be publicly known to all. Rod becomes the lightning rod. To be “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” (pace the language of Jesus), Sessions allows evil to gradually implode on itself, while himself not getting caught in the muck.

He knows a frontal assault against such an entrenchment would be folly. Instead, he shrewdly peels away one layer after another, keeping his friends close and his political enemies closer. As well, he is committed to strengthening the DOJ for its true purposes, and will not risk its injury while doing the necessary surgery. A true precipice that requires due patience and wisdom.

So, what of the dance between Trump and Sessions on the recusal? Trump gets publicly upset about it, but keeps Sessions in office, and does not (yet) release classified documents that could easily sink the Robert Mueller probe.

Could it be a mutually understood mime, providing the top-down media with yet another shiny object? Could the Art of the Deal be aiming at a chosen political timing for which the miming well serves? Regardless, Sessions would keep a clear demarcation in not even raising the matter with Trump. So that in the end, the Constitution, and the offices of both the Attorney General and the President, are not polluted.

Time will tell.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 3


Why is politics necessary?

Genesis 1:1 establishes the political domain of the heavens as belonging to (Yahweh) Elohim, and the earth is the given domain for human political stewardship.

Then in verse 2, the text reads: Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was above the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of Elohim was above the face of the waters.

What is being presented is the eternal Creator speaking into existence a finite reality that had not theretofore existed. We cannot conceive of this in our limited capacities, but the language gives us the ability to grasp the greatness of the One who speaks our earth and human domain into being.

The language of the earth being "formless and void," is tohu w'bohu in the Hebrew. And "darkness" (hoshek) is above the face (panim, or in the presence of) of the abyss (t'hom). It describes the same reality. The abyss (abussos in the Greek New Testament) means "without boundary." In other words, good order is being made in the presence of disorder, and anything outside the presence of the Creator is by definition disordered. No boundaries, no light, no identity, no purpose, no existence.

In the face of such nonexistence, the Spirit (Hebrew ruach) hovers over "the waters" (mayim) that is, unorganized material with which to create -- the basic ingredient of life.

Thus, the political overview of Genesis 1:1 now begins to take form, and most simply, man and woman are to bring good order to the earth as given to us. As (Yahweh) Elohim is satisfied in ordering the creation and the earthly domain for us, we are to be satisfied in bringing good order to the earth as given, in building loving and creative human civilization.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 2


What are the three choices in human history for political order?

According to the late Jewish political theologian, Daniel J. Elezar, they are 1) hierarchy, 2) oligarchy and 3) covenant.

1. Hierarchy is the natural result of conquest in war. In antiquity, the hierarchical model is seen in Egypt. Here, the Pharaoh claims to be a son of the gods, and thus, he asserts authority over all Egyptians according to his singular will. It is the model of the top-down pyramid, and its economic survival depends on massive slavery.

2. Oligarchy, and its first cousin, plutocracy, arise organically out of communities where a given family or set of families gain control. In antiquity, ancient Greece is the model. It is a model from within, but near the top of the pyramid, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery.

Ancient Rome is an admixture of the hierarchal and oligarchal models, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery..

3. Covenant is a matter of divine revelation where Yahweh is King, and where there are checks and balances on human power. Authority is for the well-being of all people, and not the private domain of a self-aggrandizing elite. In antiquity, this is the nation of Israel, where the bottom of the pyramid is in control, and its economic model is based on freedom for all equally.

Only biblical literacy can serve human freedom.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 1


How central is politics to the Bible?

We can start by looking at the first verses in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Genesis 1:1 reads: Bereshith bara elohim eth ha'shamayim w' eth ha'eretz: "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth."

All the way through the Hebrew Bible, this combination of "the heavens and the earth" percolates often. As Genesis 1-2 introduces this reality, the Creator is the One who governs the heavens (the invisible realms), and man and woman govern the earth (the visible domains) as his stewards.

Thus, healthy human politics can only be rooted in knowing the politics of the one true Creator.

Matthew 1:1 reads: Biblos geneseos Iesou Chistou huiou Dawid huiou Abraam: "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." The Son of David is the son of and heir to the founding king of Jerusalem.

This declaration about Jesus is thus a threat to Herod and Caesar, in their usurping human kingships. In the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, his actual words start this way: Pater hemon ho en tois ouranois: "Our Father, the One in the heavens" (Matthew 6:9).

This traces back to the declared political domain of the Creator in Genesis 1:1. And also, in the debate between Jesus and his enemies during Passover Week (Matthew 21-22), the whole argument centers on the question of who is the Son of David. This political battle leads to the cross, resurrection, ascension, the Second Coming, and how we as Christians are called live as salt and light in a corrupt world.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

46 Years Since Meeting Satan Face-to-Face, and Finally, at the Verge of Death on March 20, 2018, a Victory


On November 1, 1967 I sought the living God -- coming out of a Unitarian background -- and on November 2 I was answered by an overwhelming divine epiphany which I write about elsewhere. This happened at St. Michael's Chapel at South Kent School, South Kent, Connecticut.

About May 1, 1972, at St. Michael's Chapel, a friend and I experienced the total opposite. The chapel happens to be named after the warring angel who defeats Satan in Revelation 12:7-9.

I was up late one evening in the dining room of the Old Building doing some work when my friend burst in, horrified, on me and several other seniors. He described to us in halting breaths how he had been waiting in the chapel for another friend to finish some work in the adjacent library. As he was, the communion bells rang out three times from the balcony. Thinking he was being spoofed by someone, he called out for the prankster to reveal himself. Silence. So, he climbed the wooden stairs to the balcony, searched it, and nobody was there. There was no place to hide apart from where he searched, no other stairs, and all footsteps in the chapel were most audible. A sense of abiding and evil darkness overtook him, and he fled in horror down the hill to the Old Building.

I was the only one of the several seniors there who took him seriously (or was willing to admit it).

[But too, many years later, I learned that the friend he was waiting for had a similar experience some weeks earlier. He was in the chapel late one evening, keeping track of some lower form students in an adjacent building. Then the chapel bell rang three times, no one on the campus heard it, and a dark and foreboding sense of evil came in.]

In my young faith, I believed there was nothing to fear, so I suggested we return to the chapel and investigate, pray. It was just past midnight, and as we came within 20-30 feet of the chapel, we both looked into the windows. What we saw was a darkness that was blacker than black against the diffused light of nearby buildings, pulsating, alive, extraordinarily evil and very angry at our presence. Another step and we stopped, having come against a terribly tangible but invisible wall of air that was thicker than thick, impenetrable and driving us back. All my critical faculties were alert, and the experience was as real as anything I have known with the five senses. My friend and I turned and fled. I prayed until 4:00 a.m., trying to understand it. Face-to-face with Satan's presence.

One clue to what was happening is that the “witching hour” is known to happen from midnight to 3:00 a.m., when covens of witches (sometimes including warlocks), those into the deepest witchcraft, regularly meet to do their rituals and to curse their enemies, especially Christians. They prefer certain days and seasons on their pagan calendars, related ultimately to astrological factors. This evil presence was gathering just before midnight when my friend was initially spoofed, and it may have been proximate to May Day, one such pagan holiday – but at the time I did not know to consider this element. As well, the Housatonic Highlands of western Connecticut and the adjoining Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts are well-known for concentrations of such activity.

I was blown away by the experience at the time. The chapel where the very presence of Yahweh descended on me in 1967 was the very chapel where this demonic presence bearing the mark of Satan himself assaulted my friend and I in 1972. The contest of the darkness seeking to displace the Light.

Across the years, I thought I had merely stumbled on such an evil presence. But only recently — and given a more complete biblical understanding of the devil — do I realize that this may have made me a marked man. Namely, I was genuinely naive about the nature of the devil at that time, and yet recklessly, foolishly bold as a believer in Jesus, coming to confront the devil. Satan is angry with any challenge. All that has followed is certainly consistent with this understanding.

In thinking this encounter was a mere passing event, my focus in college was on growing in biblical knowledge along with my academics, and courting a certain young lady. Then, in 1974, my wife-to-be, Nancy, and I got sucked into a cultish church. I review this chapter in my life in the January 10, 2018 blog, and the key element is that I had falsely believed that, since I loved the Lord, I could not be deceived. Then I was deceived in accepting certain predicates in joining this church. Nancy and I married in the summer of 1977, and we left the church on January 10, 1978, with twelve others (out of about 200 people). The fourteen of us were publicly reviled in an emergency church meeting for daring to leave (!). It was great freedom to leave, then off to seminary the following fall, when our first son was also born.

Now the church, then called South Hills Christian Center outside Pittsburgh, PA, was run by a prima donna, Norman James. But in truth, his wife Becky "wore the pants" as one former member, who knew them up close, later said. As we also learned later, she often called down curses on those who had left the church. That, by itself, is the devil's handiwork. And some who left the church also called them Ahab and Jezebel. But I was nonchalant about this cursing reality, just as I was with the Satanic encounter six years prior. I trusted God in a naive way, not knowing the wisdom of Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16 against demonic territory.

Sometime in 1978 or 1979, my wife had a disturbing vision of me hoeing a field, doing work that needed to be done, but bent over low under an invisible and great burden. And with it was a vision of demons gleefully seeking to stick syringes in my back. In June of 1979, a virus struck my pancreas and destroyed all the beta cells, making me a Type 1 diabetic. There is no such history in our family. Over the years I just thought of this as happenstance, and due to an obviously insufficient immune system -- though in every other capacity over the years, my immune system has been very strong. It is, and has always been a daily burden, and especially as I get older. But as I consider my naivete and folly in confronting Satan in 1972, and my sin of pride that allowed me to be deceived into this church cult, it is clear -- not only biblically but experientially -- that Satan can only take advantage of our weaknesses, whether passive or active sin.

In 1988 I led the largest public policy petition drive in Massachusetts history for a ballot question that would have reshaped the national abortion debate in a profound and good way. But too, in organizing the whole state, I worked far too hard, and it added much stress at home. And apart from some modest prayer, I was naive as to what I was getting into, not considering the possibility of demonic opposition. But immediately after the petitions were submitted, we were hit with extraordinary demonic attacks that Nancy and I, and our two eldest sons, knew all too well (our third son was too young to know, and our daughter not yet born). I write about this in some depth in my book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com). The reality of how I became a marked man, and targeted by New England witchcraft ever since, has been with me to this day. In Section Three of my book, Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions (available also at johnrankinbooks.com), I share the reality of how this continued in Connecticut after I moved back.

The key to all this, is that even in seeking to do the good, if we are bold or effective enough to merit the devil's ire, he will exploit our unattended weaknesses and sins and seek to destroy us. In my case, it was the folly of unexamined naivete, pride, and trusting in human energy over and against serious prayer.

And then further, here I land on the greatest sin in life. It is worse than naive folly, pride, or in trusting in human energy without sufficient proactive prayer. The sin is that of impatience.

The flip side of our strengths is our weaknesses. I am sanguine, I love the Lord and I love people, I am an optimist, and the glass is always 99 percent full. My father, an optimist, called me a "tunnel-view optimist" from my early childhood forward. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It has also been natural to be a risk-taker for the Gospel, but I was also blind to so many things, whether concerning evil and deceitful people, or simple practicalities in pursuing good goals. I have relentlessly bitten off more than I can chew in my enthusiasm for the reality of the Gospel. Yet, very much good and dynamic ministry has been achieved, Satan is displeased, and has only ratcheted up stress on me to catalyze further folly in impatience.

Over the years, a pattern developed and deepened. When the good I pursued did not happen on my assumed or explicitly impatient timetable, I would get frustrated. This happened hugely in the 1988 Massachusetts pro-life referendum drive. Had I been a patient and wisely prayerful man, we would have prevailed over the deceit of the Massachusetts Attorney General. He blocked it on a technicality that would have otherwise been understood ahead of time, and overcome. And when frustration sets in, anger follows, and folly multiplies. And my anger began to erupt at various places, especially under financial stress.

Now, my father was not into financial planning -- he had a view, which I have had, believing that if you do the good, finances will follow. Not so. He was chief of hematology at the Hartford Hospital, with a general practice alongside. He simply loved caring for people. Hematology, from the late 1940's to 1990 was not high paying among doctors. And he did not bill about 40 percent of his patients, because they were too poor (many Black, Hispanic and White inner-city people). He never used a credit card and paid for everything in cash, only borrowing for the mortgage. He carried no debt, but also had no savings, health and life insurance, or retirement provisions. Only after my mother died young (age 54 in 1976, when my father was 58), did he change his planning. So, in my tunnel-view optimism, I had a similar assumption, but without a sufficient income most the time.

So, I would get angry under the duress of finances, or with respect to mundane items (I have cursed Microsoft more times than you can imagine), or when simply pressed for time. It took me years to realize and confess that my anger was against the Lord's timetable, against God himself. Even though I have always and naturally embraced his goodness and sovereignty, perhaps this also blinded me to the object of my anger.

As frustration for achieving good goals grew across the years, the anger became worse, and so bad that in the last two years I began to grasp it, and to pray and repent. But still, when I can't pay my bills, meet the utilities or mortgage, even facing basic food shortages, I was only partially successful. And since 2008, when adrenal exhaustion began to set it (before diagnosed), and my work pace and income dropped, I was trapped. And when the adrenal exhaustion hit Stage 4 two years ago, as formally diagnosed, I was in deep trouble. And it led to my crypto-genetic (unknown origin) stroke in 2014, which no doubt came from deepening stress, and my diabetes, for the first time, going out of control.

All this is due to my own sin of impatience, and thus a wide opportunity for the enemy.

In dealing with my adrenal exhaustion these past two years, I have had great success in regaining strength. But there were also two reversals emotionally, when my youngest son was in the hospital four times in nine weeks, and almost died (he is far better now); and when this January and February my whole computer system broke down, and I could do very little ministry, academic and financial work.

Nonetheless, I was okay, I thought, and in March, I was lecturing in Krakow, Poland, then flying to London, and up to Oxford for some academics. I got very sick just before leaving Krakow, and there was something demonic about it, but not readily identifiable. My strength started spiraling down. Limping into Oxford, I got my minimal obligations done, but on Thursday through Sunday, up to March 20, I was very sick, and could hardly leave my room for the bathroom. My diabetes raged out of control, but not due to my ratio of food intake and the insulin regimen. On Friday, face down on my bed all day, I was suddenly aware that I was being "sifted" by the devil. I cried out in prayer, I felt I weighed 400 pounds (not 180) and was dying. I called my wife at home through this entire process, seeking prayer. But no relief from the sifting illness.

I had to leave for the airport Sunday morning. I arranged for the taxi Saturday night (to the bus station), and the details were clear: 6:45 a.m. at Wycliffe Hall, 54 Banbury Road. "Yes, we know where it is." It took me hours, through the night, to pack my bags. I told them I was sick, and would wait inside the building until they pulled up. They did not show. I called, and the driver could not find it. They asked me to wait outside. But I was deathly sick, and it was -3 celsius and snowing. I started to get angry. I went to wait outside, and it took another 18 minutes and two phone calls, and I had to go onto the street, and try to flag the cabby down, who was 100 yards down the road. In the process, I cried out, "What have I done wrong Lord? Did I not set this up ahead of time to prevent me waiting in the cold? Why should I die because of their negligence?"

Then my anger seized the worse control of my life ever. I cursed the Cab company and the driver in foul invectives. And as I did, my whole body started shaking, and started shooting fire from every cell, and my eyes were full of lightening shooting off in every direction. It was like a transformer exploding. Then I said loudly: I REPENT. I experienced what James says in 3:6 of his letter, describing a tongue out of control that curses men made in the image of God: "... and sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." The hellfire stopped as I repented, and had you pushed me slightly, I would have collapsed.

The cab driver arrived, a Muslim man with the style of beard said to imitate Muhammad -- long and untrimmed, but with a shaved upper lip. He was in Pakistani dress. I struggled to get my bags into the cab, and at the train station, as I was so weak, I fumbled with my billfold to pay the fare of 6.2 pounds. As I pulled out a 5-pound note, he looked at me with great mercy and changed the fare to 5-pounds. Once in the bus, I was just praying to get home alive, as I had to fly first back to Warsaw (hub for Polish airways), then to Newark, then the 150-mile drive home.

Then amazingly, when the bus crossed past the Oxford City limits, a huge demonic oppression tangibly lifted. I was immediately and surprisingly struck by this reality. And only then could I say in prayer, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," and as I prayed that all the way home, step by step as God gave me the strength. As a pastor friend in Oxford says: "Oxford is a city full of demons." There is a history in place. And yet with many strong believing churches. No question that the demonic assault was territorial in nature, and here is my observation: Satan brought his greatest strength against my deepest weakness and almost killed me, seeking even to overcome a strong heart. And how do I know that apart from this experience? It turns out that I had a burgeoning heart attack, stopped the moment I said: I REPENT. The electricity of my heart went wild. I have always had a strong heart, and after my stroke in 2014, my EKG was excellent as was my blood pressure (that is why it was labeled crypto-genetic). But this May, at my physical, my EKG showed an infarcation sometime since the last EKG, which is where there is a severe oxygen cut-off to my heart, a prelude to a full heart attack. I knew it exactly, and told him so. And it was completely stopped the moment I repented of my hellish anger.

Since March 20, I have rested, and am steadily, if not always evenly, recovering my strength. The anger that almost killed me -- under Satan's strategic pressure -- is 99 percent gone. I am praying for the final 1 percent to eviscerate as well. I REPENT. As James also says: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you"(4:7). And since April 28, the leading of the Holy Spirit has multiplied in proportion to my freedom from impatience. 46 years of a battle with Satan has hit a victory threshold, and going forward, I know the devil will try new strategems. But in the Name of Jesus, I am much better equipped to shut them down.

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