Witchcraft in the Midst of Massachusetts Politics
John C. Rankin
In 1988, as the head of a New England wide evangelical pro-life ministry, I conceived of and led a statewide non-binding public policy petition drive in Massachusetts: “In biological terms, when does an individual human life begin?” We provided four possible answers: a) conception, b) viability, c) birth, or d) a write-in option for voters to identify a different biological point. It was kept off the ballot by the Attorney General, a former board member of Planned Parenthood, and deeply opposed by Planned Parenthood, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women – working in conjunction. Our research showed that at least 80 percent of the voters were likely to say “conception.” This would have been devastating to the abortion-rights movement – establishing an accurate definition of terms by means of informed choice, and upending the rationale of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing human abortion. Had we done one simple legal step, we would have prevailed, but that is the nature of the devil, to find our weak points and exploit them.
We slowly gained a perspective that there was more than meets the eye – a wall of witchcraft behind the scenes. Beginning in June of 1989, we began a presence at New England’s largest abortion center, Preterm, on Beacon Street in Brookline, adjacent to Boston. There were two other abortion centers on Beacon Street nearby, Repro and Planned Parenthood, and we were occasionally at Repro as well. In about two years worth of Saturdays, we saw 200 or more women walk away from their abortion appointments by their own choices, many to go to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and some also found Christ. We had a presence in worship and conversation with abortion rights activists. Our signs had intelligent and non-accusatory questions that caused many people to do some real thinking. Our large banner said, “You have the power to choose life,” and those seven words alone turned many women away from planned abortions.
We were consistently opposed by people, especially women, publicly cursing us in open allegiance to witchcraft. I happened once to converse with a woman in such a context who, upon learning that I had organized the statewide pro-life referendum, claimed that she and others in the Boston chapter of NOW had reviewed all our petitions and found many forgeries. Now it turns out that Boston NOW and others, had been contacted by someone within the government, moments after we turned in our signatures. The theme of sorcery at the right hand of power? In fact, we had the highest percentage of ratified signatures in state history according to one member of the Secretary of State’s office. I asked the woman why, if there were so many forgeries, was there never even one challenge mounted against one signature? She did not answer.
One remarkable series of events marked this whole season. On August 9, I was up late one evening (just before midnight), finishing some work. I was usually in bed much earlier. I was sitting at the kitchen table, leaned back in my chair and went into prayer. As I did, I had a clear and strong vision. In it I saw a room with crudely fastened bookshelves against a wall to the right. It was laden with books of an occultic nature, along with some cognate paraphernalia. Two windows with sheer curtains were to its left, straight ahead, overlooking a busy city street. I got the sense it was a second or third floor apartment in a neighborhood near Boston University (BU).
At a table in front of the windows, four women were seated. My perspective had me gazing over the shoulders of three of them from the near corner of the table. There was one woman to my left at one end, next to a window to her left, with the right side of her profile discernable but not distinguishable. Two women were seated next to each other to my right, their backs toward me, facing the windows. I saw the face of the fourth woman, who was seated at the end of the table closest to the bookshelves. I recognized having seen her among the abortion-rights protestors at Preterm, led by the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
On the table was a crude straw figure with about 35 needles stuck into it. As I looked at the figure, the Lord spoke to me and said that the straw figure had been designed to represent me, and that these women were trying to work voodoo curses against me. I also had the sense they were amateurs at voodoo, but trying hard nonetheless, opening themselves up to whatever spiritual powers were necessary to succeed in disarming our Christian pro-life witness at Preterm.
The Lord then told me: “Command the needles to explode outward.” I was surprised by the word “explode,” and immediately rejoined that I was sure the Lord did not intend for the “exploding” needles to hurt any of the women. Being thus assured, I then commanded the needles “to explode outward in the name of Jesus.” As I did, I saw the needles pop out of the straw figure and fall onto the table – as the vision was an ongoing event like watching a live television report.
As the needles popped out, the four women fell back in their chairs, knowing that this was the power of the Lord at work through my prayers. In other words, they were somehow aware that I was praying at that exact moment, and that the power of the God of the Bible was manifest in response to my prayers. The falling back of the women was as if they were struck by a powerful blast of wind.
That was the end of the vision, and I sat there amazed and surprised, not knowing fully what to make of it, still processing the images that had been placed before my mind’s eye. The vision was clear and real, but as always, I do not fully trust anything like this without testing it and seeing clear signs of confirmation. So I put it this vision on the “back burner” and went about my life and work.
Over the next week and a half, I found myself interrupted four or five times, at various times and places, with the Lord telling me to pray – for at that given moment one or several of these women, perhaps at times with others, were cursing me again. Usually a brief prayer was sufficient, but once while driving home in the middle of the day, I was impressed to pray for some twenty minutes.
On the evening of August 18, a Friday, I was preparing some new signs for the next morning’s presence at Preterm. When I was done, I looked at my watch – exactly 12:01 a.m. Then, again, the same vision of August 9 returned, exactly the same in all details and outcome, and I understood that these four women were repeating the attempted voodoo curses again, at that very moment.
After I rebuked the curses in prayer, I was immediately flooded with a remarkable sense of God’s presence and peace, went to bed and slept wonderfully. In my prior trips to Preterm I had slept poorly the prior nights, filled with anxieties and uncertainties. I needed to be up at 5:00 a.m., and instead of being exhausted, I awoke fully rested. God’s Spirit had touched me after the final rebuke of the voodoo, and a victory had been won in this spiritual warfare with demonic powers.
The fruit was immediately evident. I had expected about 40 people from our Christian pro-life group to show up that Saturday, but we saw as many as 150 different supporters at some point between 7 a.m. and noon. Something had happened in the spiritual realms the night before. We had an average of 80 people at a given time, and the abortion-rights supporters were almost as many at a given time. Four of five people told me how “anointed” that morning was in terms of worship, sidewalk counseling with abortion-minded women, and our witness to the abortion-rights activists. That word “anointed” had never been used before or since at Preterm. At least seven women chose not to follow through with their abortion appointments, and only twenty or thirty women were observed going into Preterm that morning, compared with fifty or so on prior Saturdays. Our people found that the abortion-rights activists had an uncharacteristic openness in the many conversations that occurred, and as well, whereas in our prior times at Preterm we noted pubic displays of witchcraft against us, we saw none that morning.
This was perhaps my first experience in “warfare prayer,” that is, praying for God to break demonic powers in the hearts and minds of people, who would otherwise resist the Gospel, and instead experience a level playing field to truly consider it.
In addition, that Friday afternoon, I remember leaving my office, which at the time was in Gloucester. Being increasingly aware of the spiritual dynamics, I was impressed to pray over the office, asking God’s protection. After the events of the weekend, and as I came in on Monday morning, our computer’s hard disk then failed completely. It cost us not only substantial money, but also a month’s worth of organizational progress. The computer technician could offer no satisfactory diagnosis as to why it failed, writing it off as a mysterious “magnetic problem.” Then the next day, our brand new photocopier failed. When the service technician opened up the machine, there were no problems with the moving parts. Rather, a non-moving piece, made out of space-age plastic (as durable as steel he told me), was broken in half. No possible explanation in natural terms.
As I looked at the piece and the puzzlement on the part of the technician, and considered the equal puzzlement by the computer technician earlier, I reflected on this new level of spiritual warfare I was entering. I recalled that as I had prayed over the office Friday afternoon, I prayed over everything specifically except the computer and photocopier. I remember, when I was praying, looking at my desk, typewriter, library and other elements in that room of the office, but not focusing on the adjacent room where the computer and photocopier were located. I wondered: Had these voodooists retorted to my warfare prayer with random missiles of curses until they found something uncovered by prayer?
As I later came to understand biblically, God specifically invites us to participate with him, as his image-bearers, in dominion over the earth, and over demonic opposition. We are not robots – so our prayers are actually the commissioning of angels to war against demons, demons which are commissioned by the various rituals and solicitations of occultists. Yahweh will do not for us what we have been given the stewardship to do in his name, nor can we do what only he can do. We are called to be biblically mature, know the score, and exercise the gifts he gives us. We are so loved by him, that he wants for us our fullest participation in and ownership of his kingdom and its rule. If we want to see a genuine theological maturity in the church that can transform human politics, we need to know how to engage in spiritual warfare.