NECAC Debate: Demons Join the Abortion Debate at the University of New Hampshire
John C. Rankin
In October, 1989, as director of the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC). I participated in a debate over abortion at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), with three advocates on both sides, and a packed auditorium of some 400 people.
After the debate, off to the side of the podium area, I sought out a Methodist minister who represented the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) – to follow-up with him on certain of the points we had debated. I had several students from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with me, who among about a dozen people nearby, formed into a circle of discussion. Many students were still milling around or in the process of leaving, so there was a substantial din of background noise in the auditorium.
As I was speaking with the Methodist minister, I was interrupted by a woman who came in and stood to my left. She was an avowed pagan feminist who had questioned me from the floor during the debate format itself, and the question had led to her public embarrassment because she had misunderstood something I had said, that which the rest of the audience clearly understood. Now she was loaded for bear.
In her intensity to try again to discredit me, she interrupted the conversation and told me, “Stop trying to force your religion on me.” I was momentarily incredulous, for the power of informed choice had been the cornerstone of my comments that evening. At that moment I was unprepared for such vehemence, so I merely responded at the ethical and intellectual level and said, “I am not forcing religion on anyone, only seeking to persuade people openly and honestly.”
She gazed intently in response and declared, “Well, you know, my god is not your god!” At this point I gained the first glimmer that something other than intellectual or political debate was in view. A real spiritual chill, a temperature change, had been brought into the air, but before I had time to process what it meant. And without the time to process it, and being caught off guard, I sought to inject a little humor with understatement. I replied, “That’s obvious.” Then I continued, “Nonetheless, we both have freedom in a democratic society to try and persuade one another. You are free to try and persuade me, and I am free to try and persuade you.”
Then, like an uncontrollable volcano rising from within her soul, she exclaimed, “Well, I don’t believe in democracy!” In a normal discourse, I would have followed up and asked if she were a Marxist, and I would have pressed her to see if she embraces any form of informed choice.
But this was not a normal discourse. For as she spoke these words, a literal wind was released from her person, and it caused me and the other dozen or so people in the discussion circle to fall backward one or two feet, including the pagan woman herself. The Methodist minister looked at her with surprised disgust, turned away and left, and most everyone else also immediately turned away and left, in somewhat of a daze, thus ending the conversation. I did not know what to make of it, and as I drove back to Massachusetts that evening, I thought about little else.
The next day, I called the several seminary students who were there with me, to gauge their discernment. They each noted the same phenomenon, of a wind being released from the woman’s person and driving us back. One student, now a Ph.D. in New Testament, said that his momentary judgment was that he had thrown his hands into the air, and fell back in a kind of automatic gesture of disbelief at her comment. But then he realized that those with him were also falling back simultaneously, and he knew he had not stepped back but was thrust back. He also noted that as soon as the words and wind came out of her, it were as though it came out against her will, and that there was “something” in her trying to take the words back and mute the reality of the wind.
It were as though an indiscreet manifestation had been made by a demon in reaction to the Gospel, and in a manifestation it would rather have not made so publicly. I believe this public display showed the true nature of the contest for the bystanders, discredited the abortion-rights argument, and thus served the reality of Satan’s household being divided. The Methodist minister and others on the abortion-rights side of the issue wanted to distance themselves from her and this manifestation, as they turned away in disgust.
A demon had been squirming within her all night, at the proclamation of the Gospel in the context of the abortion debate, in hatred of the biblical power of informed choice, in hatred of a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally. Suddenly I grasped how powerful the Word of God is in the face of the devil, both ethically and at the phenomenological level. At UNH, I stepped on the tail of a demon, and then became markedly awakened to this reality.