I was born and raised in the village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, the oldest of six children. My father suffered from a severe form of mental illness that began when I was about 9 or 10 and became progressively worse. At the age of 12 I became an alcoholic as a means of coping with my family situation.
At 16 I watched my father, in a state of extreme pyschosis, engage in an armed stand-off with the state police in my childhood home, over an incident involving my dropping out of school. He eventually surrendered and was driven away in the back of a police cruiser, never to return. He spent the rest of his life in the state mental hospital.
I was on my own from the age of 16, finishing my high school credits in a hippie alternative school called The King Philip Project. I was the first of only about a dozen students to graduate from that school before it closed from lack of funding. Class of 1, December 1976.
I was an alcoholic and drug addict for 16 years, drifting around the United States, often homeless, sometimes sleeping under bridges and begging for spare change on street-corners. I visited every one of the 48 continental states and logged over 25,000 miles by thumb, bus and train in my wandering. I didn’t learn to drive a car until I was 25.
On February 1, 1986 I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ on my knees by myself in an alcohol treatment facility in Portland, Oregon. In an instant I was completely healed and delivered from my bondage and I felt the rush of the Holy Spirit through me. It was a miracle which competely removed my desire for alcohol and drugs — something I had been unable to do for myself over several years of a desperate futile struggle to find some way to freedom. I have never since had the slightest desire to go back.
I was married by then and had two children, but it was only after accepting Jesus that I learned how to be a husband, a father and a provider.
In 1987 at an intersection in Portland I encountered my former drug dealer and partner in partying and occult circles. He pulled up next to my pick-up truck on a motorcycle and took off his helmet. I literally waved him off, saying “I don’t do any of that any more. I’m a Christian now.” He got a big smile on his face and said “So am I.
That Sunday my former drug dealer took me to a Bible-believing church for the first time. I had been going to AA meetings instead of church, and Jesus was my “higher power.” But as we walked through those doors and I experienced the spirit-filled worship in music, I felt instantly at home. I didn’t miss a single service there at Portland Foursquare Church for the next five years. Within a few weeks I reunited with my wife, from whom I had been separated for about three months, expecting to divorce. (We will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in June of 2012.)
In 1988 I received my ministry when a pro-life activist showed me pictures of aborted babies. I was both horrified and outraged. How could this be happening in America? Within a few months I became a full-time missionary for the unborn. I didn’t join any group, I just started doing it on my own: picketing, protesting and educating the public.
In 1989 I met Pastor Lon Mabon and got involved with his organization Oregon Citizens Alliance, the largest state-wide Christian political group in the nation. Within a few weeks, having no formal education or experience, I became the State Communications Director. We were running a pro-life ballot measure for the 1990 election.
In 1991 OCA shifted from the abortion issue to homosexuality due to the rapid advance of that agenda in Oregon. I knew very little about the issue but over the next several years had my eyes opened to things very few Christians have ever seen or experienced. I realized that homosexuality was even more destructive to society than abortion.
In my advocacy of the Biblical position re homosexuality I came under serious and sustained attack, the like of which has driven most pro-family defenders off the cultural battlefield. Determined not to be silenced on this issue I accumulated skills and credentials over the next dozen years that equipped me to be a prominent leader in the now global pro-family movement.
At the same time, however, my primary purpose and goal has been to advance the Kingdom of God, and so throughout my career I have interwoven evangelism and discipleship with Christian activism.
Today I am able to wear various hats as the circumstances dictate: attorney, pastor, author, public speaker, missionary and international human rights consultant.