A Snippet of Professor Carol M. Swain’s Christian Journey
When I share my Christian testimony I often call myself the accidental professor because academia was not a career choice that I consciously sought. In the early years, when I earned my GED and started my education at a local community college, my modest goal was to get a college degree and earn enough income to support my family without a man’s income. I considered careers as a nurse, a store manager, and a marketing director before circumstances unfolded that pushed me towards academia. God’s plan for my life included increased education, a series of mentors, and eventually a born again Christian experience that removed a lifelong fear of public speaking and sent me on a journey I never anticipated.
I was born and raised in abject poverty in rural Virginia in a broken family that included 11 siblings. I dropped out of school at age 16, married a slightly older neighbor and soon became the mother of three children. After spending a few miserable years as a Jehovah’s Witness and struggling with deep depression and suicide gestures, I divorced my husband, earned a GED and eventually five college and university degrees. I was steered towards academia where I met with worldly success. I earned early tenure at Princeton University and won three national awards. Despite my success, I was never happy. In fact, my life was wracked with guilt whenever I looked at my siblings and their impoverished lifestyle. After tenure, I found my life pitched into a darkness that sent me on a search for meaning that took me through New Age and Eastern religions. It eventually culminated with my having a born-again Christian experience that totally changed my life and how I see my place in the world. I am now an openly Christian professor of political science and of law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”
One of the turning points for me was a hospital experience where I thought I was dying. I heard an internal voice narrating my life and asking me to choose. I chose Jesus Christ even though I was certain that I was dying as an unsaved person. The hospital in Princeton happened to have a black Pentecostal chaplain, which was unusual given the affluence and racial makeup of the surrounding community. The chaplain and a cleaning lady witnessed to me in the hospital and arranged for me to be baptized. That year I had four hospitalizations and three operations. It took a couple of years for me to understand enough to become a devout believer.
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
When God filled me with his Spirit, he removed my fear of public speaking. Before the in-filling of the Holy Spirit I was painfully shy, so much so that I turned down an opportunity to be a guest on Good Morning America. Now I have given hundreds of interviews and I see television, radio and print as essential for reaching the public and changing the culture. Growing up in rural Virginia, I always knew I was different. Even though I didn’t know the Lord, I knew that there was something much larger than me guiding and directing my life. As a child and young adult, I can remember strangers approaching me and saying I would be famous. Although I’m not famous, I have come a long way since southwestern Virginia. God has equipped me and called me to speak truth to power. I am a prayer warrior who has witnessed many miracles of healing and salvation. I don’t know the future but I feel God’s power working to shape my life. Whatever happens—successes and failures, both the good and the bad–I am secure in the knowledge that he orders and directs my footsteps.
1 Corinthians 1: 27-29 “. . . 27 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no]man may boast before God.