Text: Matthew 24:36-44
My senior year in college, I took a class called Psychology of Religion. For the final project we were to pick a topic and write a paper that would incorporate research, interviews, and personal illustrations. I chose for my topic, “the power of persuasion and suggestion.” My thesis was that the power of persuasion plays a significant role in matters of belief and faith. This topic was of interest to me because I had read an article in the local newspaper of a woman in a neighboring community who was known as the local “witch.” She had created quite a stir by staging her own funeral, all the way to buying a casket and lying in it as a hearse drove her through the small rural town in which she lived, in a mock funeral procession. She had also made the news several years earlier when some teenagers, who had visited with her and taunted her during their visit, had been injured in a car accident on their way home. The folklore was that she had put a curse on them as they left her home. As a result, many in that community had come to believe in the magical powers of the local sorcerer. Thus, my thesis that the power of persuasion and suggestion plays a significant role in matters of belief and faith.
When I sought approval from my professor to proceed with my idea for my final project, she rejected my request. When I asked why, she said I was too impressionable—that I would believe whatever the woman with magical powers told me. But being the persistent and focused, some would say “single-minded,” person that I am, I made another appeal to my professor. I asked her if I took my father with me could I go. (Such a request is one of the blessings and curses of going to college in the same small town that you grew up in.) Knowing my father well, Dr. Cullinan reluctantly agreed to my plan. The evening of the interview was set along with my approved list of questions to ask. As the day approached, it was decided (not sure how) that my mother and sister would also go. My project now became a family affair.