Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (NKJV)
There is no person that God cannot change and use for His glory if they will turn to Him; even murderers (King David, the Apostle Paul), cowards (Peter, Moses), liars (Abraham, Isaac) and yes, even TERRORISTS…..
Kenny McClinton is my friend and Christian brother. He was also at one time one of Ireland’s most notorious terrorists – in a land and time where terrorism was part of daily life. Violence, fear, hatred, weapons, prison, fighting, drinking and murder… this was Kenny’s life. Then God came calling, and the rest is, as they say, “history”.
Kenny is now a true Disciple of Jesus Christ and dedicates his life to serving Jesus with the same passion and commitment that he once poured into terrorism. His life story is better than any devotional I could write about God’s power to change ANY life. So I hope you will take time to enjoy his testimony this morning. If you would like to receive his occasional email Bible Lessons, please send him an email and ask to be placed on his mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can visit his website at: http://www.ulsterchristians.org.
Dr. C. Kenneth McClinton
BA (Hons) MA: PhD; D.I. Litt.
Kenny McClinton was one of the most feared men in Northern Ireland (Ulster). His years of terrorist activity culminated in two life sentences for murder and other acts of terrorist violence. He had become a thorn in the side of the authorities. Even in prison he could not be tamed and found himself in solitary confinement punishment cells fifteen times within one nine month period.
He was born in 1947, the second son of a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, coal delivery man; a man who spent all the family income on drink, causing almighty rows in the home an leaving the family in abject poverty.
He was brought up in the heart of Protestantism, in the greater Shankill area of Belfast. For much of his young life he lived in a ramshackle ex-army Nissan hut. His address was simply No. 9 Hut, West Circular Road, West Belfast. He was as familiar with rats as most children are with cats! There was no hot running water in the Hut, and Kenny and his brother were the butt of other children’s ridicule. His father spent time in prison and later left home, leaving his mother, Catherine, struggling to bring up the family with little social or financial support.
Kenny and his brother Davy’s reactions to the bullying and derision was to fight back. At an early age they learned how to defend themselves, thinking they were earning the respect of their peers. In fact, they became the terror of the areas in which they lived.
Kenny’s whole life centered around violence. He lived a kind of nomadic existence during his early years as his mother moved about numerous furnished accommodations in Belfast City. He attended approximately fourteen Primary Schools, always living by the law of the jungle, not realizing that this ruins lives. (Proverbs 14:12)
When talking with Kenny today, he is at pains to say that he does not blame his background for what he later became, although it must have had some effect upon him.
When he was fifteen years old he left school. He had no paper qualifications, and his only ‘ambition’ was to be a labourer. He finished school on a Friday in 1962 and commenced working the following Monday – as a labourer. Within a year he joined he Merchant Navy and sailed around the world for 12 years.
His voice trembles with a sense of shame when he says, “I was involved in the loosest kind of life imaginable, yet, I never ever felt really satisfied. I never found any lasting peace or contentment in this world’s pleasures. I always felt that there was something missing.”
Kenny joined the Ulster Defence Regiment of the British Army in 1972. He was duly trained in the use of weapons, yet carried a little ‘yellow card’ that forbid him to shoot at the I.R.A. terrorists unless they first shot at him. He left the U.D.R. Regiment, and in his own words, “Drifted quite naturally into a Protestant Defence organization called the Ulster Defence Association (U.D.A.).”
“Because of my violent nature and my previous British Army training, I was promoted to First Lieutenant of an active service unit within a mere three weeks…It was not long before I graduated, as it were, to the Ulster Freedom Fighters (U.F.F.) an even more militant and much feared Protestant terrorist group.”
He lead from the front; he trained many others in the use of weapons, machine guns and explosives. He would send lethal book bombs to key I.R.A. terrorists, and attempted to murder many of the I.R.A. Brigade Staff and their families!
Again his voice drops as he says, “It was at this time, I am ashamed to say, that I shot and killed two men and attempted to murder a number of others.”
“My name is Legion, for we are many…” (Mark 5:9)
After a major bombing campaign he spent two weeks drinking hard. He told me, “I remember waking up one morning in a girlfriend’s bed. I had a dreadful hangover and was sweating profusely and feeling disgusted with what I had become – a terrorist murderer. For some reason I prayed perhaps my first sincere prayer to God. I prayed, ‘God, I have always believed in You and the Protestant tradition. I am tired of what I have become. I am tired of my life. Please help me to have a new start?’”
He remembers that was on a Friday in August 1977. On the following Monday morning, the 29th August, he was woken by a heavy hand hammering on his front door. Upon looking out, he found his home surrounded by armed police and soldiers of the British Army. With little resistance, he was arrested and taken to Castlereagh Interrogation Centre in Belfast. He was questioned for five days, and duly charged with two accounts of murder and many other terrorist offences.
Kenny admits, “I had mixed feelings. I obviously did not relish losing my freedom, but in some way it was a relief, because I knew there was no other way but death in which I could get out of the life I was living as a terrorist; I was trapped by my reputation and what my fellow-terrorists expected from me.”
In a large scale crack-down hundreds of other terrorists were taken about the same time. Looking back, Kenny feels it was a real answer to his sincere prayer, although he couldn’t see it at that time.
Within the prison itself terrorist activities did not stop. In fact, there developed a very strong core of militants who were almost a much a threat to the authorities inside the prison, as they had been outside! Kenny was one of the original instigators of the ‘Loyalist Blanket Brigade’ who refused to wear prison clothes nor follow prison rules. The men used to appear in court dressed in their underwear to show their contempt of the British Court System. On one occasion, Kenny and another inmate were reported by the National newspapers as making: ‘A Full Frontal Attack on Society’, as they appeared in court totally naked; an insult to the authorities whom they felt had betrayed Loyalists and let them down in their struggle against the Irish Republican Army terrorists (I.R.A.).
Kenny became the main organizer of such acts of contempt and aggression. Within one nine month period he was placed in the punishment cells fifteen times. He was referred to by Prison Staff as ‘that Maniac McClinton’! Looking back on this period of his life Kenny likens himself to the maniac of Gadara in Mark’s Gospel whom nobody could tame.
“…and no man could tame him.” (Mark 5:3-4)
During his times in solitary confinement in the punishment cells – the floor was black, the walls stark white; the cell bare; and a neon light burned continuously – there was absolutely no means of mental stimulation, so to relieve his utter boredom, Kenny decided to start reading the rather decrepit looking prison issue of the King James Version of the Bible.
“I found I quite enjoyed all the stories in the early chapters of the Bible. I could closely relate to the whole tribal attitudes and nomadic experiences; the wars; the plots; the political intrigue. I could understand King David’s skullduggery when he arranged for a man to be killed, after sleeping with his wife and making her pregnant.” (2 Samuel 11🙂
” I could understand the mighty Samson as he fought the Philistine oppressors and eventually pulled down the Dagon Temple upon them, killing thousands of his enemies. That’s what I wanted to do with mine!”
Slowly, he read on, and the weeks turned to months; and the months turned to almost two years of solitary confinement punishments. After nearly two years of Remand imprisonment from the time of his arrest in 1977, McClinton was taken to the High Court in Belfast and tried for some seventeen days. He then heard a High Court Judge say:
“McClinton, I find that you are a callous, cold-blooded, and completely ruthless man. You are in fact, a U.F.F. assassin! I sentence you to two accounts of Life imprisonment with my stipulation that you serve no less that twenty years. Take him away!”
Off Kenny went to the H Blocks of the Maze Prison, but immediately refused to wear the prison uniform, was escorted to H Block 6; stripped off his clothes, and joined the Loyalist Blanket Protest to achieve Political Status for politically motivated offences. “…and no man could tame him.”
On one occasion, after three young Loyalist Blanket protesters had been beaten by Prison Guards and abused, Kenny took on fifteen prison officers at once, dressed only in a prison towel around his waist. Eventually they overpowered him, and administered their own kind of ‘justice’ by hanging him upside down by his feet and beating him until he couldn’t breath. Kenny received twenty-six injuries in the beating, and was ‘awarded’ twenty-two days punishment for ‘attacking fifteen prison officers’. And the solitary-confinement Bible reading continued.
“…Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
As the months passed in solitary confinement on the Loyalist Blanket Protest, Kenny reached the New Testament in his Bible readings and there in those priceless pages of God’s Word, he experienced the great love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “…things were never quite the same after that…”
Describing his experience he said: “What could not be achieved by prison bars, batons, concrete and solitary confinement, was quickly achieved by the matchless love of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was nobody to talk at length with me about God; nobody to fully explain the way to become a Christian – no books, no tracts, no strains of ‘Oh Lamb of God I come’ during a Gospel Mission. There was only my black burden of sin and guilt and shame – and that old black book of books, the Bible.”
Looking back, Kenny remembers his first realization that he was a “…filthy, Hell-deserving sinner…”, but the Bible pointed him to the righteous Jesus Christ who had suffered and died and rose again from the dead in order to offer sinners His forgiveness. (Matthew 11:28-30)
As he read on, he became aware of a tremedous Spiritual battle that was going on for his soul between Satan and the Lord God. On August 12th 1979 he recalls falling down on his knees in cell 9, H Block 6 of the Maze Prison. He cried out to God in repentance – asked for forgiveness and faith to believe and be saved – and, praise God, he trusted in Christ Jesus and he was saved! (Psalm 51🙂 (Luke 19:10)
He had read that one of the conditions of becoming a true Christian was an open, public, confession with his mouth, as well as a genuine belief in his heart. (Romans 10:9)
Therefore, after rising from his knees in that solitary cell, he called for a ‘meeting’ in the usual manner. All the Loyalist Blanket Protesters came up to their cell doors to hear what he had to say; expecting some political poem or some morale booster. Instead, he announced, “Today I have taken the most important step of my life. I have renounced violence. I have repented of my sins. I have asked Jesus Christ into my life, and to save me – and I believe He has saved me. From this day forth I cease to be a Military Commander of the U.F.F. and wish only to be a mere volunteer in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will seek to serve Him to the best of my ability. I just wanted you men to know this.”
There was a stunned silence in the H Block prison wing! After a while some made unbelieving and critical remarks such as, ‘what is the maniac up to now?’ However, today two of the men who made those remarks are born again, Bible-believing Christians serving the Lord in Belfast and have been for a long number of years. (Revelation 12:11)
When Kenny McClinton first went into prison he was semi-literate. After becoming a Christian, God gave him the patience to educate himself as his whole outlook changed dramatically. He painstakingly took correspondence courses with Emmaus Bible College. He took ‘O’ levels in English and R.S.A. exams. He did various educational courses over a long period of years with the Open University and gained a BA Honours Degree in Criminology and the Social Sciences.
After sixteen years of imprisonment McClinton was eventually released on licence in 1993. He has since then worshipped, and taught, in a number of Bible-believing churches, and views the Christian Church as a universal and international Body of born again believers, made up of all nations, colours, and former creeds; with One Head of the Church, Christ Jesus Himself. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Employment experts have deemed Kenny ‘unemployable’ due to the high political profile he has and the manner in which he has spoken out against both terrorist violence and State oppression.
He was ordained as a Pastor in an international Missions Ministry called Moments of Faith International based in Texas, U.S.A. in 1995, and under the remit of his ordination, formed the Ulster/American Christian Fellowship Ministry. Many – both in America and in his native Northern Ireland, UK (Ulster) – have benefited from his forthright ministry and sound teachings in the Word of God. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Kenny met his present wife Wendy – a former Salvation Army Officer for fifteen years – in 1993 and they have a beautiful young seven year old daughter, Abigail Catherine. Abby was saved in August 2003, and they all currently attend and sometimes minister at a local Baptist Church in Portadown.
This family has been through the ‘fire’ and though the ‘water’ over the past decade especially – murder bids, death threats; slanderings; and social and economic marginalisation – yet the Lord God has never forsaken them nor failed to ‘…supply their every need according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.’ Praise God! (Philippians 4:19)
Since September 11th 2001 and the terrible terrorist atrocity visited upon the great American Nation in New York, Kenny has been denied the necessary visa-waivers to come and minister in America. However, in the three years of dearth that has followed, God’s grace has been richly bestowed. Kenny has achieved a Master’s Degree in Theology; a Ph.D. Doctorate in Philosophy; and this year (2004) a second Doctorate in Literature with the European Theological Seminary, based in Birmingham, England.
To talk to Dr Kenny McClinton is to talk to a man who has clearly had such a transforming experience that anybody would have to be totally bigoted to disbelieve in the power of God to perform such a miracle of regeneration. (John 3:3-8)
Even if a person’s background were entirely different from Kenny’s, after hearing his story a person would have to be kidding if he/she did not envy him and want what he has found in Christ Jesus the Son of God.
Today, the former ‘maniac McClinton’ stands before us, fully clothed, in his right mind, a completely ‘new creature in Christ.’ Behold him and give praise and all glory to the Living Lord God. Amen. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If you think you are too “bad” for God to use, or to change, just take a look in the Bible, or at people like Kenny and put that idea away. God will never be through with anyone who is not through with Him.
If you would like to receive Kenny’s occasional email Bible Lessons, please send him an email and ask to be placed on his mailing list (email@example.com). You can visit his website at: http://www.ulsterchristians.org.
Lord, thank you for men like Kenny who prove to us that the darkness of sin cannot overshadow the light of Jesus Christ. Help us to trade the “terror” of sin in our own lives for a passion to serve You all of our days. In Jesus name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?