PLANO, Texas (Christian Examiner) – You wouldn't know it by his calm demeanor, but Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says he once had a bad temper – so severe, in fact, that he nearly killed someone at age 14.
The retired neurosurgeon-turned-politician who is running a close second to frontrunner Donald Trump gave his testimony to more than 6,000 in attendance at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, this week as part of the North Texas Presidential Forum, hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Prestonwood Baptist.
Carson was one of six GOP candidates to speak. Each gave his or her personal testimony and positions on various issues. They spoke individually, one at a time.
Carson said he knew early in life he wanted to be a doctor, but his lofty goals while growing up in Detroit clashed with his extreme anger, which he said would have landed him in "jail, reform school or the grave" – that is, if he didn't change.
The turning point came when he was 14 and tried stabbing a friend with a knife over a petty argument. God, though, intervened.
"Fortunately under his clothing he had on a large metal belt buckle, and the knife blade struck with such force that it broke," Carson said at the Sunday forum.
His friend fled, but Carson was so horrified at what had nearly happened that he locked himself in the bathroom.
"With a temper like that I would never realize my dream of becoming a physician," Carson said. "I just fell on my knees and I said, 'Lord, you're going to have to fix this. I cannot fix it. I'm never going to be successful unless you fix this."
Perhaps providentially, a Bible was in the bathroom, and Carson picked it up and began reading the book of Proverbs.
"There were all of these verses about fools, and it seems like they were all written about me," he said. "But there were also all these verses about anger."
He stayed in the bathroom for three hours and finally came to realize that to strike someone was not a sign of strength, but weakness.
"It meant that you could be easily manipulated."
Amazingly, Carson says it was the last day he had an angry outburst.
"People say, 'You just learned how to hide it.' And that's not true," Carson said. "Because when God fixes a problem, he doesn't just do a paint job. He fixes it from the inside. That's what happened."
The RealClearPolitics.com average of nationwide polls shows Trump at 27.2 percent and Carson at 21.3 percent, followed by Marco Rubio (9.0), Ted Cruz (8.0), Jeb Bush (7.0) and Carly Fiorina (5.5).
CARLY FIORINA SHARES HER FAITH
Fiorina told the audience her faith has brought her trough major trials in life.
"I have been tested," she said. "My faith has been tested. I have battled breast cancer. I have buried a child, and through it all the love of my family and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ has seen me through. And on this journey, my family and my faith will see me through as well. I will not falter, and I will not shrink from this fight."
Bush also appeared, as did Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.
Bush recounted how he grew up going to Sunday School and church as the son of George and Barbara Bush, although his "personal faith journey" came "a little later in life" when he had a wife, three children and a load of work that made him feel "overwhelmed."
"I decided to slow down," Bush said. "I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover. It was the first time that I actually had done that. And I got about halfway through Romans and I realized that Jesus was my Savior, and I accepted Him as my Savior. ....
"It's hard to describe to people who haven't had this experience; I'm not judgmental. I don't say that I'm better because of this. I just know that I can think with serenity, I can think clearly. I've learned to pray. I've learned to get on my knees and pray before I make big decisions."
In 1994 Bush converted to Catholicism, the faith of his wife.
"The blessed sacraments give me incredible serenity as well," Bush said.
Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, said the U.S. government has become separated "from the very constitutional authority that it is supposed to live under."
"This country can't be great again just by electing political people who promise great things," Huckabee said, "because the Scripture is explicitly clear: If my people which are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear their prayers and I will heal their land.
"That is His formula," Huckabee added.
Cruz, who is a member of a Southern Baptist church, said America "is in a crisis" and that "our constitutional rights are under assault each and every day."
"[But] people are waking up," Cruz said "We are seeing an awakening. We are seeing a spirit of revival across this nation."
Santorum, who like Bush is Catholic, told the audience, "Now some of you may know I'm a Catholic, but I'm an evangelical Catholic." He described how he lost his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 only to come back and win the 2012 Iowa Caucus and 10 more states during the GOP nomination process – largely on the strength of the evangelical vote.
"What got me to where I was? I believe it was my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who allowed that miracle to happen," Santorum said, adding he wants to continue to fight for social conservative causes.