I was the 4th of seven children of Frank and Virginia Ayers, born at the height of the Baby Boom in 1956. Both of my parents were cryptographers with Naval Intelligence during World War II. My dad was one of the code breakers who discovered the flight plans of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, enabling American fighter planes to shoot down his aircraft. He went on to become one of the inaugural members of the Central Intelligence Agency as it was created following the war, serving covertly and continuing to do signal intelligence work. As a result, besides living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. (Montgomery County), I spent three years each in Ekali, Greece (outside Athens) and Frankfurt, Germany, during my boyhood years.
In Frankfurt, I went to Department of Defense (D.O.D.) schools, and stateside I attended Catholic schools through the 8th grade. Although my father was raised Protestant and was more-or-less religiously agnostic, my mother was a serious Roman Catholic who saw to it that all of her children received excellent Catholic religious training. At about age 10 I was confirmed in the Catholic faith, taking on the confirmation name “Francis.” (I always thought that Saint Francis was the coolest saint.) For several years, I liked to sign my school papers as “David John Francis Ayers.”
When I transferred to public schools in the 9th grade, I connected with a bad crowd, those who identified pretty strongly with the hippy culture of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and were heavily “into” its music, fashion, hairstyles, values and activities. By the beginning of the 10th grade I was fully immersed in that world. In the high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland at that time there were essentially four groups of students in terms of how we labelled ourselves and dressed, where and with whom we hung out, the music we listened to, and so on. There were the jocks (athletes), straights (good kids who studied hard and joined things like the Chess Club), greasers (worked on cars, wore leather jackets and slicked their hair back, liked drinking and fighting), and freaks (well… you know!). I was the latter, to the despair of my parents and family, and to my own incredible detriment. My high school days were spent in and out of trouble (more “in”!), hurting myself and others. It was an incredible waste of God-given opportunity and ability, destroying rather than building myself and others, that I would not wish upon anyone. I abandoned active involvement in Catholicism, and even became infatuated with the occult. After high school, I tried a year of community college, and a little “pop Buddhism” as well as other religious solutions to try to “straighten out,” but miserably failed.
Then, I was brought to faith in Jesus Christ in the Jesus Movement mileau of the mid-1970’s. In the Summer of 1975 I traveled with a close personal friend to a “Jesus Freak” wedding in Northwest Pennsylvania (his sister was part of something called Covenant Life Community, or the Christian Institute for Human Relations or, to most people in town, simply, “The Community”), and came back a convinced believer in Jesus Christ. Someone who should have been dead by my mid’20’s, instead, through a series of improbable events, I was transformed through Christ’s mercy into a grateful, living testimony to the infinite grace of God. Moving away from home to join this church in Edinboro, Pennsylvania in which I was “saved,” and then spending two years vacillating between commitment and backsliding (and even returning to D.C. for a year), I finally truly repented and turned my life over to God in November, 1977. I then spent over two years simply learning to be faithful — holding an assembly line union job in a frozen food plant, meeting the simple requirements of membership in a “discipleship” church, and doing my share to help maintain a busy household of Christian believers in that church in which I had first come to faith in Christ.
In the winter of 1980 I returned to college, knowing only that I was called to pursue graduate school to study and work with people in order to help them improve their lives. That meant obtaining the kind of grades that would make that possible, in a Psychology program, despite working full-time, and living, in a residential treatment facility for delinquent youth called Hermitage House. I was eventually asked to supervise a “special intervention” unit for our most violent and emotionally disturbed clients, reporting to my superiors and family court, training and managing unit staff. Upon marriage to Kathy Burd in 1982, one of our Social Work interns (the second best thing to happen to me, behind coming to Christ), and then completing a full-time psychological internship at Warren State Hospital in Warren, PA, I moved back to the Washington D.C. area to begin graduate work in Psychology at American University, and also accepted a position with Psychiatric Institutes as a full-time Psychiatric Assistant working the night shift.
Soon, I realized that I was called specifically to do research on social trends and issues, connecting the same to the growing “pro-family” and “pro-life” movements in the D.C. area during the mid-1980s, rather than continuing my career in mental health treatment. So before I actually began taking classes in the General Psychology program to which I had been admitted, I switched to the American University Sociology program to focus on what was then called Sociological Social Psychology, and Organizational Sociology. Receiving a full scholarship based on my first year’s work, and then a Master of Arts degree in 1985, I tried to take care of my wife Kathy and my new daughter, while doing medical cost containment research and work related to promoting a new health care cost accounting software system for Health Systems Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.
The next year I was asked to apply for a faculty position at The King’s College in 1986 through a personal contact. Obtaining it, I began my career as an evangelical college Sociology faculty, and the following year started my doctoral work at New York University while continuing to teach full-time. Since then, I have taught at Dallas Baptist University, served as a researcher and writer for Practical Homeschool Magazine, done free-lance research and consulting including substantial projects for Busch Creative Services (sold off in 2002) of Anhauser-Busch Corporation, and Milliken Publishing (now part of Lorenz Educational Press). I have been on the faculty of Grove City College (G.C.C.) since 1996. I became chair of the small department of Sociology at G.C.C. almost right away, then a few years later was asked to chair a new consolidated department composed of Sociology, Political Science, History, Psychology, and Economics. In 2003 I became Assistant Dean under Dr. John Sparks, Dean of the Alva J. Calderwood School of Arts and Letters. When Dr. Sparks retired in 2013, following a competitive process, I was appointed to the latter position, in which I continue.
During the 1980’s I had already directed two national studies of pro-life pregnancy clinics, which got some press attention at the time, and I had done research work to support President Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, providing all the historical speech content used in David R. Shepherd’s Ronald Reagan: In God I Trust (1984, Tyndale House). I taught my first Family course in 1987, and have been involved in researching and teaching about Marriage and Family now for almost 30 years, not only in the college classroom but in the church. My essay critiquing modern feminism appeared as Chapter 18 of the award-winning Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wayne Grudem and John Piper, Eds., Crossway, 1991, 2006). I also became certified to do premarital counseling using the PREPARE inventory and counseling system, and have counseled numerous engaged couples. In addition to test banks, instructor’s manuals, book chapters, and numerous articles, I published two books with Cengage, Experiencing Social Research (2001) and Investigating Social Problems (2004).
Over time, my theological and church commitments have evolved. The church in which I first came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior consisted of both Catholic and Protestant believers, all part of what was known as the charismatic “shepherding” movement . We were connected loosely to the Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the churches represented by New Wine Magazine. Over time, I became more and more a convinced Protestant. Beginning especially after I began Christian college teaching, I was drawn increasingly to formal Reformed doctrine, becoming a Calvinist theologically and a conservative Presbyterian, which I remain and which strongly informs my teaching, practice, and scholarship. Writers, thinkers and pastors such as Francis Schaefer, J.I. Packer, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Chuck Colson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, to name just a few, have had a huge influence upon me. So have faithful pastors over the years from charismatic, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. However, my historical experience and outlook is ecumenical, and I count true believers across various denominations and faith expressions who embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, and live under the authority of the Bible and historic Christian teaching, as fellow Christians and friends.
My future projects include bringing together decades of practice, studying social history and Christian teaching, Biblical reflection, and empirical data in order to lay out a basic primer on Christian marriage that will be of value in college classes, churches, and general Christian audiences. On August 22, 2016, with great joy I signed a contract with Weaver Books to complete this book by October 1, 2017. As part of developing material for this project, in 2012-2013 I taught a Sunday School class on the topic for over a year, taping each class. (Audio for this class will be added to this site over time.) If by God’s grace I am able to complete this project, it will enable me to realize a dream and calling I have felt on my life for decades.
God has been good to me beyond anything I could have asked or deserved. If He had “only” died the criminal’s death and experienced the punishment of God that I instead deserved, if He had only imputed His perfect righteousness to me who–after almost 40 years in the faith continue to be a decidedly imperfect and sinful man–it would have been infinitely more than enough. Instead, He has walked with me, identified with me, been my Lord and friend no matter how badly or how often I have failed him. He has blessed me with an amazing wife and six wonderful children. He has enabled me to walk my three oldest daughters down the aisle to present them in marriage to three very fine men. He has blessed me with two granddaughters, and hopefully many more to come. He has provided me employment in a Christian college of which I am enormously proud, more for what I have received from others in that institution, and for its fidelity to its incredible heritage, than for what I have been able to contribute. And every day I work alongside gifted and godly colleagues, learning from them and growing with them as we serve God together in that place.
To God be the Glory.