Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chuck Colson, R.I.P.

A remarkable man passed away recently. A man who was
a shameless, power-grubbing criminal in the highest echelons
of government, who repented of his crimes before being
sentenced to prison and actually wanting to be sent there
as a start on his penance for his previous actions, then
spending the rest of his life ministering to prison inmates
through a ministry which he personally established, Charles
"Chuck" Colson died on April 21, aged 80, several days
after emergency surgery for a blood clot on his brain.

Colson is a dramatic example of redemption, a nowadays
all but forgotten concept because of our society's inability
to distinguish any more between fame and notoriety,
coupled with its fascination with scandal. One of the
Watergate conspirators, known to many as corrupt
President Nixon's "hatchet man", prized by Nixon for his
ruthlessness (Colson had a sign on his desk which read
"When you have people by the balls, their hearts and
minds will follow"), he admitted in his autobiography,
Born Again, that pride was the chief cause of his own
downfall. Although he left Nixon's crooked administration
after the latter's reelection, he was still called to account
for his part in the Watergate coverup. Just before he was
put on trial, Colson visited a friend who had converted to
Christianity. This friend read a passage from C.S. Lewis,
a convert to Christianity from atheism who went on to
write inspiring novels and give riveting lectures on the
Christian way of life, to Colson: "Pride always means
enmity --- it is enmity. And not only enmity between man
and man, but enmity to God." After his visit to his friend,
Colson wept tears not of sadness nor even joy, but of
relief, as he would aver in his book.

After pleading guilty to the charges brought against him,
Charles Colson became Prisoner 23226 at Maxwell
Federal Prison Camp in Alabama. Critics, which also
included fellow Watergate conspirator ex-Attorney
General John Mitchell, ridiculed Colson's conversion,
claiming that it was a sham and a ploy. But Colson
would soon see, as he said in an interview with Fox
News a few years ago, "the world through the eyes of
people who were disadvantaged and marginalized and
rejected, the outcasts in society, the untouchables in
American life." After his prison term concluded, Colson
founded his ministry, Prison Fellowship, which is now
active in many prisons throughout the country, holding
Bible-study groups and providing Christmas gifts to the
children of the incarcerated. Colson also became a
crusader for prison reform, advocating mercy and
restraint and opposing the excesses of the nation's
correctional system. He made both friends and foes
on each end of the political spectrum; Colson riled
evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians by calling
for reconciliation with Catholics, and infuriated the
Left with his principled social conservatism. And he
won over many people to his side in his ministerial
work, along with his genuine repentance for his
misdeeds. Colson had gone from being one of the
powerful and haughty to serving the weak and the

Charles "Chuck" Colson had fallen from grace, but
had made amends by healing a nation which he had
hurt by healing those on its margins who have been
hurting. God rest his soul.


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