Skip to comments.When Redemption Is Real: Chuck Colson didnít fall from grace, he ascended to it
Posted on 04/06/2012 7:30:26 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
For the first time in 34 years, Chuck Colson wont be in a prison for Easter. The famous Watergate figure and Christian convert usually spends the day ministering to prisoners, but is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain.
Colson, 80, is a giant of our time. He is a reminder of the true meaning of redemption, a concept that has been debased in our Tilt-a-Whirl media culture that cant distinguish between notoriety and fame. In contemporary America, redemption begins sometime between the first check-in into rehab and the first cable-TV interview, and reaches completion when everyone gets distracted by someone elses attention-grabbing disgrace.
Colsons personal redemption was wrenchingly sincere, a shattering experience that brought him through that great narrative arc of conversion: worldly success, crushing humiliation, and then victory in terms he never would have imagined when he was at the pinnacle of power by the side of the leader of the free world.
Colson was known, in the words of a Wall Street Journal headline that stuck with him, as Nixons hatchet man. He helped build the sinews of the Silent Majority with outreach to constituencies such as labor, and was an all-around fixer. Nixon loved his ruthlessness. Colson had every reason to feel proud of his status. He was in the swim of events, a big man, a tough guy, talked about, respected, and feared. But pride is the great villain in Colsons classic autobiography, Born Again.
When he gave the valedictory at his high school in Cambridge, Mass., he emphasized pride. When he turned down a full scholarship to Harvard, he did it out of pride to stick it to all the swells. In the Nixon White House, he served a man drunk on pride.
Colson left government after Nixons reelection, feeling exhausted and empty. As the furor over Watergate grew, he visited a friend one night, a successful businessman who had converted to Christianity. The friend read a passage from C. S. Lewis: Pride always means enmity it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God. Later, Colson sat in his car outside the house weeping alone in the darkness, not tears of sadness nor of joy, but of relief.
When he realized that the exigencies of his legal defense were inconsistent with the forthrightness entailed by his new faith, he pleaded guilty and became Prisoner 23226 at Maxwell Federal Prison Camp in Alabama, stripped of power, prestige, freedom, even my identity. Critics doubted and mocked Colsons conversion. His Nixon administration adversary, former Attorney General John Mitchell, jibed that if Colson were a Christian, Ill take my chances with the lions.
Colson was forced, as he told James Rosen of Fox News a few years ago, to see the world through the eyes of people who were disadvantaged and marginalized and rejected, the outcasts in society, the untouchables in American life. Although in prison less than a year, he never quite left. He started his group, Prison Fellowship, which is now active in most American prisons, conducting Bible-study groups, sponsoring pen pals, and providing gifts to the children of inmates.
A devotee of the great English reformer and abolitionist William Wilberforce, Colson is one of the nations foremost voices for checking the excesses of Americas prison-industrial complex. He long ago came full circle from the enforcer of a law and order administration to an advocate of mercy and restraint. He doesnt mind telling uncomfortable truths. He stirred up some of his fellow evangelicals when, in the 1990s, he promoted reconciliation with Catholics. He maddens the Left with his unbending social conservatism.
What seemed to be Chuck Colsons fall from grace in the mid-1970s was really the opposite. It was the first step on an ascension to true courage and service. His life is a testament to how redemption, so often debased and abused in a 24/7 news cycle obsessed with celebrity and scandal, can be astonishingly powerful and real.
Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review
Actually, Mr. Mitchell, I'll take my chances with the angels. I expect to see Mr. Colson among them.
He's been the real thing.
I have the utmost respect for Mr. Colson and the tremendous work he has accomplished for the Kingdom.
I just hope that I can live up to the example he has set.
Heal up, Mr. Colson. We need you.
Praying for Chuck Colson and in thanksgiving for his tireless works.
May God be pleased to keep him among us, as a beloved witness to our faith, especially for those in most need of love and for their Creator, and for a faithful friend.
God bless and keep Chuck.
Continued prayers up
Chuck Colson set an example by writing to apologize to those he wronged as a political operative.
The former White House counsel and “hatchet man” for Richard Nixon wrote those letters after he went to prison and I heard the story of one of them from the man who received the letter.
Now some 40 years later as a recovering addict I am trying to go back to those I have wronged to make amends.
Great story! Praying for you!