Remembering Charles Colson

04.22.12 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[2]

chuck colson-2Charles Colson, 1972:

“I am totally unconcerned about anything other than getting the job done…Let me point out that the statement in last week's UPI story that I was once reported to have said that I would ‘walk over my grandmother, if necessary’ is absolutely correct.”

Charles Colson, 1992:

“I learned one thing in Watergate:  I was well-intentioned but rationalized illegal behavior.  You cannot live your life other than walking in the truth. Your means are as important as your ends.”

Charles Colson, 1973:

“Let’s not let him up,” (referring to John Kerry, Viet Nam war veteran and protester, currently Senator from Massachusetts); “let’s destroy this young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader.”

Charles Colson, 2001:

“Few things are so deadly as a misguided sense of compassion.”

He was the epitome of the ‘dirty tricks’ of the Nixon presidency.  The ‘hatchet man’.  The senior advisor to the President whose ruthlessness in getting things done was legend within the White House.  As Special Counsel for the President of the United States, Charles “Chuck” Colson was one of the most powerful men in America.  Today, he is remembered not so much for any of his nefarious activities during the Nixon administration but for his Pauline-like conversion and forty years of service to the cause of Christ.  Chuck Colson died yesterday at the age of 80 at an undisclosed hospital outside Washington, D.C.

Many of you are probably familiar with his story; a former Marine captain, successful lawyer and political strategist.  As Nixon’s Special Counsel he was a liaison to special interest groups and a political operative.  He engaged in illegal activities on behalf of the administration and the Nixon re-election committee.  He authored the so-called ‘enemies list’.  He was indicted for conspiring to cover up the Watergate break-in.  He pled guilty to a lesser obstruction charge and spent seven months in federal prison.  During that period, after reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S. Lewis, Colson gave his life to Christ.  His conversion was dynamic and powerful.  His own book, ‘Born Again’ became a best-seller; he founded Prison Fellowship, believing God was calling him to a ministry to prisoners, one that emphasized change in the judicial system.

Many people who experience jailhouse conversions make the news initially but then fade into “whatever happened to?” status.  Not Colson.  He unreservedly devoted the rest of his life to serving God – not as a strident, argumentative zealot but as a reasonable, civil and respectable representative for Christ from the halls of power in Washington to the lowliest prisons in the poorest parts of the country.

His syndicated ‘BreakPoint’ radio commentary has been heard on hundreds of stations for over 20 years.  He authored a number of books.  He founded the Colson Center for Christian Worldview in 1991 to provide resources to equip believers with the tools needed to engage the culture from a Biblical worldview.  In 2009 he was the principal architect and writer of The Manhattan Declaration, calling orthodox Christians, Catholics and evangelicals to stand together on issues of religious conscience.

On March 30th, he was speaking at an event on Christian worldview in Virginia when he fell ill.  It was the last time he would be seen or speak in public.  Here are some excerpts from that final speech:

“Politics is nothing but an expression of culture.  So how do you fix the culture?  Culture is actually formed by the belief system of the people, which is us, the church.”

“So if things are bad, don’t think it’s going to be solved by an election.  It’s going to be solved by us. You have a healthy church, you have a healthy culture.  You have a healthy culture, you have healthy politics.”

“Look in the mirror, that’s where the problem is. If we can renew the church to really bring a healthy cultural influence, then there’s some hope that we can be changed.”

“I don't think the job of the church is to make people happy. I think it's to make them holy.”

Less than 24 hours since his passing he is being eulogized as a significant Christian leader who believed in putting faith into action, and demonized as a religious and cultural bigot.  I never met Colson but I’ve known a number of people through the years who’ve worked closely with him.  Their characterization of him has been consistent – that he was a decent, hard-working convert to Christ who dedicated the last four decades of his life to serving the God he loved and who first loved him.

Chuck, you’ve fought the good fight; you’ve finished the race and you’ve remained faithful.  God bless you, brother.  Welcome home.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 04.26.12 commented

Colson will be much missed. He certainly has had a huge influence on Christians over the four decades!

on 05.18.12 Rev. Richard Roberts commented

I can't think of a better modern day example of the power of Christ to change a man's heart than Chuck Colson. I had the privilege of meeting him at a Prison Fellowship event several years ago. His books have challenged and fed my soul for years. Having been involved in prison ministry for over 20 years with Prison Fellowship it was Chuck Colsons leadership and dedication that has led the way. See you soon Chuck. Save me a seat somewhere near the throne. In Christ, Rev. Richard Roberts