By Dianne E. Butts:
The Changed Life of Chuck Colson: From Watergate to Prison Ministry
In our article Finding God in the Art of Thomas Kinkade, we briefly mentioned how a person who claims to be a Christian and does things that are wrong can impact others, influencing them to reject Jesus Christ. We addressed the logic (or lack of logic) of that in a follow-up article, Finding God When Disappointed by Christians: Hypocrites?
Yet what about when a person who is not a Christian–and is living a very wrong life–becomes a Christian, and begins to live a life pleasing to God? We lost a man like this on April 21, 2012, when Chuck Colson passed away at age 80.
On March 30, Colson became ill “during his speech at the Wilberforce Weekend Conference hosted by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview in northern Virginia,” (Emily Belz, Colson’s final speech, Worldmag.org). Colson underwent surgery to remove a pool of blood on his brain and, after complications, died on Saturday.
Colson was known for two dramatically different times in his life:
The first was as one of President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet men.” According to the Associated Press article, Watergate figure Charles Colson, “Colson once famously said he’s walk over his grandmother to get the president elected to a second term.” This article, posted at timesunion.com, describes what led to Colson’s imprisonment:
“…it was actions that preceded the actual Watergate break-in that resulted in Colson’s criminal conviction. Colson pleaded guilty to efforts to discredit Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg. It was Ellsberg who had leaked the secret Defense Department study of Vietnam that became known as the Pentagon Papers. …Colson pleaded guilty in 1974 to obstruction of justice in connection with attempts to discredit Ellsberg, though charges were dropped that Colson actually played a role in the burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Charges related to the actual Watergate burglary and cover-up were also dropped. He served seven months in prison.”
But prison changed Chuck Colson. In 1993 he said, “Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it’s not prosperity or pleasure that’s important, but the maturing of the soul.”
Many scoffed at the “religious conversion” of Chuck Colson, but in the decades following his incarceration, he founded Prison Fellowship, a compassionate outreach to prisoners and their families and Angel Tree, which reaches out with help and compassion to the children of prisoners.
Michael Gerson, opinion writer for the Washington Post wrote, “He was consumed — utterly consumed — by his calling to serve prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.”
According to the Times Union article, “The Boston Globe wrote in 1973, ‘If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everyone.’”
So true. That’s why some are finding God in the changed life of Chuck Colson.
Here’s a video with a CBN.com interview from 2008 with Chuck Colson. He discussed his conversion, Prison Fellowship, and having a Christian worldview.
© Dianne E. Butts. Dianne is a freelance writer, author, and screenwriter. Her book Deliver Me, about unplanned pregnancy, just won a “Book of the Year” award. Her first book Dear America has just been republished for Kindle. Follow her writing at www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com