Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hail And Farewell, Chuck Colson

Last Saturday, Charles (Chuck) Colson passed away at age eighty. I remember very well how much I despised him and the whole Nixon political tricks gang. To me, he was the face of political evil, the architect of Nixon's enemies list. My view of Colson altered radically over the years. From master political trickster, he became a man with a good and valuable mission.

My road to Damascus only involved a mere political conversion. Colson’s road was far more Pauline. Colson was tried, convicted and sentenced to federal prison on charges of obstruction of justice for trying to derail the investigation of Nixonian activities against Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Colson was released on parole after serving a year of his five year sentence. Part of the reason for his early release was his claim that he had found Jesus while serving his term and now wished to redeem himself by establishing a ministry.

My reaction to his release was the same as that of many lawyers and Nixon despisers—“where have we heard that before?” These “come to Jesus” moments are repeated on a near daily basis at parole hearings, and when the prisoner is released, there’s a 90% chance he will immediately revert to his old habits. I fully expected Colson to go temporarily underground and re-emerge as a political operative who left Jesus at the altar. Colson had been the chief political adviser and special counsel to a President. His fall from the pinnacle of power was great, and lesser men would have sought reaffirmation and a return to power. Not Chuck.

Obituaries on the left and right have covered Colson’s career and death. Some have been more unfavorable than others, and many expressed admiration for Colson’s genuine love for his newfound evangelical Christian faith, even when they did not hold the same views. Colson never wavered from that faith, and even wrote a book about his prison time and conversion entitled Born Again.

All the obituaries mentioned to a greater or lesser extent Colson’s founding of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Jim Liske, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries described it this way: “Prison Fellowship stated because Mr. Colson would not forget the men he did time with. He did time with them and wanted to make sure the message of true freedom in Jesus came to them.” Colson truly understood that stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage. It is the imprisonment of the soul that the Tempter seeks.

My particular praise for Colson and grief at his loss goes deeper than the obituaries. Colson’s motives were pure. Mine are not as pure. Oh, I am very much a believer in Colson’s message to the imprisoned and the recently freed. But I see it in that light as well as another light that I consider equally important. Colson preached Christ’s message of love and redemption, of the “God of the second chance in the Nation of the second chance.” But he didn’t burden his sermon with comparisons or caveats. He leaves that to people like me.

Colson taught the way of forgiveness, and living the upright life after having lived an irresponsible or dangerous life. Many hardcore criminals listened, and have emerged into their communities to carry Colson’s message to those who are headed toward the same cycle of crime and imprisonment from which they themselves have now escaped thanks to Colson’s message.

But the fastest growing religion in the prisons today is Islam. And worse, the majority of those converting to Islam are becoming disciples of the most perverted version of Islamist thought—the Nation of Islam (aka the Black Muslims). While Colson taught the message of confession, forgiveness, redemption, and conversion to an upright life, the Islamists are preaching the message of hate, resentment, excuses and justification of their former lives by doing a better job of it after release.

Colson admitted that he deserved his punishment and would spend the rest of his life attempting to change his own life and that of his fellow prisoners. The Islamists blame the convict’s imprisonment on the system or the man, particularly the oppressive white man who is most likely a Christian or a Jew. No consciousness of guilt, no need for redemption, accompanied with a message of “next time you win. Colson preached that with God’s grace, the released convict could live the upright life. The Islamist preaches that upon release, the convict should seek revenge. Jesus forgives and cleanses the heart. Allah grants excuses and recruits his army of believers to game the system.

The Colson convert emerges clean of body and soul, ready to take responsibility for his own wrongdoing, seek forgiveness, and to become a valuable member of the society which he used to attack. The Islamist convert emerges clean of body, but dirty of soul, ready to destroy the society that wouldn’t tolerate his criminal activity previously, and now filled with both hatred and resentment toward the society which wronged him. At this point, the Islamist convert has been handed an excuse for his past crimes and a justification for ignoring the rules of an oppressive Judeo-Christian society and a secular government.

The true convert to Colson’s beliefs will abandon his evil ways and try to get others to do the same. The convert to Islamic radicalism may clean up his act and speak in religious style phrases, but he will represent what Christ warned us of—the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And for those reasons, I worry about the loss of Chuck Colson more than the average guy or gal. We need a thousand Chuck Colsons to counter the influence of the Louis Farrakhans. But I fear we are falling behind, and his guidance will be sorely missed.

17 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

thanks, Hawk. You know, our remembrance of him was quite similar. Certainly, the faith thing was questioned in my mind as perhaps being something of convenience as opposed to something more genuine. Over the years, it became apparent the conversion was indeed genuine. Then, Colson eventually faded into obscurity until his death. In the end, he is much the better man than his boss was, or Louis F., and certainly a better man than David Axelrod. Perhaps at the time of Axelrod's obit., people will read quizzically about how he was an obscure one term leftist president's main dirty tricks hit man.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Take heart. The wolf in sheep's clothing is now more of the caricature of Wiley E. Coyote wearing a badly fitting costume. More and more, people are getting wise to the ways of Farrakhan and friends.

T-Rav said...

To go from being a political junkie and operative such as that to a humble minister to the prisoners is a truly miraculous transformation, and an act of sacrifice I fear I will never be able to match. As you say, he will be missed. RIP, Mr. Colson.

AndrewPrice said...

Don't really know him.

rlaWTX said...

I first heard of him after, and because of, his conversion. I always had a hard time imagining him as his Nixon-era self. He was a consistent voice for Christ and an amazing picture of a "redeemed life".

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: He did largely keep out of the public eye for the past decade or so, but he remained active in Prison Ministries right up to the end. He often said that fame (or notoriety) no longer interested him, and when he did make public appearances, it was to seek help for his mission.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I agree that the general public is finally awakening to the danger, but within the prison system the Islamist movement continues to grow. It doesn't take a huge group of dedicated fanatics to stir up a lot of trouble, and the numbers coming out of the prisons are not heartening.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Very few life turnarounds are as dramatic as his. Thank goodness he turned toward the good rather than the other way around.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Aw, you kids. You missed the fun and drama of the Watergate hearings and the New York Times Colson/Daniel Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers fiascos. At the time, Colson was at least as reviled and infamous a figure as Haldemann, Ehrlichman, and John Dean.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: For those who didn't know him before he served his prison term, the transformation was not as obvious. He had been a gruff, former Marine Corps captain who chewed up and spat out lesser functionaries in the administration. His nickname was "Nixon's Hatchet Man." He treated Nixon's political opponents as enemies, and politics as war, with himself as the head of a sort of elite commando unit. The conversion couldn't have been more startling.

DCAlleyKat said...

I'm not going to comment on Colson the man, other than I find his conversion and post prison purpose noble, which stand in stark contrast to the race baiting hucksters of today.

What can be learned is the positive influence of a thing known as dedication. In this throw away streaming media crisis oriented society; dedication and other such fundamental humanity traits are becoming obsolete. That makes me weep for what I believe is the ramifications of our national neglect.

On the other hand, the differences between a Christian's life and a Muslim's life are becoming clearer by the day. The government of their day managed to kill Jesus and every one of His disciples save John, who lived to a ripe old age. Never in any of their writings or writings of them was their an encouragement for civic revolt or 'religious' revenge. Islam feeds on that. That said, we must consider ourselves warned for all around us that which is truly devilish is rising in numbers and ways that are definitly cause for concern. The ways of Islam are not friendly to a nation built upon freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the ways of a Christian embrace those things.

TJ said...

It takes a special kind of person to do prison ministry.

As an aside, my dad ran a car rental franchise back in the 70's and 80's and John Dean rented a car from him. I distinctly remember my dad telling me about it at the time.

LawHawkRFD said...

DCAlleyKat: Dignity, honor, and Christian charity are rare quantities in today's "me, me, me" political atmosphere. Colson represented the worst, and then the best of what a significant public figure can be.

LawHawkRFD said...

TJ: John Dean's prison conversion was the exact opposite of Colson's, and was proof of my comment that "a lesser man would have sought reaffirmation and a return to power." He's an early prototype for MediaMatters' David Brock. Dean's conversion was both dishonest and contrived. First he came out of prison blaming his wrongdoing on the "bad influence of others around him." Like Brock, he claims to have been manipulated by sinister forces on the right who used him to spread lies and subvert the democratic process.

Once he realized that Nixon would not grant him immunity, Dean became the ultimate snitch. He turned on his colleagues and blamed them for his own sins in exchange for a lesser sentence. His two books, Blind Ambition and Lost Honor reek of self-justification and "the devil made me do it." His conversion involved adopting every left wing cause he could find.

While Colson did good works quietly after his conversion, Dean aggrandized himself with tell-all tales and mugging for TV interviews. When he felt he had faded into obscurity in the halls of academe, he became a leader in the "impeach George W. Bush" movement. He is as repulsive as Colson was admirable.

T-Rav said...

No doubt Dean will be honored after his death by every news outlet, and probably get a few academic buildings named after him. The Left loves to do that with apostate GOPers.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: And David Brock at MediaMatters will undoubtedly lead the pack in praising Dean.

LawHawkRFD said...

OT: Obama will be making a major speech at Chapel Hill, North Carolina today. It was originally supposed to be about student loans and opposition to the state's ballot initiative which eliminates gay unions and same-sex civil partnerships. The buzz is that the latter will not be mentioned at all because of the scandal surrounding the resignation of North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Parmley. Comedy has turned to tragedy. Parmley was forced to resign because of sexual harassment charges filed by a male subordinate. But now Parmley's girlfriend has alleged that Parmley infected her with the HIV virus. In addition, she claims Parmley offered her paid-for health insurance through the Democratic Committee to cover her illness. It would be foolhardy for Obama to address the ballot initiative at this point, even though it is so draconian that many conservatives oppose it.

Post a Comment