In case you might have missed it, Chuck Colson passed away over the weekend. Once known as Richard Nixon’s “Hatchet Man,” Colson was intimately involved in much of the skullduggery and intrigue that the Nixon White House was famous for, including Watergate. Eventually convicted of crimes associated with the cover up, Colson was sent to prison. In his own words, this turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of his life.
Colson had a classic “born again” experience in his car one evening after leaving a friend’s house. Most commentators doubted the sincerity of Colson’s conversion, seeing it instead as a ploy to gain sympathy and a reduced sentence. Both time and Colson’s life have shown that assessment to be in great error. Founding “Prison Fellowship” after his release, Colson set in motion a ministry that has helped thousands of inmates over the past three decades.
Now if you will, allow me to get a little more personal. No, I was never an inmate aided by Colson, but the man, in spite of the fact that at one time I loathed him and all that he stood for, did have a positive impact on my life.
I was not a fan of Richard Nixon and, in fact, spent much of the summer of 1972 working in George McGovern’s national campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. I was studying at a special summer program at Georgetown University and arrived in D.C. on June 10, one week before the Watergate break in. Young and highly idealistic, I was so far left on the political spectrum that I made Chairman Mao look like a Republican. I mention all this because it puts my comments below in proper perspective.
I strongly disagreed with everything Colson, Nixon, and the whole pack of Republican blowhards stood for. And when they were found to be crooks, my view of them only grew darker. Not surprisingly, when Colson became a Christian I had my initial doubts about his sincerity. However, after his release and several years of watching his actions, I became convinced he was a man of genuine faith.
As much as I disagreed with Colson’s political views, I disliked his religious leanings even more. A staunch fundamentalist, he struck me as being rigid, judgmental, and a bit bombastic. I rocked along content with this assessment for several years.
Then I read his first book, Born Again.
Although I disagreed with much of what he said, I found that Colson’s views were well-thought-out and at least reasonable. I went on to read a number of his other books as well, including Being the Body, How Now Shall We Live, Loving God and others. Still in conflict with his basic views, I can say without reservation that the man did make me think. Colson’s style, his humility, and his ability to at least have empathy for those he disagreed with led me to have a degree of openness to his views.
Chuck Colson, a man I still disagree with in many ways, did much to make me a better Christian. He forced me to take a deeper look at some of my most cherished views and, in more than a few instances, change my mind on these themes. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak in Miami on several occasions and attended a dinner in his honor on one occasion.
Chuck Colson and his impact on my faith provides a very useful lesson, I think. If we can be open minded and respectful of those with whom we disagree and get past our own prejudices and beliefs, God can use those very people to change us for the better.
I thank the Master for this, and I thank Chuck Colson. Rest in peace my brother.
© L.D. Turner 2012/ All Rights Reserved