Brazen Princess

Loud and Unashamed
APRIL 22, 2012 10:41AM

Why I Loved Chuck Colson

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In the house where I grew up, there were things you were not allowed to joke about: the Virgin Mary, the Holocaust, and John F. Kennedy (and then maybe all of the other Kennedy’s, except for Jackie who had gone off and remarried a Greek tycoon).  Now and then you could joke about prison, but my father worked at the local correctional institution, and it better be funny if it was going to be about that subject. 

My dad was a Boston- Irish-Catholic man (in that order),a graduate of Boston College, and the proud father of five well-schooled  fledgling democrats.  Growing up, the saddest portion of my life was Watergate, the whole mess when Nixon (a nut who my father didn’t like anyway) hijacked the local television for weeks... It was an especially difficult time for me, since my TV schedule was interrupted.  It was then, I am pretty sure, that I began to read.  Anything was better than watching the Watergate hearings.

I didn’t understand the whole thing, except that there were some tapes that no one was releasing, and that everyone thought would solve the whole case.  In the whole affair, I remember hearing the names Erlichman, Haldeman and Colson.  Apparently, they were the Republican Nazis who started the whole thing: a bunch of crooks lurking in the swamplands of Washington D.C.

My father felt particularly victorious when all of Nixon’s staff started bailing, and began to turn on each other.  Nixon resigned the presidency, and the TV was again filled with my programs. 

Years later, after I had two children and an incredible life change, I was shopping in a book store and saw a book by Chuck Colson: Loving God .  I picked it up and began to read it.  It was then that a flood of memories came back – was this Charles Colson, as in Watergate Colson? 

Quoted once during the campaign to re-elect Nixon, Colson reportedly said he would do anything to renew a Nixon White House, even "walk over my own grandmother."   Seen during the Nixon administration as a "darkly brilliant political strategist," he had a reputation among his friends for "dirty tricks" that left his adversaries on the stairs while he made it to the top floor.  Not a guy I thought I’d ever warm up to... or buy a book from. 

It was this that made me buy it: the person who wrote the book was no longer the hatchet man that would step over his own grandmother – he had been transformed.  The most touching thing about it was that the same thing had happened to me.  Minus Nixon.

To have been (pardon my language here) a selfish prick most of one’s life, and then be transformed into a loving, forgiving servant of mankind can only be done by God.  I was halfway through Colson’s book when I realized it was one of the best I had ever read.  Since then I have read two others that he wrote, and bought Loving God for friends as gifts. 

I don’t love Colson because he was a good person; in fact, none of us are truly that.  I don’t love him because he was a good Christian writer; in fact, he wrote some things I’d disagree with.  I do not even love him because he started “Prison Fellowship”, a non-profit organization that ministers to prisoners  all over the USA; even though I see it as one of the greatest things for inmates and their families today. 

I love Chuck Colson because he was a perfect example of how someone can be a total idiot (like me) and then become filled with the Love of God and compassion for others. 

It is the same reason that I love the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, in a way.  It is the redeemed person that gives us hope that God had the desire and the power to change a person; to exchange their heart with His. 




After his release from prison, Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, which today is "the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families".Colson worked to promote prisoner rehabilitation and reform of the prison system in the United States, citing his disdain for what he called the "lock 'em and leave 'em" warehousing approach to criminal justice. He helped to create prisons whose populations come from inmates who choose to participate in faith-based programs.

In 1983, Colson founded Justice Fellowship, using his influence in conservative political circles to push for bipartisan, legislative reforms in the U.S. criminal justice system.



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It was Colson who had this framed sign in his White House office, "If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow." Sniff, sniff... what's that I smell, brimstone?
Yeah... I know. He was the real deal when it came to Washington jerks... but after reading, can you see why I wrote what I did?
I love a reformed evildoer. In the great tradition of
Saul of Tarsus,
Paul, who singlehandedly defined this "Christianity" thing
that was devolving into chaos.
Or even Augustine.

Redemption is always possible.
Blake said "Jesus' s message was the continual forgiveness of sins".

Colson! what an odd choice of a fellow to blog about!
then again , i never knew all this about him.

He was caught, punished and excoriated for his bad deeds,
which, when you think about it, didn't cause alot of human suffering.
That 2nd Nixon term was in the bag already, for chrissakes...
He has made amends by bringing real change to
his fellow souls...
Amen, James! To all you said....
I love seeing proof that people can change and evolve into someone who sees that they are not alone on this planet. Then, they take the next step and actually do something to change it for the better.
I did not know this about Colson.
rated with love
As you have done this unto the least of my brethren, so have you done it unto me...
I'm always skeptical of people who find religion after getting in trouble. But, from what you write, it seems that Colson actually lived a different life. I respect that and am glad to know it.
Romantic Poetess~I agree completely!

jlsathre~I had suspicions as well, but as I said, I had experienced a very similar that made others suspicious of mine, too! Thank you so much for reading
I love that you gave him a chance. People can and do change.
Maybe Scrooge was his role model.When I am back in NH I'll look for one of his books in the library. Thank you. I learned today. That's good.
Good post, fascinating.... I never really thought about him or his history, and like James said, half of our bible is written by one who went around killing people and then got knocked out by God and reformed. He not only was forgiven but used for the the greater good.
As an idealistic young adult at the time of Watergate, I hated that criminal gang who took over our country. Unfortunately, another criminal gang took over in 2000. Maybe it's time to forgive, but not forget. Well told. R
Ande~ Thank you for seeing that it was a chance I gave him to keep reading. I would recommend "Loving God" - to even unbelievers or lapsed believers because it tells stories of people who have been changed by love...

Anne~What a beautiful comment and a beautiful synopsis. I whole-heartedly agree. Thank you for reading...and for commenting!

Gerald~When I read your stuff I relate so much...we must have grown up on parallel planes! My father worked for Robert Kennedy ( a volunteer on his campaign) so that should tell you who raised me.
My inclination is to give treat a white collar criminal turning to God the same degree of skepticism as I would the average blue collar criminal turning to God...there aren't many choices in the Big House, are there? My first thought regarding your forgiveness of Colson was of J. Gordon Liddy and his current fan club who know nothing of his past. I remain skeptical of his character based on his past. Thank you for offering to me a different perspective.
I didn't know anything about Chuck Colson before reading this, Brazen...thanks for sharing! I love your writing, and can just imagine your "proud father of five well-schooled fledgling democrats." What a positive transformation, that Chuck Colson chose to work on prison reform and prison fellowship after his release. I totally believe people can and do change, sometimes through experience and sometimes just through some kind of grace.
Anyone who undergoes a major transformation at any time in life is heroic and unusal. I think of Yitzhak Rabin who at 72 "changed his mind" about the Palestinians. For this, he was murdered but he still remains up there for me with your Colson, for the many in power who come to resent their former mindsets. Whoop. R
SagCap~ thank you for reading and commenting. I did not know Colson as a person, my perspective is based on his persona after 1986, when I read his book.

Clay Ball~ As always, so good to see you here. Thank you also for the infrmation on Mechai Viravaidya...I'll be ordering the book.

WendyO~ I think of Rabin often, and the softening of his heart as he grew older. One of his former cabinet members said it was as if he had died and a new, gentler man took over his body. I know what you mean.
Beautiful. Your compassion and humility are striking.