I remember hating Colson when he worked for Nixon. His famous quote, "If you grab them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow" seemed to summarize his politics first learned in Massachusetts. I distrusted his seemingly too easy conversion. But in the years that followed his conversion, my admiration for his work grew the more I learned about it.
His life began again with his conversion and he to me is the perfect example of a life redeemed by grace.
The New York Times, Charles W. Colson, Watergate Felon Who Became Evangelical Leader Dies at 80
Charles W. Colson, who as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon masterminded some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born again,” died on Saturday in Falls Church, Va. He was 80.
In 1956, Mr. Colson went to Washington as an administrative assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall, a Massachusetts Republican. He met Nixon, who was then vice president, and became, in his words, a lifelong “Nixon fanatic.” The two men “understood each other,” Mr. Colson wrote in “Born Again,” his memoir. They were “prideful men seeking that most elusive goal of all — acceptance and the respect of those who had spurned us.”
A sympathetic biography, “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed” (2005), by Jonathan Aitken, depicts him in these years as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, amoral man with three young children — Wendell Ball II, Christian and Emily Ann — and a failing marriage. He divorced his first wife and married Patricia Ann Hughes in 1964.
It’s pretty interesting to read the obituaries of Charles Colson by those who were alive during Watergate and those who weren’t. It’s clear that some reporters are stuck in the 1970s, apparently unaware of how the state of evangelicalism was shaped by Colson’s complex life and legacy.
Part of what seems to complicate the media’s relationship might be that the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein are the real heroes for journalists coming out of Watergate. Someone like Colson, who had a conversion experience and spent time in jail, does not fit the narrative of who was on right side at that time
Chuck Colson found freedom in prison writes Michael Gerson
Following Chuck’s recent death, the news media — with short attention spans but long memories — have focused on the Watergate portion of his career. They preserve the image of a public figure at the moment when the public glare was harshest — a picture taken when the flash bulbs popped in 1974.
Many wondered at Chuck’s sudden conversion to Christianity. He seemed to wonder at it himself. He spent each day that followed, for nearly 40 years, dazzled by his own implausible redemption. It is the reason he never hedged or hesitated in describing his relationship with Jesus Christ. Chuck was possessed, not by some cause, but by someone.
It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfillment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell. Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance.
After Chuck Colson passed away on Saturday, obituaries naturally remembered him first and foremost as the lawyer and Watergate conspirator who went to jail for obstructing justice. They also noted that, while in prison, he found Christ and dedicated himself to prison ministries. Alas, the mainstream media can be so dismissive of faith that many saw him only as a political warrior of the religious right, instead of a man who lived his faith and bridged the chasm between parties with his message of forgiveness and redemption.
Colson took literally Christ’s command to visit and comfort those in prison, a ministry that middle-class congregations had previously ignored. He got prisons to set aside wings or buildings for inmates who wanted to live in a structured, faith-based environment. He got congregations to see it as part of their mission to partner with prisons and individual inmates, leading prison programming aimed at turning men’s lives around. Most of all, he got law-abiding citizens on the outside to encounter inmates, face to face, not as nameless, faceless threats but as their brothers to be redeemed.
Concern for prisoners used to be the exclusive province of the left and the whipping boy of the right. By the end of his life, Colson had laid the foundation for the left and religious right to come together to endorse restorative punishment followed by forgiveness. He brought Christian forgiveness and mercy into discussions of criminal justice, helping to break the ratchet that inexorably jacked up sentences and permanently exiled wrongdoers irrespective of need or public safety.
Symposium on Colson's Life and Legacy
Charles Colson’s 35-year career as an unabashed Christian and evangelizer to prisoners won my profound respect. He combined compassion for the incarcerated with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and he refused to blame “society” for the self-destructive habits that landed criminals behind bars. Colson also had to take a lot of guff from the mainstream media over his supposedly opportunistic conversion in 1973, and he bore that with admirable patience and charity.
It may not be possible to count the ways mean-spirited liberals hated Chuck Colson. His muscular Christianity was one. His fortitude on behalf of “the least of these” made him a true servant-leader. He used his strength and conviction to speak out and work in behalf of the weak and defenseless outside prison and the stunted souls inside prison.
My very first job out of college was working for Chuck Colson. He had just been released from prison and was starting a prison ministry. I was his first “research assistant/travel companion.” Chuck had been humbled and broken by his experience in prison and vowed when he left never to forget those he left behind. And he did not. Despite job offers that would have paid him seven figures after prison, he turned them all down to start Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Still, for nearly four full post-Watergate decades, Colson, who died this past Saturday at age 80, steadfastly practiced what he preached about prisons, prisoners and penal reform. Where criminal justice was concerned, he was God's good man, not Nixon's bad man. He gave his ministry most of his adult life and almost all of his money, including royalties on about two dozen books, speakers' fees, and the $1 million Templeton Prize for spiritual endeavors that he won in 1993. While maintaining his Break Point radio show, he worked endless hours raising the tens of millions of dollars a year that supported the ministry's operations.
In the 2000s alone, Colson's Prison Fellowship mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers to work in 1,329 prisons from coast to coast and also mustered nearly 15,000 volunteers each year to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 350,000 children of prisoners. Recognizing that about 700,000 prisoners are released each year, the Colson ministry created eight InnerChange Freedom Initiative prisoner re-entry programs across five states, and found jobs for about 60% of all IFI parolees.
But Colson's most consequential criminal-justice legacy is still in the making. He nearly single-handedly put America on a bipartisan path to zero prison growth. With another born-again ex-prisoner, former California state legislator Pat Nolan, he led the charge against states' mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and for the federal government's Second Chance Act, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help ex-prisoners find jobs, get drug treatment, and reconnect with loved ones.
A terribly tragic death.
A Brazilian actor has died after accidentally hanging himself while playing Judas in an Easter Passion play.
Tiago Klimeck, 27, was enacting the suicide of Judas during the performance on Good Friday in the city of Itarare.
The actor was hanging for four minutes before fellow performers realized something was wrong.
Klimeck was taken to hospital suffering from cerebral hypoxia but died on Sunday.
Klimeck was re-enacting the scene in which Judas commits suicide in repentance for his betrayal of Jesus Christ.
Police are investigating the apparatus that was meant to support Klimeck. It appears the knot may have been wrongly tied.
May he rest in peace.
Just in time for the boomers, the New York Times reports How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death.
Researchers acknowledge that it’s not clear how psilocybin reduces a person’s anxiety about mortality, not simply during the trip but for weeks and months following. “It’s a bit of a mystery,” Grob says. “I don’t really have altogether a definitive answer as to why the drug eases the fear of death, but we do know that from time immemorial individuals who have transformative spiritual experiences come to a very different view of themselves and the world around them and thus are able to handle their own deaths differently.”
“On psychedelics,” Halpern says, “you have an experience in which you feel there is something you are a part of, something else is out there that’s bigger than you, that there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning. I’m telling you that you’re not going to forget that six months from now. The experience gives you, just when you’re on the edge of death, hope for something more.”