- - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Owen Strachan, friend and Baptist theologian, spoke with us last week regarding the Planned Parenthood videos, explaining the Christian doctrine of Imago Dei—that all people bear the image of God.

During that interview, I was reminded that he has a book coming out this week about the life and impact of Chuck Colson, a man who was no stranger to Washington D.C. 

I asked Owen if he could share something about Colson with us, and to do so from the angle of “How Washington shaped Chuck Colson.”

What follows is Owen’s gift to the readers of the Times, a brief look at the impact that Jesus Christ had on a man who had such an impact on (and was impacted by) Washington.

Enjoy the article … then go pick up a copy of the book. You won’t be disappointed.

_ _ _ _ _ _

by Owen Strachan

More than four decades after Watergate exploded as a national story, its cast of characters still occupies national attention. Richard Nixon is the subject of a new biography; John Dean recently published a book; secretly recorded material was released not long ago. Watergate is still hot.

One figure whose trajectory changed remarkably after Watergate was Chuck Colson. Colson, Special Counsel to President Nixon (1969-73), was a tough customer. Journalists labeled him “Nixon’s hatchet man” in his day due to his willingness to crack skulls and plant stories in order to advance the president’s agenda. In one memorable meeting, Nixon told Colson to “break all the china in the White House” to honor his wishes. Colson did, and a bond formed between the two men.

His political career ended in the wreckage of Watergate, but Washington, D. C. left an indelible imprint on Colson. Sent to prison in 1974 and released in 1975, Colson started ministering to prisoners. His fledgling organization, Prison Fellowship, incorporated in 1976 and eventually became the world’s largest prison ministry. Colson encountered tough odds in this role, chief among them the viewpoint that convicts were not worth the costs of rehabilitation. “Lock them up and throw away the key,” many people said of inmates.

But Colson could not do that. He had been an inmate. He had sensed the hopelessness of many prisoners. So he went to work. A consummate networker who knew when to go public and when to back-channel his initiatives, Colson recruited donors, set up key meetings, and traveled incessantly to prisons. He brought prison-reform to national attention through Justice Fellowship, sent gifts to the children of inmates through Angel Tree, and engaged the culture through his radio show BreakPoint. He had learned what hard work and a refusal to take no for an answer could accomplish under Nixon. From 1976 until his death in 2012, he put those lessons to work on behalf of those broken by sin and forgotten by society.

Washington shaped Chuck Colson. He knew its promise, but he also knew how one could lose course in such a powerful city. In 2015, on the fortieth anniversary of his release from jail, those who resonate with Colson’s conservative views and Christian faith should reconsider his example. Colson’s “born again” experience reoriented his priorities. Until his dying day, he served as a voice for the voiceless and sacrificed his own time to visit prison after prison to share the message of redemption.

In light of the recent Planned Parenthood videos, major challenges to religious liberty, and our culture’s turn away from marriage and the traditional family, it is time that we all get to work on behalf of life, liberty, and happiness. We are not driven by anger; we are motivated by hope. In 2015, the Colson way beckons to us, challenging us to be courageous and sacrificial. There is no time to lose. There is, on the other hand, china to break.

— Owen Strachan is the author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson). He is a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.


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