He was Nixon’s “hatchet man.” Charles “Chuck” Colson admits he would have walked over his “own grandmother if necessary” to get Richard Nixon re-elected. He also confessed he was “valuable to the President…because I was willing…to be ruthless in getting things done.” As President Nixon’s Special Counsel there were questions about his level of involvement in the Watergate scandal. He was eventually indicted for obstruction of justice in the Watergate affair on March 1, 1974.
While awaiting his arrest for these charges he had an opportunity to visit an old friend, Thomas L. Phillips chairman of the board for Raytheon Company. Colson later said he noticed an inner peace and calm about his friend and asked the reason for it. Thomas told him of his conversion to Christianity. When Colson questioned his friend’s decision, Thomas gave him a copy of C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. After reading it, Colson gave his life to Jesus Christ.
When news eventually leaked out about his conversion there were those who had known him before who ridiculed him and claimed it was just a ploy to garner sympathy from the court and a reduced sentence. He would later serve seven months in a federal prison, not for his actions in the Watergate conspiracy, but for pleading guilty to an obstruction of justice in the break-in of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg’s office. You may recall Ellsberg is the one who leaked the Pentagon Papers that led to criticism of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
When Colson reported to the Maxwell Correctional Facility in Alabama to serve his sentence, he was already a free man. Christ had declared “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32).” In the course of serving his sentence he believed God was calling him to a prison ministry.
Upon his release chuck Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976. Prison Fellowship has become the largest prison outreach program in the United States and led to the founding of Prison Fellowship International that is conducting prison outreach in 112 counties around the world. He started the Justice Fellowship in 1983 to address penal reform with the United States legislature.
Colson became a tireless advocate of the Christian worldview. He founded The Chuck Colson Center for a Christian Worldview to promote a Christian perspective of reality. In a host of different forums he has defended the biblical viewpoint on the sanctity of life, the institution of marriage, and religious freedom. These three issues led to his partnership with several other religious leaders to publish the Manhattan Declaration, a document that has been cosigned by more than a half million supporters as a call to action in defending these issues. He began a radio ministry entitled BreakPoint to further the spread of the Christian perspective. Prison Fellowship encouraged and supported the formation of Angel Tree that ministers to the needs of the other victims of crime, inmates’ children. Since its inception Angel Tree has reached out to help over six million children.
Chuck Colson has received numerous honorary doctorates and awards for his humanitarian work with inmate families, the faith based programs he has started. He has been responsible in bringing to countless inmates the only truly effective program for inmate rehabilitation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His true reward will not be comprised of the recognition of earthly institutions, but the greeting of those in heaven who would not have been there but for his service.
On April 21, 2012, Chuck Colson passed from this life into the next where he met his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and greeted his reward. His dramatic midlife conversion and the subsequent influence on our country and the international community can be likened to that of the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. While there are those who will scoff at his conversion and may attempt to belittle his achievements, the last thirty-five years of his life spent in the dedication of his calling are convincing proof that Chuck Colson was a changed man.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).”