Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The life and death of a 'hatchet man'

You will have heard of Chuck Colson.

Colson, trained as a lawyer, became a master of dirty tricks and "hatchet man" for US President Richard Nixon. He was said to be ruthless. "I would walk over my Grandmother for Richard Nixon," he said once.

He described himself as a nominal Episcopalian, but he had no idea who the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son were. "Oh, I think religion is fine," he told one man, "provided one has as little of it as possible."

Colson left the White House after the Watergate scandal, which cost Nixon the presidency. He called on a company executive, hoping to get some work. Instead of talking about work, the executive spent the evening talking about Jesus, reading Colson extracts from a book called Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, and praying for him.

Later that night Colson burst into tears at the wheel of his car and said a prayer himself. He told his wife he thought he'd had a conversion experience - but he didn't know what the term meant.

While still under investigation concerning Watergate, news leaked out that Colson had become a Christian. "How convenient," many said. Said the Boston Globe: "If Mr Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody."

It's said that Colson could have beaten charges in connection with Watergate, but he chose something he knew he was guilty of and decided to plead guilty. He went to prison. 

In prison one day a fellow prisoner named Archie shouted: "Hey, Colson. You'll be out of here soon. What are you going to do for us?" "I'll help in some way," said Colson. "Bull," said Archie. "You all say that. I've seen big shots like you come and go. They all say the same things while they're inside. Then they get out and forget us fast. There ain't nobody cares about us. Nobody!"

Colson proved him wrong. When he got out, he started Prison Fellowship International, which now operates in 150 countries. He regularly visited prisons to preach the gospel and pray with prisoners on Death Row.

He founded the Chuck Colson Centre for Christian Worldview. He was awarded 15 honorary doctorates. He wrote more than 30 books, which sold millions of copies. He became a regular columnist and broadcaster. All the royalties from his books, his fees from public speaking and the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion he gave to charity.

He influenced an incalculable number of ordinary Americans, as well as countless people who are now Christian leaders themselves.

On Saturday, Chuck Colson died. He was 80.

I mention these details in order to make a point. In the gospels, you read how Jesus spoke to people and transformed their lives. Can He do the same today?

Course He can.