Charles W. Colson, the Watergate felon who went on to become the voice of faith and reason for millions and to revolutionize prison ministry following his conversion to Christianity, died April 21 following a brain hemorrhage. Colson, 80, died at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia one week after emergency surgery for bleeding in the brain.
For many of the baby boomer generation, Colson, who rose to the level of captain in the Marine Corps, will primarily be remembered for his role in the Watergate scandal, for which he served seven months in prison and became a subject of national disdain. It was months before he began his sentence, however, that a friend handed him a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, an event that changed Colson’s life forever.
In his memoir Born Again, Colson described his pivotal encounter with God through the ministry of a friend at a time when “my whole world (was) crashing down around me.” Colson prayed for the first time and began to meditate on the power of love before realizing he must come to terms with the material reality of Christianity, the crux of Lewis’ thesis, and to Colson, the “heart of the matter”: that Jesus Christ is God.
When Colson’s conversion became public, it was widely ridiculed as a ploy to reduce his prison term. But the event was destined to transform his incarceration experience in a far more profound way: Colson saw an urgent need to alleviate the plight of his fellow prisoners, whom he saw as victims of unjust treatment and lacking help towards finding a better path.
Colson was to begin a faith-based outreach to prisoners that now reaches 113 countries worldwide.
An outspoken critic of abortion, eugenicism, postmodernism, the homosexual lifestyle, no-fault divorce, and other aspects of modern sexual anarchy – phenomena he called the “culture of death,” a term coined by Pope John Paul II – Colson founded The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, in hopes of fostering “The Movement” of Christians banding together to re-evangelize Western civilization.
Millions became familiar with Colson’s eloquent defense of Christian civilization through his daily radio commentary, BreakPoint, heard on more than 1,400 outlets across the United States, as well as his online writings at BreakPoint.org.
Several conservative leaders mourned the loss of a brilliant mind and astonishing witness to the reformative power of Christianity and the culture of life. “At the heart of the pro-life movement is the certainty that one life can make a difference, and Chuck Colson is proof of that,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council remembered Colson for his indelible impact in the lives of countless prisoners through a Prison Fellowship “rooted in one man’s deliverance.” Perkins continued: “I have long admired Chuck Colson, because of his commitment to showing both the truth and the love of Jesus Christ. By his example, he taught Christians how to fully integrate one’s Christian faith with a role in the public realm. He never compartmentalized his faith. Chuck Colson challenged us to follow God’s instruction to be salt and light in every place that we set our feet.”
This article originally appeared April 22 at LifeSiteNews and is reprinted with permission.