Why we Suffer: Charles Colson, a Democrat Senator and being Born Again

The humbling of Nixon’s Hatchet Man in America’s Sodom and Gomorrah and the path to eternal life in the Kingdom of God

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord…And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? – Acts 9: 1-6 (KJV)

Though Daniel Ellsberg deserved to be  criminally charged for leaking national security secrets and though the leaking of his FBI file to the press by Charles Colson doesn’t rise to the level of the Apostle Paul’s (then Saul) participation in the stoning of Stephen, Chuck’s Road to Damascus also led to joyous concert performances behind bars. 

The mostly forgotten millions languishing in American prisons, America and the Body of Christ on Earth, each lost a precious member to cancer this past week when one of the “Watergate Seven” passed away at the age of 80. Colson’s life from his Boston birth in 1931 until his seven-month stint in 1974 at Alabama’s Maxwell Prison was dominated by law practice, Republican Party politics and CREEP (Committee to re-Elect the President) “Enemies List” services as White House Counsel for the only president of the United States to resign the office.

But what matters most about Chuck’s life is the one he led after being “Born Again” (also the name of his post-conversion memoir) thanks to in large part to C.S. Lewis’s classic Christian apologetic, “Mere Christianity” and Senator Harold Hughes, a former Republican, and governor turned Democrat, form Iowa.

Indicted on March 1, 1974 for covering up the Watergate burglary, Colson was given a copy of Mere Christianity by a friend. The book, famous for its systematic appeal to reason in making the case for the existence of God and the truth of Christian scripture, appealed to Chuck’s logical, lawyer’s mind and drove him to attend a regular prayer breakfast on Capitol Hill, where, Senator Hughes, a major critic of President Richard Nixon, embraced Colson and led him to commit himself to Christ:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.   The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdomof God. – John 3:1-3 (KJV)

Many were sceptical of Colson’s post-arrest and pre-sentence conversion, but after pleading guilty and serving his time, Chuck established and ran the most prominent prison ministry in American history, Prison Fellowship, for the next 36 years before his death. He also wrote many books and took his message to radio airwaves.

Why we suffer, get old (if we’re lucky), and die

The above is one of the oldest, most asked, and most difficult questions to answer in human history, no matter one’s religion or lack thereof; but I think Charles Colson’s two lives and Christian conversion hint at the answer: Life is the process by which God makes us able to inherit eternal life.

God created man and placed him in a garden paradise with the choice of God as God with man subject to his laws or Man being his own God deciding good and evil. Eve, then Adam and then all of their progeny save one, succumbed to the temptation of the serpent:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die, For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. – Genesis 3:2-4 (KJV)

Lots of dying has been the rule ever since, but in the fullness of time, God became flesh, dwelt among us, suffered and died on Calvary’s cross, and rose again on the third day. Chuck Colson believed and his new life began. He was transformed from a Hellish creature into a Heavenly creature that members of both political parties came to see.

Colson came to see that we can’t save ourselves. Yes, we can be the Lord our life on Earth and inherit the death we sow. But there is an alternative, even for Nixonian crooks and the incarcerated, that was made possible for us by Christ having become one of us, much like the famous Paul Harvey story about the birds imperiled by an approaching storm.

The farmer wanted to save the birds feeding near his barn, many of whom would surely be killed when an approaching thunder storm reached his property. But try as he would, he could not get the birds to go into the barn. And then he thought, if only I could become a bird, I could lead them to safety.

God led Chuck Colson to safety and, thanks to his witness and good work, many more in prison and out, are safer today.

Mike DeVine

Atlanta Law & Politics columnist –  Examiner.com

Editor – Hillbilly Politics

Co-Founder and Editor – Political Daily

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

More DeVine Gamecock rooster crowings at Unified Patriots,  and all  Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-eds archived at Townhall.com.