Sunday, April 22, 2012


In the house where I grew up, there were things you were not allowed to joke about: the Virgin Mary, the Holocaust, and John F. Kennedy (and then maybe all of the other Kennedy’s, except for Jackie who had gone off and remarried a Greek tycoon).  Now and then you could joke about prison, but my father worked at the local correctional institution, and it better be funny if it was going to be about that subject. 
My dad was a Boston- Irish-Catholic man (in that order),a graduate of Boston College, and the proud father of five well-schooled  fledgling democrats.  Growing up, the saddest portion of my life was Watergate, the whole mess when Nixon (a nut who my father didn’t like anyway) hijacked the local television for weeks... It was an especially difficult time for me, since my TV schedule was interrupted.  It was then, I am pretty sure, that I began to read.  Anything was better than watching the Watergate hearings.
I didn’t understand the whole thing, except that there were some tapes that no one was releasing, and that everyone thought would solve the whole case.  In the whole affair, I remember hearing the names Erlichman, Haldeman and Colson.  Apparently, they were the Republican Nazis who started the whole thing: a bunch of crooks lurking in the swamplands of Washington D.C.
My father felt particularly victorious when all of Nixon’s staff started bailing, and began to turn on each other.  Nixon resigned the presidency, and the TV was again filled with my programs. 
Years later, after I had two children and an incredible life change, I was shopping in a book store and saw a book by Chuck Colson: Loving God .  I picked it up and began to read it.  It was then that a flood of memories came back – was this Charles Colson, as in Watergate Colson? 
Quoted once during the campaign to re-elect Nixon, Colson reportedly said he would do anything to renew a Nixon White House, even "walk over my own grandmother."   Seen during the Nixon administration as a "darkly brilliant political strategist," he had a reputation among his friends for "dirty tricks" that left his adversaries on the stairs while he made it to the top floor.  Not a guy I thought I’d ever warm up to... or buy a book from. 
It was this that made me buy it: the person who wrote the book was no longer the hatchet man that would step over his own grandmother – he had been transformed.  The most touching thing about it was that the same thing had happened to me.  Minus Nixon.
To have been (pardon my language here) a selfish prick most of one’s life, and then be transformed into a loving, forgiving servant of mankind can only be done by God.  I was halfway through Colson’s book when I realized it was one of the best I had ever read.  Since then I have read two others that he wrote, and bought Loving God for friends as gifts. 
I don’t love Colson because he was a good person; in fact, none of us are truly that.  I don’t love him because he was a good Christian writer; in fact, he wrote some things I’d disagree with.  I do not even love him because he started “Prison Fellowship”, a non-profit organization that ministers to prisoners  all over the USA; even though I see it as one of the greatest things for inmates and their families today. 
I love Chuck Colson because he was a perfect example of how someone can be a total idiot (like me) and then become filled with the Love of God and compassion for others. 
It is the same reason that I love the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, in a way.  It is the redeemed person that gives us hope that God has the desire and the power to change a person; to exchange their heart with His. 


After his release from prison, Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, which today is "the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families".Colson worked to promote prisoner rehabilitation and reform of the prison system in the United States, citing his disdain for what he called the "lock 'em and leave 'em" warehousing approach to criminal justice. He helped to create prisons whose populations come from inmates who choose to participate in faith-based programs.
In 1983, Colson founded Justice Fellowship, using his influence in conservative political circles to push for bipartisan, legislative reforms in the U.S. criminal justice system.

No comments:

Post a Comment