It is fair to say that there were two parts to Colson’s life. The first has him remembered as a member of Richard Nixon’s inner circle who had seemingly had no moral or ethical compass. The group lived only to win elections and crush their “enemies.” In 1975, Colson served seven years in federal prison for his part in the Watergate scandal and the ensuing coverup.
Before he entered prison, a close friend and Raytheon Company chairman of the board Thomas L. Phillips, gave Colson a copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. After reading the book and coming to accept Christ, Colson’s second life began.
From his prison release in 1976 until now, Colson worked founded and worked tirelessly on various outreach ministries, most notably Prison Fellowship.
Prison Fellowship brought hope, redemption and a new life to millions of men and women in prison. Knowing the life of a convict gave Colson a certain validity when talking with prisoners. At the same time, his straight-forwardness never took away from the compassion and love he felt for those who had made mistakes in their lives.
We had the pleasure of listening to Colson speak at a church service many years ago. We also loved reading his books and his standards of Christianity he not only embraced, but exemplified in his life.
The Prison Fellowship and his other ministries released this statement:
LANSDOWNE, Va., April 21, 2012— Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most eloquent and influential voices today with the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson. The Prison Fellowship and Colson Center for Christian Worldview founder died at 3:12 p.m. on Saturday from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage. Colson was 80.
A Watergate figure who emerged from the country’s worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry, Colson spent the last years of his life in the dual role of leading Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Colson Center, a teaching and training center focused on Christian worldview thought and application.
Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. On March 31, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain. At times, Chuck showed encouraging indicators of a possible recovery, but his health took a decided turn, and he went to be with the Lord. His wife, Patty, and the family were with him in the last moments before he entered eternity.
Revered by his friends and supporters, Colson won the respect of those who disagreed with his religious and political views thanks to his tireless work on behalf of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. Colson maintained that the greatest joy in life for him was to see those “living monuments” to God’s grace: Prisoners transformed by the love of Jesus Christ. And thanks to the work of Colson and Prison Fellowship volunteers across the country, there are thousands of those living monuments among us today.
There will always be those that will doubt so called “jail house conversions.” There will always be those that can never forgive convicts and those in prison for what they have done. Chuck Colson was a man who had everything in life and wanted more. In doing so he broke the law, went to prison and came out a changed man who understood that politics and powers were only a temporary illusion.
In the 35 years since his release from prison, Colson helped touch the lives of millions of people for their betterment. Whatever crimes he committed against the law, he more than made up in the subsequent years.
We will miss him.