How Colson Got
When Susan was
pregnant with our fifth child in 1990 we were
contemplating a name as we had done four times before.
Our first daughter we chose the name Dacia, then came
Austin, and Shea, then Nathaniel. Our quiver was getting
full, but the Lord blessed us with one more.
Driving to our home
in McKinney from Dallas one day I heard a gentleman on
the radio talking about Chuck Colson, who I remembered
from the Nixon Watergate days. He explained something
about Mr. Colson that was quite interesting – it
involved a comparison between the Apostles of Jesus and
the conspirators protecting President Nixon.
on earth do these guys have in common?
Well, I must preface
this with two observations that he made.
1) MEN DON’T LIE TO GET INTO TROUBLE; THEY LIE TO
GET OUT OF TROUBLE.
2) A GROUP OF PEOPLE CAN NOT HOLD A LIE TOGETHER,
ESPECIALLY UNDER SEVERE PRESSURE.
you think about it – these two simple principles play an
important part in the Watergate affair as well as the
beginning of Christianity.
explained that Chuck Colson learned first hand that men
lie to save their own skins and that a group of men
trying to maintain a lie will eventually collapse. And
these men, Nixon’s staff, were only facing the loss of
jobs, a little embarrassment, and the possibility of
some federal jail time.
In complete contrast,
the “conspirators” who claimed Jesus had appeared to
them, eaten with them, walked and talked with them –
after everyone in Jerusalem had seen Him crucified by
professional killers – were facing severe punishment. If
Jesus had not really done these things, then their lie
should have crumbled.
Why would anyone go to prison, be beaten, or put to
death for something they knew to be untrue.
After all, these men
were facing brutal beatings, severe prison time, and
death. Not for something they believed – but for
something they saw, something they new to be true. Jesus
fact eleven of the twelve apostles went to their death
for something they new to be true. Not an idea. Not a
belief. Not a hallucination.
man on the radio talked about how Chuck Colson had
become a believer in Jesus Christ – in the resurrection.
He knew that it could not be a conspiracy as skeptics
have claimed. He went on to tell about the phenomenal
prison ministry Chuck Colson started after he got out of
prison. Prison Fellowship, at that time, was reaching
into prisons in over one hundred countries – including
the most remote horror holes in the world.
that radio broadcast it occurred to me that Chuck Colson
was a true modern day hero. I suggested to Susan that we
name our new baby Colson, after Chuck Colson.
Thankfully, she agreed.
[When Colson was a baby he spent many weeks in the
hospital. Nurses would often ask how we came up with
that name. That opened the door for us to explain a
little about our faith in a dead man that got up and
walked two thousand years ago.]
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than 30 years ago, Charles W. Colson was not thinking
about reaching out to prison inmates or reforming the
U.S. penal system.
In fact, this aide to president Richard Nixon was
"incapable of humanitarian thought," according to the
media of the mid-1970s.
Colson was known as the White House "hatchet man," a man
feared by even the most powerful politicos during his
four years of service to President Nixon.
When news of Colson's conversion to Christianity leaked
to the press in 1973, the Boston Globe reported, "If Mr.
Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope
Colson would agree. He admits he was guilty of political
"dirty tricks" and willing to do almost anything for the
cause of his president and his party.
In 1974, Colson entered a plea of guilty to
Watergate-related charges; although not implicated in
the Watergate burglary, he voluntarily pleaded guilty to
obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg Case.
He entered Alabama's Maxwell Prison in 1974 as a new
Christian and as the first member of the Nixon
administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related
charges. He served seven months of a one-to-three year
In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries,
which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions
and denominations, has become the world's largest
outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and
their families. Colson has spent the last 25 years as
head of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Colson saw early on that reconciliation among offenders,
victims, their families, and communities should be a
ministry of the Church. He set Prison Fellowship in
place to exhort, equip, and assist the church in this
ministry. That decision marshaled the involvement of the
Church in prison outreach.
Colson has visited prisons throughout the U.S. and the
world and has built a movement working with more than
40,000 prison ministry volunteers, with ministries in
100 countries. In the course of touring prisons
worldwide, he became deeply concerned with prison
conditions and the need for better access to religious
I once saw a picture of a man facing the lions in a
coliseum. Can you imagine? This man’s family surely was
in the crowd. Perhaps the screams of his wife or child
would be the last thing he would hear. All he would have
to do is tell his captors he did not believe that Jesus
was risen from the dead. He
would be free to live his life with his family. He
remained faithful. He knew that Jesus was the son of
God. This man would not deny Jesus to save his own