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.
What on earth do these guys have in common?
Well, I must preface this with two observations that he made.
- MEN DON’T LIE TO GET INTO TROUBLE; THEY LIE TO GET OUT OF TROUBLE.
- A GROUP OF PEOPLE CAN NOT HOLD A LIE TOGETHER, ESPECIALLY UNDER SEVERE PRESSURE.
If you think about it – these two simple principles play an important part in the Watergate affair as well as the beginning of Christianity.
He 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 is alive.
In 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.
This 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.
After 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.]
More 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 for everybody.”
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 sentence.
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 programs.
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 flesh.