Charles Colson: Rest in Peace

By Dave Andrusko

I was dutifully waiting to pick up two of my children from a concert when I heard the news we all knew was unfortunately coming: pro-life stalwart Chuck Colson had died.  On March 31, Colson underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain. Although there were occasional signs of progress, his prognosis was always grim.

On Saturday, his associates at Prison Ministry announced his passing in a statement which included the wonderfully reassuring news that “His wife, Patty, and the family were with him in the last moments before he entered eternity.”

Colson, a dazzlingly brilliant writer, possessed a first-rate mind, and was a man whose heart reached out to the powerless and the dispossessed. In that sense alone it was no surprise that he was a great pro-lifer.

What I did not emphasize in previous posts about Chuck is that it would almost impossible to exaggerate what a pivotal role he played, along with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, in bringing Evangelicals and Catholics together around core issues, beginning with fierce opposition to abortion. For those under 30, it is probably impossible for them to understand how unlikely a coalition that was just a couple of decades ago. But old theological disagreements  and animosities were put aside as, shoulder to shoulder, they took up the cause of the littlest Americans as “Catholics and Evangelicals Together” (CET).

The late Fr. Neuhaus founded the hugely influential “First Things” magazine. It was nothing short of providential that in the magazine’s March issue we read a manifesto “In Defense of Religious Freedom: A Statement by Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”

Note this: In “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,”  in which The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a call to action to defend religious liberty and urged laity to work to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights, the bishops specifically approved of the CET statement.

Many of the obituaries—almost all that I read—began with his role in the Nixon White House which landed him in jail.  Colson’s contributions were individually immense, collectively staggering, but perhaps in no way was he more influential than in demonstrating how remarkable a transformation a genuine conversion can be.

Jonathan Aitken, author of “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed,” ended his eulogy this way

“These examples of Colson’s legacy on politics, culture, the church, and Christian ministry have only been possible because amidst the earthquake of Watergate he heard the still small voice of God’s call. He obeyed it and stayed faithful to it. As a result he has become a shining example of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive blessings of God’s grace. As many of his fellow Christians will say about him, God changed Charles Colson and used him for good.”

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