A Disservice to Liberal Causes
I don’t know if I realized that Colson had converted to Christianity in 1973. But if I were, I am sure that I would have been very suspicious of his conversion. Too many people turn their lives over to Christ at the point they are convicted of a crime. Crocodile tears for the judge to get a reduced sentence have sparked many a conversion experience.
In 1973 or 1974 or 1975, I could see doubting the veracity of Colson’s conversion. But it has been 39 years since Colson converted and he has a track record concerning how he incorporated his faith in Christ into his daily affairs.
In “My Chuck Colson Lesson,” Lanny Davis recounts the incident when, in 1973, he first heard of Chuck Colson. At dinner one evening, his father had said that he “hated” Chuck Colson. Thirty years later, when Davis met Colson, Colson apologized for placing Davis on Nixon’s enemy list. Davis remembers, “I looked into his eyes and I felt a strange and deep peace. It was eerie. I also saw a profound goodness and spirituality.”
Davis’ experience is consistent with my own view of Chuck Colson. While I never meet Mr. Colson, I have read and taught his work in my history classes. It is clear to me that the man whose work I have taught is not someone who still believed that “When you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” He was a changed man.
Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, also saw a change in Colson. In a National Public Radio interview Lynn observed, “Sadly, when he went from being Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, he turned into a man who thought he was God’s hatchet man.” Millions of people to listen to or read transcripts of National Public Radio interviews have seen it. Lynn’s observation can now be found on hundreds of websites. But, is it true?
There is evidence such as Lanny Davis’ experience with Colson, Colson’s essays and videos I use in my classes, and the time Colson spent working with prisoners that speak to the veracity of Colson’s conversion. Furthermore, someone with Colson’s political skills would surely realize that devoting his life to working with prisoners is not politically expedient; hardly a role for someone who wants to succeed as God’s hatchet man.
So where is the evidence to support Lynn’s claim? In my research, I could not find anything credible. It is true that Americans for the Separation of Church and State sued to stop a faith based program run by Prison Fellowship. It is also true that Chuck Colson was anti-abortion, opposed homosexuality, and supported conservative causes. But his actions do not rise to the level of being a hatchet man.
As a gay, liberal, non-Christian who takes an hermeneutical approach to scriptural analysis, I disagree with much of Colson’s later work. Yet I do not doubt the sincerity of Colson’s change from Nixon’s hatchet man to a servant of Christ.
Barry Lynn’s critical remarks are more of a commentary on Lynn than they are of Colson. Furthermore, unsupportable accusations against conservatives do a disservice to the liberal causes Lynn supports because they imply that it is not possible to make substantive arguments to support liberal positions.