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Hatchet man transformed,
This review is from: Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed (Hardcover)
The two most impressive public speakers I have ever heard are Colson and Aitken They have more in common than speaking ability. Both are men whose pride has been humbled as they fell from the highest ranks of government to finish up behind bars. Both of them found Christ before they entered prison. Both have had lives radically changed as they grew in Christian faith. Colson could not have a more understanding or sympathetic biographer than Aitken but you have to read Aitken's auto biographies to find out why, as he omits Colson's personal help from this book.
Colson comes from humbler origins than his biographer. He was the only son of a self educated lawyer and a most eccentric mother. Colson turned down a Harvard scholarship as he did not want to be part of the New England establishment. Instead he went to Brown University where he started bottom of his year and finished top. Colson graduated, married and joined the Marines as an officer, a task he relished when commanding troops but sent to a desk job he rebelled. He managed to get posted to the Navy Department on Capitol Hill and that led out of the Marines and into fist politics as aide to a senator then into his own law firm where the pushy go getting Colson made a career and lost his wife through over work and attraction to a secretary. From his legal firm he moved to work for the election of Nixon as president and he became special counsel to the new president. He was never happy with Haldeman and Erlichman, Nixon's two top aides, but was happy to engage in whatever dirty tricks were necessary to ensure a second Nixon term. He was not complicit in the Watergate burglary but he eventually pleaded gutty to other charges. Aitken gives the impression, as was the advice of Colson's lawyer, that he could well have pleaded not guilty and escaped prison and debarment as a Virgina lawyer. But the pressure was intense and if not legally guilty, new Christian Colson felt morally to blame for many things.
Aitken related Colson's amazing experience of Christian conversion as is also told in Born Again but does not go into great detail about Colson's hardships in prison, rather he concentrates on his growth in faith and witness. Unlike Aitken, Colson had no background of nominal Christianity so his growth as a Christian was really from a very low knowledge base. But Colson proved a quick learner in both theology and sanctification. The man who would have walked over his grandmother for Nixon had a lot of hardness to be removed but transformed he was day by day. He learned to forgive his enemies and not retaliate when slandered. Former political enemies who were now fellow Christins showed forgiving grace and established Colson in his new faith. He face hardship in and out of prison but he was a new man. Out of prison he spurned all legal and business offers. Instead he devoted his life to founding Prison Fellowship and helping prisoners both spiritually and in terms of prison reform. One sees in the US a country much more open to such Christian initiatives than in the UK. Prison ministry grew. There were setbacks especially when Colson, whose wife is Roman Catholic, started working for a better relationship between evangelicals and Roman Catholics. It cost him the support of many evangelicals including his theological mentor R C Sproule, but Colson has persevered and gained support form many Catholics. He has become a best selling author now calling for Christians to have a life transforming world view, not merely being religious.
Colson's new integrity shines through as does his spirituality. |For the sake of his ministry he became teetotal. Giving up cigarettes was harder. He never takes money for speaking engagements, donating fees and nearly all royalties to his Prison Fellowship. This includes the $1 million he received as winner of the Templeton Award for religion, the equivalent of a Nobel prize. This truly is the story of a life redeemed and sanctified.