Chuck Colson: An American story of freedom

The life of Chuck Colson was celebrated beautifully on May 16 in a memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral. Colson's conversion to a man of unyielding faith, and his turning his life to Christ, is more than a great lesson of redemption. He was exemplary proof of the value of our freedoms.

At the memorial service, the speakers commented one way or another about his fall from a position of great political power as special counsel to President Nixon. That fall was an instrumental part of the life and lesson of Chuck Colson. He walked among the weakest sinners after being among the most powerful ones. He changed lives after changing his own.

I don't recall any news account I read about his death not referencing the low point of his career, his involvement in the Watergate break-in that resulted in his serving eight months in a federal prison. Of course, many in the liberal press emphasized the Watergate aspects of Colson's life story over the Christian deeds he did, including founding Prison Fellowship Ministries. He was, after all, a Christian and a conservative. The liberal press often seems incapable of praising honestly any man of that combination.

Colson's criminal behavior, however, affected directly far fewer people than the vast amounts of theft, plunder, fraud and dishonesty found within big government. Unlike, for example, Fast and Furious, Colson's crime resulted in no deaths. Colson paid for his crime, yet the liberal press mostly ignores the conduct of everyday government that harms more people than Chuck Colson's crime.

In certain ways, however, Chuck Colson's larger failing may have been participating in Nixon's expansions of big government. Big government coerces and deprives people of God-given liberties under the guise of good. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed under Nixon. It is a source of vast amounts of unlawful government conduct.

The bigger the central government, the less accountable it is. The Washington Free Beacon, for example, reports on a new study about fraud in the workplace, showing that "[g]overnment workers are among the employees most likely to cheat their employers." The fight within the Republican Party about big government continues to this day, and many in the GOP don't seem to have learned the lesson.

But I digress. Unlike government operatives and politicos who can never seem to get government out of their blood, even after ignominious falls, Chuck Colson did. The presence of many politicians at his memorial service, such as Mike Pence and Michele Bachmann, showed that Colson nevertheless remained a beacon for elected officials, and not just people in prison.

That night after the memorial service, I turned on C-SPAN where members of Congress were delivering remarks on the floor of the House praising Colson. Democrat Mike McIntyre from North Carolina praised what Colson did to reach out to prisoners in America and around the world, and he did so by discussing that in the context of his own Christian faith.

It struck me how few Democrats these days speak publicly of their Christianity unless it's in the context of their politics, and even then, often in ways that seem to twist the teachings of Christianity. Rep. McIntyre's remarks, however, were entirely free from politics. Good for him. Good for Chuck Colson.

During the memorial service I sat with someone who went to work for Chuck Colson after having been in prison with him. This man and his wife, both of whom were in prison, later started their own ministry specializing in meeting the spiritual needs of women in prison. It was an emotional service for him, and he told me about how Colson's own conversion had inspired him. This man and his wife have found a personal freedom for which no government program could substitute, and are spreading that personal freedom even to those who are behind bars.

Chuck Colson was such a great example of why our religious freedoms are integral to what America represents. We live; we fail; and through freedom, we have the opportunity to attain great things in our lives -- often because of failure and its lessons.

The pursuit of happiness is an individual matter, but done well, it is beneficial beyond ourselves. Those who spoke at the service, including family members and ministers, described the personal happiness Chuck Colson had attained, and how his life was an inspiration. He lived the last 40 years of his life by sharing the freedom he had attained as a result of his own failings.

Chuck Colson was a marvelous example of what can be achieved through freedom of conscience and faith. For those who wish to read more about the memorial service, here is an excellent report.