It may not be possible to count the reasons for which mean-spirited liberals hated Chuck Colson. His muscular Christianity was one. His fortitude on behalf of ”the least of these” made him a true servant leader. He used his strength and conviction to speak out and work on behalf of the weak and defenseless outside prison and of the stunted souls inside prison.
When there was a human-rights crisis in the U.S. or in some immiserated place around the world, from Darfur to sexual trafficking, he was often the first person I would hear from. During the George W. Bush years, he would call around and get us to the White House on behalf of the long-suffering. His manliness, his Marine training, was ever present. He would take command.
One funny, yet revealing story: Chuck and I and our wives, Patty and Elayne, were on a boat along with two other couples, Michael and Karen Novak and Rich and Helen DeVos. The DeVoses were hosting us all: four Protestants and four Catholics in all. Rich commented how blessed we all were and how joyful we should be that we were all believers in Christ and, therefore, were all saved souls. Novak and I (from the Catholic contingent) were not so sure. We said we wouldn’t know we were saved until it was all over. One final, mortal sin could still do us in.
Chuck roared with laughter and teased us about our stubbornness, but complimented us on our steadfastness. It was a lively and spirited theological debate, something he loved dearly and excelled in uniquely.
He literally transformed the lives of some of my best friends. He influenced me in many ways, perhaps most of all in getting me to rethink my incessant “tough on crime, tough on prisoners” doctrine.
Through his person and his actions, Chuck reminded us redemption, forgiveness, and grace are central to our faith. He did it patiently and humbly, never looking for moral one-upmanship. And it is for us, now, his friends and colleagues, to pick up where he left off.
Who takes his place? I’m not sure anyone does.
-– William J. Bennett, host of Morning in America, is Washington fellow at the Claremont Institute and author of The Book of Man.