For some reason that I cannot now recall, I picked up and read Charles Colson’s moving memoir Born Again soon after it was published.
It wasn’t that I was drawn to it because I’m a born again Christian. I’m Jewish. But the book was quite dazzling. At the time, EVERYONE in the national press was just certain that Colson was a fraud — that the “finding Jesus” thing in prison was an elaborate con to gain sympathy. Further, Colson was portrayed as the very worst and most evil political operative ever to darken the door of the White House. This was all nonsense of course. Most of it was based on one silly quote in which Colson supposedly said he’d “run over his grandmother” to get Nixon reelected. But anyway, as someone who never particularly liked Nixon (we conservatives thought Nixon was awful on policy — wage and price controls anyone? — but sympathized with him only because of his enemies), I guess I was curious about Colson’s reflections.
Chuck Colson’s books (I read another after being blown away by the first one) convinced me that if this man was not a sincere convert and penitent, then the category did not exist. Every word in those books — the painfully honest self-appraisals — radiated sincerity. As his post-Watergate life proved, he devoted himself utterly to helping the most desperate and despised members of society.
This is a deeply cynical country these days, and yes, there is much to be cynical about. But there are people who achieve moral greatness. And one just died today. RIP.