Chuck Colson, Social Conservative Statesman
Mainstream media reporting on the death of Charles Colson (1931-2012) has fastened like an angry lobster on his conviction and prison sentence in the Watergate scandal. Not to stretch matters, but that emphasis is a little bit like headlining the death of St. Paul as "Saul (aka 'Paul'), Onetime Persecutor of Christians."
The significance of Charles Colson was what happened as a result of his conviction and imprisonment, not what happened before. At a dinner party in the 1990s, the legendary Meg Greenfield -- editorial page editor of the Washington Post, columnist for Newsweek, and DC trendsetter -- was joking about the latest politician who had been caught breaking the law and now claimed to have found religion and forgiveness.
"Chuck Colson, he was the only sincere one!" she exclaimed.
Well, there may have been others, but there was little doubt that Colson, author of Born Again and founder of Prison Fellowship, was indeed sincere. He was committed to real reform -- the kind that starts in the heart and then extends a helping hand. Among his realizations was the need for committed orthodox Christians of various denominations to work in tandem. His project called Evangelicals & Catholics Together, undertaken with Catholic writer George Weigel, among others, helped forge a new basis for cooperation among believers that seems obvious only in hindsight.
One of his elaborations of that theme was the need for people with compatible programs in the fields of ministry, education and public affairs to help promote one another, not just themselves. This isn't easy, because under a general banner there normally are many competing groups trying to raise funds, each pushing its own organization. Chuck moved beyond all that. Serious, low key, pastoral, whether in a crowd or in private, Chuck Colson was the statesman of grass-roots politics. Discovery Institute, let us acknowledge, was one of his beneficiaries.
We will remember a number of personal visits and behind-the-scenes conferences where he explained to potential donors why the scientific understanding of reality can either distort culture and policy, as is happening now, or illuminate it. He was able to argue a critique of Darwinism and advocate intelligent design in regions where Discovery Institute otherwise had little reach. In a couple of heated instances, he bravely stood up to those who wanted to elide the issue of evolution and design and defended his friends at Discovery.
Here are just a few of his references to the subject:
Thanks, again, Chuck, and Godspeed!
- Naturalism is the philosophical assumption that binds modern science. And this is at the heart of the intelligent design debate, but you only see this when you know your own history.1
- Amid a firestorm of criticism and abuse from committed Darwinists, the intelligent design movement continues to press forward, gaining scientific credibility and even grudging respect from some evolutionists.2
- Ironically, it's the anti-intelligent design forces that are fully committed to a religious dogma -- a dogma whose foundation is starting to show dangerous cracks.3
- DNA is an important molecule, of course--governing heredity and development. But we are not made in the image of a strand of chemicals. We are made to reflect the character of God Himself.4
- We humans are more than monkeys, and it is demeaning, beneath the dignity of men and women made in the image of God, to tell them to behave like animals.5
Photo credit: Colson Center.