Voices across the religious and political spectrum have hailed the legacy of Charles Colson, the former Nixon White House staffer who, after his Watergate-related imprisonment, founded a global evangelical ministry for prison inmates.
One exception is Franky Schaeffer, a self-described regretful founder of the Religious Right and son of the late great evangelical theologian, who rejected his father’s legacy and now spits venom at seriously religious people, on his blog, in his books, and sometimes for The Huffington Post.
“Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a ‘Job well done,’” Schaeffer snarked. An earlier draft of his diatribe headlined that Colson had “gone to his reward,” implying an eternity other than Heaven. But even in his reposted new draft, Schaeffer was churlish: “Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most beloved and bigoted homophobic and misogynistic voices with the death of Charles W. ‘Chuck’ Colson, a Watergate felon who converted to ‘evangelicalism’ but never lost his taste for dirty political tricks against opponents.”
Bitter towards his devout parents and most of his old allies and friends, Schaeffer conspiratorially claims that conservative religious activists target abortion and same sex marriage primarily to trick working class traditionalists into voting Republican. Or as he elegantly claims of Colson: “Few men have done more to trade (betray?) the gospel of love for the gospel of empowering corporate America and greed through the misuse of the so-called culture war issues to get lower middle class whites to vote against their own economic interests in the name of ‘family values.’”
Himself now cynical and unmoored from any transcendent moral tradition, Schaeffer assumes that his targets, including Colson, are similarly jaded.
But if Colson’s conversion and over 35-year evangelical ministry were other than genuine, he was a master performer. Across 4 decades, Colson’s “Prison Fellowship” touched hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Prison inmates neither vote nor typically are potential contributors. But Colson made his life’s work offering otherwise hopeless and forgotten people the hope of transformation that he found in the Gospel as he faced incarceration. He cheerfully proclaimed himself a former miscreant who was delivered solely by God’s grace. As driven and focused in ministry as he was as Nixon’s ostensible “hatchet man,” Colson was a joyful warrior.
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