Cleaver, Charlie, And Chuck

Last month the Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story on the spiritual revival supposedly sweeping the prisons of our land. According to reporter Russ Chandler, Eldridge Cleaver “accepted Christ,” three former members of the Manson gang professed their faith in Jesus, and Charlie Manson himself asked a chaplain for a Bible. In his front-page story Chandler also recounted the conversion experience of ex-Watergater and ex-con Chuck Colson.

Personally, I’m all for conversions And I’m not trying to be like the self-righteous crowd in Luke 19 who scoffed at tax collector Zacchaeus’s newfound interest in Christ. But I am concerned with what the media and the Christian community will do with these new converts.

I hope we’ll let them alone long enough for them to mature in their faith. But if we do, it will be unusual. I can’t read through a month’s worth of Christian periodicals without coming across an interview with Charles Colson or an excerpt from his new book. Charles Colson is hot stuff in the Christian world.

Why? Is it because he’s an extremely knowledgeable Christian? Probably not. Is it because he has walked with God for many years and has insights to share with us who are relative rookies in the faith? No. Is it because he’s new to the scene and has a great deal of fresh enthusiasm to share with some of us who have lost the initial glow? That’s partially true. But there are lots of other new Christians we could listen to if that was our prime motive.

I think we’ve made Colson our latest Christian celebrity because he was a former hatchet man for Richard Nixon. He was a celebrity before he even knew us. Colson was infamous. A bad dude. And because of his infamy and former badness, we want him ...

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