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Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed
The trumpets will be sounding on the other side for Charles W. Colson—not only for what he achieved as a Christian leader but for how much his character changed. His life story is one of the outstanding and best known examples in modern times of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Colson's early career in secular politics was successful. It led him to the White House as a senior presidential aide but ended in spectacular failure during Watergate. In those dark days he was the most vilified figure in Washington after Richard Nixon. Some of the obloquy heaped upon Colson was undeserved: for example it is a journalistic myth that he attempted to order the bombing of the Brookings Institute. But in the role he gleefully relished as "Nixon's hatchet man" he connived in many dirty tricks.
When the scandal broke, the press and the prosecutors had Colson in their sights. They knew he was a major contributor to the unsavory moral climate inside the White House. He first hit the headlines in 1972 when he wrote an internal memo with the line "I would walk over my Grandmother for Richard Nixon." That symbolized his end-justifies-the-means ruthlessness as a political operator. It was no surprise that he became a prime suspect for being the architect of Watergate.
As he was later to admit, Colson had no moral compass for the first 41 years of his life. In that period he occasionally described himself as "a nominal Episcopalian." This was a considerable stretch of the word nominal. He was so unchurched that he had no idea who the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son were. The only recorded example of a conversation about faith during his political career ended with Colson telling his first Christian interlocutor Fred Rhodes, "Oh, ...1