Chuck Colson has died. The ruthless political operative for Richard Nixon was imprisoned for Watergate-related offenses. Crushed by the law, literally, he read C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and became a Christian. When he got out of prison, Colson started Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners and their families that has chapters worldwide and that has changed the lives of untold numbers of men and women that society–and the church–had usually rejected.
I myself owe Colson quite a bit, not as I was a prisoner but as a writer. Colson got interested in “Christian worldview” issues and started a radio program, Breakpoint, that looked at current events and cultural developments through the lens of a Christian analysis. I had done some writing on Christianity and the arts, and for some reason Breakpoint producer Nancy Pearcey asked me if I would join the stable of writers she was putting together. That was in 1991, pretty early in my career. This got me paying attention to the news and keeping up with contemporary culture, whereupon, if I could find an angle, I would write up a brief commentary that Nancy would turn into a radio script. (By the way, Breakpoint is now in good hands with Eric Metaxis doing the broadcasting.) This would lead to my doing the same thing as a columnist for World. And then as a blogger for World. And then to this blog. This work also led to longer form studies of Christianity and culture that I published into books.
As one of his writers, I was sometimes invited to meet with Colson, along with others in his brain trust to help him think through various issues, and sometimes he would call me over the phone.
So, for better or worse, if it weren’t for Colson, I would probably have just stuck as an English professor to writing about 17th century poetry and never would have gotten into cultural analysis, let alone punditry. And this blog would almost certainly not exist. So your reading this post at this very moment is something of a tribute to Chuck Colson.