Friday, May 9, 2014

Chuck Colson, Watergate, and Breakpoint

When we studied the Nixon years, of course we had to learn more about Watergate. How better than to read the autobiography of Chuck Colson, special counsel to President Nixon? I highly recommend the modern classic, Born Again by Charles W. Colson. My son read the book as a part of his senior year rhetoric history studies of the 20th century.


It took the scandal and implications to Colson's involvement for him to come face-to-face with his hatchet-style of job performance. Charged with participating in Watergate, Colson pled guilty, but not to Watergate. The Watergate scandal was all news to him at the same time the rest of America saw it on the evening news. Instead Colson pled guilty to a lesser charge of which he was actually guilty, though the courts were not interested in that. It was  quite a shock to all that Colson pled guilty for something he was not originally convicted, but the full story dramatically unfolds through the pages of the book.
While wrestling with his conscience, Colson was given CS Lewis' book Mere Christianity.  Although this was my third time to read this book (first time was when I was a teenager, and the second time was when I taught 20th century dialectic history four years before) this detail struck me far more meaningfully than before.

And hence...this is what I love about classical education. In modern education we read that Homer wrote Greek history, The Iliad and The Odyssey. That is a fact I knew from my world history honors class, but it meant nothing until I actually read them with my kids in our homeschool classical setting at the dialectic and four years later at the rhetoric level. Wow! How much richness I had missed before reading them. As an elementary student I often checked out children's level Greek mythology books of each culture from the library or read them in my own annotated collections of my mom's old Childcraft books from the 1940's. They were fun. However I had no idea that they were based on The Iliad and The Odyssey! And from them stemmed the rest of our literature and now my appreciation of literature is much deeper since I can see the influence of Homer through the ages. 

Likewise I can't tell you how many references I have heard about CS Lewis and Mere Christianity over the years, since my college years in Campus Crusade. Finally I bought a copy at the bookstore and it sat on my bookshelf for years. But that means nothing. Finally this year, I pulled it out and it became part of our rhetoric 20th century studies. Wow!!! What a mind CS Lewis has!!!! And that is exactly what Chuck Colson thought. The brilliant legal mind of Chuck Colson came mind to mind, wrestling with CS Lewis for his soul during the Watergate scandal. Colson wrote his arguments on a legal pad and wrestled with the words of CS Lewis on the pages of Mere Christianity. Finally...Colson took Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Before when I read this book I thought, oh, I'm glad Colson found this book and gave his life to Christ. Now that I've read Mere Christianity, reading this passage became a lightening bolt of the power of God's world v earth. God's desires v mans. The eternal struggle, and that is what makes Born Again a modern classic.

After Colson became a Christian, he was introduced to other Christians in Washington DC, some of whom had long been " political enemies."   Now that they were brothers in Christ, they met regularly, prayed for each other, encouraged  each other in their Bible studies, and supported each other. One book that deeply impacted Colson's decision to plea guilty, was Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, The Cost of Discipleship which I wrote about here.

While Colson was in prison, he saw many ways to improve conditions and the future of the inmates, in order to help them lead productive lives when they gained parole. The conditions Colson saw in the current system encouraged failure. Colson envisioned success for the inmates when they left prison to be contributing citizens to society. As a result, when Colson was eventually freed from prison, he began Prison Fellowship Ministry. Has anyone ever participated in Angel Tree? That is a ministry begun by Prison Fellowship Ministry!

Colson also founded Breakpoint. I remember listening to his Breakpoint radio spot often before my homeschool years began. Once I got busy teaching my kids, I kept up with Breakpoint via various forms of social media as they came out: e-mail, facebook, twitter. I highly recommend keeping up with Breakpoint through one of these venues. Sadly, we no longer have the wit that he was born with and the wisdom he gained from God after hitting bottom, since he passed away two years ago. Incidentally, since we moved to Virginia we became Northern Virginia neighbors. However he passed on the torch to other brilliant wit and wisdom found in Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet.

We no longer have CS Lewis, but we have his wonderful books. However I highly want to seize the moment to enjoy the wit and wisdom I can glean from the heritage he left behind.

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