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23 April 2012

World pays tribute to Chuck Colson

World pays tribute to Chuck Colson

Charles “Chuck” Colson, who was jailed for his role in the Watergate scandal in the US in the 1970s, but became one of the country’s leading evangelical Christians, has died at the age of 80.

Colson, who was special adviser to President Richard Nixon, was jailed in 1974 for obstruction of justice for his role in the Watergate scandal. He once described himself as a “flag-waving, kick-em-in-the-nuts, anti-press, anti-liberal, Nixon fanatic” and is reported to have gone to extreme lengths to try and get Nixon re-elected.

Most famously, he compiled the “enemies list” which detailed opponents that the president did not like.

He also employed Howard Hunt, a maverick former CIA man, as a member of the White House “plumbers’ unit”. Hunt was behind the break-in at the Watergate hotel which led to the downfall of President Nixon.

But Colson’s was a life that saw a dramatic turnaround, going from “Mr Fixit” to becoming a committed Christian while under investigation.

After being released from prison, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, supporting inmates and their families.

Paying tribute, Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “The story of Chuck Colson is a story of redemption. His life is a testimony of how God can take our talents and turn them for good. Imprisoned after the Watergate affair, he was born again, and spent the rest of his life helping prisoners and preaching the gospel. This new life of service and integrity became a powerful witness to politicians across the world – and it is a source of hope and inspiration to many.”

He also went on to write a number of books, including Born Again, Loving God and most famously How Now Shall We Live. Among his accolades were being named in Time magazine’s 25 most influential evangelicals, and being awarded the Templeton Prize for Religion in 1993. He donated the $1 million from his award to charity.

He was also a columnist for Christianity Today (CT) from 1985 until he died on Saturday from complications from a brain haemorrhage after having surgery.

Writing for CT, former British MP Jonathan Aitken, who himself spent time in prison, and is now a director of Prison Fellowship International and president of Alliance member Christian Solidarity Worldwide, reflected on Colson’s life.

Aitken, the author of Charles W Colson: A Life Redeemed, wrote: “These examples of Colson's legacy on politics, culture, the church, and Christian ministry have only been possible because amidst the earthquake of Watergate he heard the still small voice of God's call.

“He obeyed it and stayed faithful to it. As a result he has become a shining example of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive blessings of God's grace. As many of his fellow Christians will say about him, God changed Charles Colson and used him for good.”