An Unintended Tribute to Chuck Colson from the Left

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy ( and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.

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Voices across the religious and political spectrum have hailed the legacy of Charles Colson, the former Nixon White House staffer who, after his Watergate-related imprisonment, founded a global evangelical ministry for prison inmates.

One exception is Franky Schaeffer, a self-described regretful founder of the Religious Right and son of the late great evangelical theologian, who rejected his father’s legacy and now spits venom at seriously religious people, on his blog, in his books, and sometimes for The Huffington Post.

“Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a ‘Job well done,’” Schaeffer snarked.  An earlier draft of his diatribe headlined that Colson had “gone to his reward,” implying an eternity other than Heaven.  But even in his reposted new draft, Schaeffer was churlish:  “Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most beloved and bigoted homophobic and misogynistic voices with the death of Charles W. ‘Chuck’ Colson, a Watergate felon who converted to ‘evangelicalism’ but never lost his taste for dirty political tricks against opponents.”

Bitter towards his devout parents and most of his old allies and friends, Schaeffer conspiratorially claims that conservative religious activists target abortion and same sex marriage primarily to trick working class traditionalists into voting Republican.  Or as he elegantly claims of Colson:  “Few men have done more to trade (betray?) the gospel of love for the gospel of empowering corporate America and greed through the misuse of the so-called culture war issues to get lower middle class whites to vote against their own economic interests in the name of ‘family values.’”

Himself now cynical and unmoored from any transcendent moral tradition, Schaeffer assumes that his targets, including Colson, are similarly jaded.

But if Colson’s conversion and over 35-year evangelical ministry were other than genuine, he was a master performer.  Across 4 decades, Colson’s “Prison Fellowship” touched hundreds of thousands of lives around the world.  Prison inmates neither vote nor typically are potential contributors.  But Colson made his life’s work offering otherwise hopeless and forgotten people the hope of transformation that he found in the Gospel as he faced incarceration. He cheerfully proclaimed himself a former miscreant who was delivered solely by God’s grace.  As driven and focused in ministry as he was as Nixon’s ostensible “hatchet man,” Colson was a joyful warrior.

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  • Amused

    Colson was a TRUE BELEIVER . Yes he was in charge of Nixons dirty tricks brigade ,and yes he was a convicted felon who served time , however transformed himself into a prison minister , and organized many great things fior the christian cause . Men CAN change for the better and Colson more than exemplifies this . Schaffer;s comments /remarks etc.regarding Colson are certainly NOT typical of Roman Catholics or ANY OTGHER group for that matter ., he's obviously a man with a personal vendetta .
    Hoewever any attempt to " POLITICIZE " Colson and his work is totally DISINGENUOS , and should not be " HIJACKED " by either left nor right .

  • Amused

    I just hope the authors use of the term " joyfull warrior " bears or implies no analogy to the late Breitbart , who in no way is to be compared to Colsoin .

  • RonCarnine

    Francis Schaeffer was a biblical scholar with an ability to communicate deep truths to simple minds. I'm referring to myself. One of my favorite "sermons" was his "No Little People No Little Places." Chuck Colson had the same important ability. He will be missed. On the other hand, Franky Schaeffer is a twit. He may criticize but he can't fill the shoes of his father or Chuck Colson. So let him rant, he couldn't hit a theological truth with a shotgun.

    • Bartimaeus

      Yes, Francis Schaeffer had a unique ministry concerning the cultural impact of the West’s departure from God. It is sad to see his son's departure from the faith. May he one day be recovered

  • RonCarnine

    Fellows, could you tell me why I'm having trouble posting on your site. I can always go somewhere else if I'm not welcomed here.

  • Jason

    Sounds like Franky Schaeffer is a very angry and bitter man.

  • Jane Larson Baer

    For anyone to consider conservatives the people with large egos compared to liberals is absurd.

    • Amused

      Aint that a crockl of B.S.

  • Mo_

    What a bitter, ugly man Frank Schaeffer is. Think about it. Whether you are religious or not, Chuck Colson is a great example of a messed-up man who turned his life around and spent decades helping others. What's to hate about that? What is there to complain about? Yet Frank Schaeffer finds a way to do it.

    How sad his father must be.

    • Questions

      Schaeffer has issues with his own father who, it must be admitted, was late, but not great. Colson serves as a proxy. Not to put someone on the couch so easily, but it's a plausible explanation for Schaeffer.

  • Schlomotion

    Mark Tooley is an apologist for terrorism. By all rights, Chuck Colson is a worse person than Bill Ayers. Chuck Colson composed the Nixon Enemies List which feloniously attempted to use the IRS to harass US citizens. He also plotted to firebomb The Brookings Institution and was a documents thief who set up a religious hustle to get access to resources while in prison. He was a BURGLAR. He was the Executive Producer and mastermind of the Watergate Break-in. So the man read C.S. Lewis. So what? He claimed Christianity but pled to a lesser charge in order to avoid even more richly deserved jail time. He tried to defame the character of the HERO Daniel Ellsberg. Colson himself is not a hero, rather he was a swindler and was disbarred for trying to ruin the judicial process. In jail he figured out how to cycle criminals into the church. Eventually, the Bush Family restored his federal rights. Some guy!

    • Bartimaeus

      You seem to be unfamiliar with the concept of repentance, which means you are in need of it yourself.

      • Schlomotion

        Repent for never having repented before? You need things simply because you don't know you need them? Doesn't that violate some basic principle in The Lorax?

        • Amused

          there you go again Schlomo , talking like a total SCHMUCK .

  • Ghostwriter

    Schlomotion,there are many people who believe the Bible is of a much higher authority than Dr. Seuss. You might want to consider that.

    • Schlomotion

      I can't help them for being mistaken.

  • Amused

    You can't help yourself , how you gonna help anyone else

  • JDCurtis
  • cybergatis

    our hearts are heavy over such a great loss of this inspirational leader.

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  • cynthia curran

    Nixon was lilberal in many respects, so Franky isa bit ignored. A liberal political science teacher in Orange County mention about Nixon's health care plan.

  • cynthia curran

    Franky blames the problems of the world on the 4th crusade when the Crusaders sack Constantinople, so the religous right is thought as modern crusaders