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Seemingly consumed by his own demons, and himself rarely evincing any joy as he trashes family and former friends, Schaeffer maybe resents the opposite trajectory of Colson’s life compared to his. Literally dying with his boots on at age 80, falling ill at a conference he organized after delivering his final speech, Colson’s departure from this world was the perfect finale for an evangelist and social reformer. It recalls pious British Prime Minister William Gladstone’s own stated wish to die while worshipping in a church, or former President John Quincy Adams, exerting himself for abolition, collapsing on the U.S. House of Representatives floor while delivering his final oration.
Unlike the power obsessed, Religious Right stereotype preferred by Schaeffer, Colson emphasized private ministry over political action. Chastened by his own role in the Nixon Administration, Colson warned fellow evangelicals not to rely on the pursuit of power. In his last speech, delivered at the Wilberforce Weekend Conference that he named after his hero, the great British abolitionist, Colson insisted: “Elections can’t solve the problem we’ve got.” Instead, believers should work through their churches to redeem individuals and the culture. “Look in the mirror, that’s where the problem is,” he suggested, with passive churches in mind. “This is a moment when the time is right for a movement of God’s people under the power of the Holy Spirit to begin to impact the culture we live in.”
Faith in a transcendent authority superseding the New York Times, Hollywood, or the latest academic fads, is always infuriating to the Left, which typically searches for the ostensibly REAL agenda motivating traditional religious believers in America.
In his rambling anti-tribute to Colson, Schaeffer denounced Colson and all of the “neo-conservative/Roman Catholic” friends who gave a gloss of “intellectual respectability and aid and comfort to what were nothing more than oppressive ideas rooted in an anti-Constitutional theocratic far right wish list for changes that were supposed to roll back the parts of the democratic processes – say Roe v. Wade, women’s rights and gay rights — that far right Catholics and Protestants didn’t approve of.”
Schaeffer thinks Colson was plotting theocracy as he preached to, prayed with, and wept among thousands of prison inmates who were his chief focus across the decades since his own release from prison. The allegation speaks more of Schaeffer than Colson. But all of the lavish tributes showering upon Colson’s memory may have discomfited Colson, remembering the Gospel warning to beware when all men speak well of you.
In contrast, Schaeffer’s hatefully absurd diatribe maybe would have provoked an appreciative and amused smile. And maybe Colson is now consulting with Schaeffer’s late father, prayerfully plotting the return of a sadly wayward son.
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