Just 35 years ago, Charles W. Colson was not thinking about reaching out to prison inmates or reforming the U.S. penal system.
In fact, this aide to President Richard Nixon was "incapable of humanitarian thought," according to the media of the mid-1970s.
Colson was known as the White House "hatchet man," a man feared by even the most powerful politicos during his four years of service to President Nixon.
When news of Colson's conversion to Christianity leaked to the press in 1973, the Boston Globe reported, "If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody."
Colson would agree. He admits he was guilty of political "dirty tricks" and willing to do almost anything for the cause of his president and his party.
In 1974, Colson entered a plea of guilty to Watergate-related charges; although not implicated in the Watergate burglary, he voluntarily pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg Case.
He entered Alabama's Maxwell Prison in 1974 as a new Christian and as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. He served seven months of a one-to-three year sentence.
In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries (Now PFM), which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
Increasingly, Colson sensed God's calling to comment on the culture through the written and spoken word. He has written 20 books, which have collectively sold more than five million copies. His autobiographical book Born Again was one of the nation's best-selling books of all genres in 1976 and was made into a feature-length film.
Colson's commitment to the unity of the Church led to his co-authorship of a cutting-edge document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" that significantly helped to build an important bridge between Protestants and Catholics.
His 1987 book Kingdoms in Conflict (updated in 2007 as God and Government) was a best-selling directive to the Christian community on the proper relationships of church and state, and it positioned Colson as a centrist evangelical voice for balanced Christian political activism.
In recognition of his work, Colson received the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1993, donating the $1 million prize to Prison Fellowship. Colson's other awards have included the Humanitarian Award, Dominos Pizza Corporation (1991); The Others Award, The Salvation Army (1990); several honorary doctorates from various colleges and universities (1982-2000); and the Outstanding Young Man of Boston, Chamber of Commerce (1960).
In 1999, Colson and Nancy Pearcey co-authored the groundbreaking book How Now Shall We Live? challenging Christians to understand biblical faith as an entire worldview, a perspective on all of life. In this book, Colson and Pearcey argue that the great battle of the twenty-first century is a struggle between the spiritual and the secular worldviews.
In his most recent book, The Good Life, Colson reflects not only on his life in politics, prison, and ministry, but also on the lives of historical figures and ordinary people, examining what makes life worth living. He concludes that finding what is true and sacrificing ourselves to that truth lies at the heart of living a good life.
Now, Charles Colson turns his heart and mind to developing a Christian worldview, and to training a new generation of leaders to renew the church and revitalize the culture. "The whole object of the movement is to penetrate culture. The frontal assault over the last several years has proven inadequate. What we must do now is be salt and light, rubbed into the culture so to speak, in such a way that the people and institutions around us slowly begin to understand that they have embraced the Lie. Our job is to expose the Lie and replace it with the Truth of a biblical understanding of all of reality." The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview is the cornerstone of that movement.
Despite his work critiquing the culture, Colson's heart is ever with the prisoner. He has clearly never forgotten the promise he made to his fellow inmates during his brief stay in prison: that he would "never forget those behind bars."