Since his imprisonment for his part in the Watergate scandal, Chuck Colson has worked tirelessly to bring public attention to the need for prison reform. Colson’s recent death serves as a reminder of the power of personal transformation and his impact on the evangelical Christian community.

A presentation at a church several years ago showed me the extent to which people can change their lives.


In 2005, I sat with more than 1,000 other people in Christ Church of Oak Brook, Ill., listening to Watergate figure Chuck Colson. He served as special counsel to President Richard Nixon and spent seven months in prison for his participation in this political scandal.


Remarkably, Colson devoted the rest of his life putting his Christian principles into practice. While he focused on working with prisoners, he also was a prolific writer and activist.


When Colson died last month at the age of 80, he had become one of the most influential figures among evangelical Christians. He wrote a monthly column for Christianity Today magazine.


David Neff, editor-in-chief for Christianity Today, said Colson had written his column for 26 years. He said Colson was committed to implementing his Christian values in every aspect of his life. Aside from his work on prison reform, Colson had for years worked to build bridges between Roman Catholics and Protestants, Neff said.


The Institute for Prison Ministries, opened in 1984 at Wheaton College in Illinois, patterned itself after the program Colson started in 1976 called Prison Fellowship. Director Karen Swanson said the institute offers the Colson Scholarship, which provides educational opportunities at Wheaton for former convicts.


Colson began an initiative to persuade prisoners to accept responsibility for their crimes and reconcile with their victims, Swanson said. He viewed this as an integral part of his ministry, she said.


Some of Nixon’s critics never forgave Colson for what he did. Given the crimes this administration committed, their anger is understandable.


But if there was ever a true example of positive transformation, Chuck Colson was it. While I didn’t agree with his theology, but I admired his commitment to helping others.


The Christian Church has a long history in advocating prison reform, and Colson became the living embodiment of this cause.



Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com.