In the past week, a great deal of the cultural commentary about Chuck Colson (even among some Christians) has gone something like this: Yes, he did a lot of good among prisoners, but unfortunately he got embroiled in that culture war stuff and became all Religious Right-driven, and isn't that too bad. Salon's Sarah Posner provides an example of this type of thinking: "Colson is probably best known to the general public for his Prison Fellowship Ministries, but he has left an indelible mark on the culture-war battles that will define the 2012 election."
And she's just one of many examples. The other day in a blog comment section, some man who had never met Chuck took it upon himself to inform me -- a woman who knew Chuck personally and worked for him for ten years -- that Chuck was anti-woman. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
The truth is, this "Chuck's beliefs negated his actions" line of thinking is not at all how it worked. In fact, it's exactly backwards.
All of Chuck's humanitarian efforts flowed out of his Christian worldview: a worldview that viewed every person -- male and female, straight and gay, young and old, from the unborn baby to the hardened criminal -- as made in God's image and valuable in God's sight. Every cultural and political position he took was based on what he humbly but fervently believed -- based on his careful study of the Bible, theology, history, and the culture -- was God's best for individuals and for society. He looked at prisoners and saw products of broken homes, victims of bad teaching, the breakdown of moral and ethical values in our society. And he knew that there could be no lasting change in their lives without moral reform inspired by a Christ-centered worldview.
As he and Nancy Pearcey wrote in How Now Shall We Live?: "Family life is the 'first school' that prepares us to participate in the religious, civic, and political life of society, training us in the virtues that enable us to place the common good before our own private goals. . . . We must explain what it means to live within an objective, created moral order instead of perpetuating the chaotic reign of the autonomous self."
If the world chooses to understand those views as being solely the provenance of the Religious Right, well, that's what's too bad. Because if those views were more widespread -- if people all across the political spectrum took them as seriously as Chuck did -- then there would be a lot more people working as hard and as selflessly as he did to help "the least of these."