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Chuck Colson’s (Watergate’s “Evil Genius”) Fall From the Center of Power into Prison... and His Redemption

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 29, 2024 3:02 am

Chuck Colson’s (Watergate’s “Evil Genius”) Fall From the Center of Power into Prison... and His Redemption

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 29, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, this is the story of Chuck Colson's Watergate fallout—told by Chuck himself, who served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon. This was the last interview Chuck Colson granted before passing at 80 years of age in 2012.

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All you can stream with Zoom or Play. And we continue with our American stories. Often considered one of the smartest men to pass through Washington D.C. political culture, Chuck Colson, who served as special counsel to President Richard Nixon, served seven months in the Federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama in 1974 as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related crimes. This is that story and its subsequent fallout told by the man himself. We'd like to thank Chuck Colson's dear friends at the Acton Institute, who graciously provided us with this audio. It was the last interview Chuck Colson granted any media organization before passing at the age of 80. Let's begin with a montage of clips summarizing Colson's Watergate trial, followed by Chuck sharing his story. There was an unexpected and important development today in the Watergate investigations.

Charles Colson has made an arrangement with the special prosecutor to tell all he knows about Watergate as a witness for the prosecution. I have watched with a very heavy heart the country I love being torn apart by the most divisive and bitter controversy in our nation's history. If this is to be a government of laws and not of men, then those men entrusted with enforcing the laws must be held to account for the natural consequences of their own actions. And not only is it morally right that I plead to this charge, but I fervently hope that this case will serve to prevent similar abuses in the future. I did everything my way and it crashed and burned. I was a driven guy.

I had grown up in the Depression years where I saw neighbors standing in bread lines. I was going to get to the top no matter what, no matter what, because I wasn't going to ever be caught in the position that I saw my parents in. I won't say I didn't have a conscience, I did. I had almost a self-righteousness about me.

Self-righteousness is the worst enemy of all because you can't see your own sins. I ended up going to prison because of that. Little did I realize that my reward for being through and I have years in the White House, I'd end up in prison, but I did. For me, going to prison was a shock. You're throwing a pair of underpants with five numbers stenciled on them.

I knew I was the sixth person to get that pair of underpants. So it's very dehumanizing and I felt shame. I'd look out and I'd feel I really have made a mess of it. I'd always thought about prisons where they're hardened convicts and they're breaking rocks or they're behind bars or they're violent people. There were a lot of nights when I'd wake up with this cold chill come over me thinking I can get beaten up or abused. You know what prisons are like. There's a lot of forced rape in prisons.

You're going as a high-profile former government official. There can be guys that don't want to get to you. That's a big drop. I couldn't have made it without Christ in my life. I know that.

And I couldn't have made it if there was in the back of my mind a belief that God had a purpose for this. In the White House, you're dealing with statistics and numbers and sizes of prisons and you see justice as something that has to be administered by the state. And if these guys have broken the law, good enough for them. They belong in prison. In prison, I discovered a lot of human beings who had committed crimes. We had a mix of people from every kind of crime you could imagine, every strata of life. And I discovered they're all like I am. I suddenly realized I'm not any different than these guys.

I'm not any better than these guys. I committed a crime too. Mine was, you know, nobody got killed, but we're both prisoners. We had that common identification.

It was a great eye-opening experience for me. I knew them to be as good people as I'd known in my life anyway. I mean, they could be my neighbors, could be my closest friends. I felt a real burden for them because I saw them with nothing to do with most of them.

They lie on their bunks and they'd stare into the emptiness and they're rotting and the souls are corroding. And that's the worst part about prison is this feeling of you have no purpose, you have no meaning, nobody cares about you. So I really found myself caring for them as human beings. And while it was the most difficult experience of my life, I can stand here tonight and honestly say to you that I thank God for it because in prison I truly found freedom. When I was released from prison, I was 42 years old. I'd had a very successful law firm. I knew how to make money practicing law.

I could have gone back and done it, but I thought this is a time in my life when I should take stock. And it was during that period that I woke up in the middle of the night with what seemed to me a vision of what God wanted. Well, in less than a month, Minnesota will join three other states turning to the church for help in rehabilitating prisoners.

The Department of Corrections is teaming up with a Christian group called Prison Fellowship. I came to love men. I came to know them as brothers, men that before in my life I'd have gone to any lengths to avoid meeting or being with.

But above all, I saw the miracle of how God works in the life of man. Inmates have a capacity for scoping you out faster than any group of people that have ever met. And it's because they're con men, many of them, and they've been conned by the best, and they look at everybody through their prism, through their lens.

And if you're sincere, if you're sincere, they know it like that. People say to me, oh, you were the law and order Nixon guy, and now you're soft on crime. You're working with inmates. No, I'm not soft on crime. I want to stop crime, but I want to stop it by the only way to ever be stopped, and that's changing the human heart. The problem is not education. The problem is not poverty.

The problem is not race. The problem is the breakdown of moral values in American life, and the criminal justice system can't respond. I've seen the moral roots of the criminal justice problem, and I realize as a Christian what's causing it. I've seen people broken in that prison experience and come out understanding the incarnation better than people who haven't been to prison perhaps because they know what it is to be broken.

They know what Christ did for them on the cross. They know what he took away. I've often thought back about my time in the White House, and I can't remember, I don't remember anybody ever coming to me and saying what you did with the president with all these big decisions affected my life. That's what drew me into politics. I thought I could transform people's lives, and I discovered I couldn't do it.

It's what we can accomplish as we deal with people, and my greatest satisfaction, the greatest thing I think about is things I've been able to do for others. Mr. Charles Colson wants the toughest of the White House tough guys, a man believed by many to be standing in the need of prayer as well as a good defense lawyer. Mr. Colson has made page one with the news of his conversion to religion.

A good many people here anxious to believe in something are quite willing to take Colson's change of heart as real. I have committed my life to Jesus Christ. I can work for the Lord in prison or out of prison.

That's how I want to spend my life. If there are people in need, you've got to be meeting their needs. If you really feel what they're going through, if you can really identify with that, then you get a burden for it. That's the root of compassion. You're living in that person's world instead of your own.

Now, that isn't necessary. You can identify with people with compassion without having had to experience that. Sharing in the suffering is what gives you the common bond, but having been there, it was indelibly impressive on me. And a great job as always to Greg Hengler, and again, a special thanks to the Acton Institute for providing us that audio of a most extraordinary life. And those words that he just said, I can work for the Lord in prison and out of prison.

That's how I want to spend my life. A lot of people were skeptical when Colson announced that he'd found God and wanted to serve his Lord. But boy, after a lifetime of work, there were no cynics and skeptics left.

And all of prison reform, all of modern day prison reform, all of the talk of compassion, it started with a guy named Chuck Colson. A real beauty, a real beauty about God's grace here on Our American Stories. With dozens of streaming services, box office films, and content to choose from, people are spending over two and a half years of their lives searching for what to watch. But The Hollywood Reporter brings you THR Charts, one place for you, your family, and friends to find the most watched TV shows and movies every week. THR Charts is a guide to help you spend less time scrolling through platforms so that you can spend more time watching and binging the content everyone is talking about, all supported by data and trusted sources like Nielsen, Comscore, and Para Analytics.

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