Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nixon's Civil Rights 12: Charles Colson

On page 112 of Nixon's Civil Rights, Dean Kotlowski says the following about Nixon aide Charles Colson:

"But Colson, a bigot and a crass opportunist, was unqualified to offer advice on delicate race-related issues. After describing a series of projects to court Polish Americans, he quipped, 'We really should get some fat Japs as well,' a tasteless reminder of a remark by Vice President Spiro Agnew. Such insensitivity alienated White House liberals. 'Garment,' Colson wrote, 'is convinced I am anti-semitic and anti-arts (both true).' He even offended conservatives by treating them as just another voting block. Patrick J. Buchanan rebuked him for making comments such as, 'See what sops are available to conservatives.' Colson's right-wing position on civil rights stemmed from electoral considerations, the need to woo blue-collar workers, not laissez-faire principles."

I do not know Colson personally, but my hunch is that he changed once he became a Christian. Colson embarked onto the path of Christianity when he met with prominent businessman Tom Phillips while Colson was enmeshed in Nixon Administration scandals. Colson admired the sense of peace that he saw in Phillips, and he felt convicted when Phillips read to him the chapter on pride in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Colson read Lewis' book and found him to be a good apologist, and he also thought back to what he considered to be experiences of God, as when he looked at his son while the two of them were on a boat and concluded that there must be a God. When Colson committed his life to Christ, his outlook on humanity changed, for he did not look at people as some blur through which he had to rush, but he took the time to see each person as a valuable human being. Colson met other Christians in Washington, D.C., even Democrats and political enemies, and he considered them to be family, as they considered him. When Colson went to prison, he most likely met people of different racial backgrounds. He certainly did when he started Prison Fellowship, an outreach to prisoners, and became an advocate for the dignity of those in prison.

I have my issues with evangelicalism. Unlike Colson, I do not find C.S. Lewis' apologetics (or any apologetics) to be fool-proof, as much as I like Lewis' wit and insight. And there are plenty of times when I feel that Colson has flipped his lid and has become overly right-wing. But I do love a good conversion story----in which a person changes from being self-centered and callous towards others to being humble, loving, and at peace.

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