January 25, 2021

Eulogies and Dyslogies for Charles Colson

Wow Frank. Tell us how you really feel.

Over the weekend Frank Schaeffer published one of the angriest and most ill-timed screeds I’ve ever read. On his blog he wrote a dyslogy of Charles Colson (1931-2012), the evangelical Christian Right spokesman who died Saturday, and called it, “Colson: An Evangelical Homophobic Anti-Woman Leader Passes On”.

Apparently Schaeffer wrote one post, pulled it, and then rewrote it so he could “get it right and make more of it” the second time. I didn’t read the original, but the second goes beyond criticism of Colson himself and takes the form of a manifesto against a number of far right conservative activists and operatives. He takes on prominent Roman Catholics like Peter Kreeft and Richard John Neuhaus, decries projects like Evangelicals and Catholics Together and The Manhattan Declaration, and excoriates these folks for their “dirty tricks” in advancing “nothing more than oppressive ideas rooted in an anti-Constitutional theocratic far right wish list for changes that were supposed to roll back the parts of the democratic processes – say Roe v. Wade, women’s rights and gay rights — that far right Catholics and Protestants didn’t approve of.”

Not exactly subtle or nuanced. Or kind, especially given the timing.

Here are a few excerpts of Schaeffer’s dishonoring memorial to Charles Colson:

“Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most beloved and bigoted homophobic and misogynistic voices with the death of Charles W. ‘Chuck’ Colson, a Watergate felon who converted to ‘evangelicalism’ but never lost his taste for dirty political tricks against opponents.”

“Colson emerged from prison with a new mission to use his newfound evangelical ‘born-again’ platform to help prisoners. For a time he seemed to have actually changed course and worked for prison reform and prisoner care. Then (very much like his good friend Franklyn [sic] Graham) he reverted to type and began to fight in the far right holy war against the Democratic Party, women, gays and progressive causes.”

“Few men have done more to trade (betray?) the gospel of love for the gospel of empowering corporate America and greed through the misuse of the so-called culture war issues to get lower middle class whites to vote against their own economic interests in the name of ‘family values.’ Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a ‘job well done.'”

Perhaps Schaeffer thought it necessary to loudly counter the overwhelming chorus of tributes and appreciations being expressed for Colson. Though some media outlets seemed to focus more on Colson’s Watergate years as a way of trying to show a more “balanced” picture of the man by emphasizing some characteristics of his life they found unacceptable, nearly everything I have read has recognized a transformation in Colson’s life. All remark upon a clear change in the course of his life that led to a number of good works on behalf of neglected people (prisoners through Prison Fellowship, Justice Fellowship, and the Inner Change Freedom Initiative, as well as their families through Angel Tree). Most have also documented his conservative views and writings and activism on behalf of conservative moral and political issues, but few have spoken their opposition to those views in this season of Colson’s death with as much venom and vitriol as Frank Schaeffer.

In the comments after his post, he made this remark: “I knew Colson and talked to him. there is nothing I said in the post that in one way or another I didn’t say to his face or in print when he was alive and could respond.”

Does that make this kind of dyslogy appropriate? I find it hard to commend spitting on anyone’s grave like this.

I have had an on-again off-again relationship with Frank Schaeffer’s writings ever since he first began publishing as a young evangelical. He is sharp, and sharp-edged, and not always comfortable for me to read. At times he comes across as adolescent, pompous, and full of himself. But then again, I turn the page and he gives an insight so clear it takes my breath away. I like a lot of what he writes about leaving evangelicalism, finding a home in the Orthodox Church, and coming to peace with his unique and rather “crazy” (his term) upbringing. I can appreciate his story and his journey. But it scares me to hear anyone so dogmatic, intense, and angry about political issues (on the left or right) that they would spew such venom on a man with whom they disagree so soon after his death.

It seems Frank Schaeffer is still fighting the culture wars, now for the other team. He retains the fundamentalist streak that he got honestly from his father and takes it to another level.

I think he missed a great opportunity to speak the Gospel here, and I wrote the following comment to him on his blog:

Frank, I am no unalloyed fan of Colson. That’s not really my point. I also would not deny that there are times when commentary such as you give here is appropriate when engaged in responding to those with whom we disagree. I also would understand if you feel like someone should counter the overwhelming eulogizing that is going on at the moment for Colson. However, I think you are doing more damage to your own reputation and the causes you passionately believe in to speak this way about someone in the immediate aftermath of his death. It will only stir up his defenders and create a fog of useless debate and angry give and take.

If Jesus could speak forgiveness to those who had just cruelly shamed and beaten him and driven nails in hands and feet, surely we who bear his name can at the very least be silent at the death of even our worst enemies.

• • •

In contrast to Schaeffer’s bitter denunciation, let me point out one of the better tributes to Colson, written by conservative opinion writer Michael Gerson’s tribute in The Washington Post — “Charles Colson found freedom in prison”. Gerson calls Charles Colson “the most thoroughly converted person I’ve ever known,” and he shares this personal reflection:

…I first met Chuck more than a decade after he left the gates of Alabama’s Maxwell prison. I was a job-seeking college senior, in whom Chuck detected some well-hidden potential as a research assistant. In him, I found my greatest example of the transforming power of grace. I had read many of the Watergate books, in which Chuck appears as a character with few virtues apart from loyalty. I knew a different man. The surface was recognizable — the Marine’s intensity, the lawyer’s restless intellect. The essence, however, had changed. He was a patient and generous mentor. And he was consumed — utterly consumed — by his calling to serve prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.

Gerson does not focus on Colson’s political advocacy or activities on behalf of conservative causes as Schaeffer does, but sees him almost entirely through the lens of his work on behalf of prisoners through Prison Fellowship, the ministry he founded after having been a prisoner himself.

Chuck was a powerful preacher, an influential cultural critic and a pioneer of the dialogue between evangelicals and Catholics. But he was always drawn back to the scene of his disgrace and his deliverance. The ministry he founded, Prison Fellowship, is the largest compassionate outreach to prisoners and their families in the world, with activities in more than 100 countries. It also plays a morally clarifying role. It is easier to serve the sympathetic. Prisoners call the bluff of our belief in human dignity. If everyone matters and counts, then criminals do as well. Chuck led a movement of volunteers attempting to love some of their least lovable neighbors. This inversion of social priorities — putting the last first — is the best evidence of a faith that is more than crutch, opiate or self-help program. It is the hallmark of authentic religion — and it is the vast, humane contribution of Chuck Colson.

For a more comprehensive overview of Colson from a deeply sympathetic and honoring standpoint, read Jonathan Aitken’s piece in Christianity Today: “Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed”.

I also recommend Timothy Dalrymple’s moving reflection on prison ministry: “When I think of Chuck Colson’s legacy, I will think of a living parable of how Christ’s grace redeems even those the world called unredeemable.”

• • •

Chuck Colson has been a polarizing figure.

I was helped by his early writings (ghost-written though they may have been, as Schaeffer alleges), and especially appreciated The Body as one of the more thoughtful evangelical books about ecclesiology that I had read at the time. I appreciated his conversion story, and I was moved to learn how God turned a felon’s personal brokenness not only into personal salvation, but also into ministry to needy people — prisoners and their families.

On the other hand, over the years I found Colson’s columns and commentaries disappointing and at times disagreeable because they reflected culture war views and practices of the Christian Right that I came to reject. I liked that as a Protestant he courageously and creatively engaged Roman Catholics and sought a form of missional ecumenism with them; though again it was too close to the cesspool of American politics for my liking.

Chuck Colson was a good speaker. I heard him preach once here in Indianapolis and I recall him talking about why he believed in Christ’s resurrection. He debunked the idea that the disciples conspired to fabricate the story that Christ rose from the dead. With a twinkle in his eye the convicted Watergate felon said, “I think I know a little something about how impossible it is for a few men behind closed doors to conceal a conspiracy!”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with his culture war politics, I would aver that Colson manifested the grace of the risen Lord working in and through his life. That’s something no one can conceal.

Rest in peace, Chuck Colson. At this time we call upon the Lord, in whose name you were baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. For all the good he worked in and through you, we give him thanks. For all in you that he forgave, we honor his mercy.


  1. He who built the cultural war glass house with his own hands has no business throwing stones. Is Franky going to deny convincing his own father, Francis, Jerry Falwell and others to join the Roman Catholic church in its cultural war against Roe Vs. Wade? No apology? Nothing? Not even a little blush of embarrassment? Do we need to dust of a copy of Franky’s video, “The Great Evangelical Disaster” for a perfect example of homo-phobia? Maybe we can gather in a circle and take turns quoting from “A Christian Manifesto”. Franky created the platform upon which Colson eventually stepped, which he now uses to tarnish Colson. Breath-taking.

    • Actually, he does pretty much own up to it in his books. I think he still blames himself, actually. That’s probably why he’s reacting so harshly. Most of the time when people react so strongly against others it’s because they’re projecting their own self-hatred on them.

      • That’s a good point.

      • Perhaps there is no difference between this outburst of projected self-loathing and that of other leaders frequently mentioned on this site. Schaefer and Driscoll may come from polar opposite ideologies, but I think they both are fighting personal demons by taking the pain out on others. But it’s still hard to have pitty on a bully.

  2. One very quick thought: the issue is not whether or not Colson was “converted” or if he had a “genuine experience with the Lord”.
    I still would like to undestand how this theolologically very confused man came to be a leader among Evangelicals. Is it only because he had a “powerful testimony” (aka “powerful words denied by daily actions”)

  3. Thank you for this, Chaplain Mike. A thoughtful and graceful rebuttal to Frank Schaeffer’s untimely diatribe.

  4. Dan Crawford says

    I support Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree. I wonder why in his later years, he took up supporting the death penalty after publicly opposing. I wonder why he go so involved in right-wing politics when he could have allowed his work in Prison Fellowship speak far more eloquently for the faith than his “culture war” crusade. But this I will forever say to his credit: Unlike people like the Marine Colonel and so many of his Watergate accomplises, he acknowledged his guilt and moral failures and for that reason alone, he stands far above the politicians he unfortuantely supported/

    • Donalbain says

      Yes, prison fellowship does speak pretty eloquently about the man. Bigotted, sectarian an intolerant.

    • Prodigal Daughter says

      I remember either hearing a radio interview or reading an article in which Colson addressed his change of mind regarding use of the death penalty. It was a nuanced view. After meeting completely depraved, unrepentant murderers, he came to the conclusion that for justice to be served, the death penalty should be used on those who were without a doubt guilty and unrepentant. H didn’t agree with it’s widespread use though.

  5. > It seems Frank Schaeffer is still fighting the culture wars, now for the other team

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Frank ladles out charges of hypocrisy – the “christians” of the religious right are actually only about power and politics. Of course Frank spends all his time and energy attacking and running down his political opponents in vitriolic terms… Projection much?

    • Donalbain says

      Frank is not campaigning to reduce the rights of the people he disagrees with. He is just standing up and saying that they are wrong. He is not saying that they should be threatened with the violence of the state, he is saying that they are wrong. Chuck Colson on the other hand DID campaign to reduce the rights of people he disagreed with. He did say that they should be threatened with the violence of the state. To try to suggest that the two positions are somehow morally equivalent is dishonest.

      • >Frank is not campaigning to reduce the rights of the people he disagrees with.

        I assume that this is a reference to gay marriage and it doesn’t impress me much. If the Supreme Court ruled tomorrow that siblings have the right to marry it is true that anyone opposing that decision would be “campaigning to reduce the rights of people he disagrees with”. That doesn’t say anything at all about whether the right is legitimate, moral, etc. And of course the opposite spin is possible: Catholic organizations certainly feel that their right to practice religion are being reduced in the current healthcare brouhaha and opponents mostly deny that the right exists in the first place or don’t care that it is reduced.

        And as to my equivalence claims: Frank denigrates every Christian on the political right of using religion as a cloak and pretext to play power politics. They talk about God, he says, but are obsessed with winning, benefiting their side, running down the opposition, etc. To which I say – pot, kettle, all that. Frank clearly cares most deeply about those exact things (from the other side of course) and in so doing his critique loses all of its force.

      • You mean like how the state these days is trying to limit the rights of Christians and silence their voices (see the current case at Vanderbilt Univ. So much for tolerance huh?).

    • I’m sorry, I don’t see Schaeffer’s article as all that vitriolic, or as fighting culture wars. He is simply naming the places where the enmeshed religious/political far right has gone crazy (or ruthless), often with Colson’s active participation. Colson and friends are reaping the whirlwind. As for timing, this is when attention is focused on the late Chuck Colson and his alliances; I’m sorry that it is a time of mourning, but soon attention will wander to the next pseudo-evangelical, celebrity-driven sideshow and the moment to make some pithy observations will pass.

      Those Christian leaders who happen to be warm-hearted but wrong should indeed be honored at their death, and their defects shouldn’t be emphasized at such a tender moment. But Colson traded on his celebrity status and actively campaigned to pull down other leaders. I can’t imagine why he should now be protected. His eternal destiny is in God’s hands, and may well be a beautiful destiny, God being God, after all! But that doesn’t mean that those who Colson attempted to defeat must now become perfect angels.

      As for Frank Schaeffer’s projection, he is very open in his autobiography about his own defects. I’m sure he doesn’t expect unadulterated adulation, either now or at the hour of his death.

      • You don’t think “Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a ‘job well done.’” Is vitriolic?

        • … well, you have a point… maybe at least a bit overwritten! There’s so much fake outrage floating around, I tend to discount just about everybody’s rhetoric.

      • When I read comments like your I keep thinking of people like JFK and his younger brother Ted. I have a hard time idealizing them for their good and ignoring the bad in their lives which hurt a lot of people. But I don’t go around yelling about it.

    • cermak_rd says

      Just like Paul. One reason I was never comfortable with his writings is because he went from persecuting Christians to becoming a zealot for Christians.

  6. Donalbain says

    Chuck Colson actively campaigned to make the world a worse place with fewer rights for people. Saying a nasty thing about him is not even close to as vile, and evil as the work that man did while he was alive. The world is a better place without him.

    • I’m not sure that the world is a better place without Colson–he was a brass-knuckled power politician who exploited his testimony for political gain, but he actually had ideas and was willing to debate them, unlike some among his allies. And Prison Fellowship was far more than his long shadow; it grew into a major ministry in its own right. You’re right to be angry about Colson’s worst exploits, but saying that the world is a better place without someone is a serious condemnation that comes from the rhetorical toolbox of those who objectify others–a tactic that’s not permitted to Christians.

      • +1

      • I am not a Christian, so I dont care what is permitted to Christians. And since Chuck Colson was a Christian, and he was someone who objectified others, I dont think he cared about what you think is permitted to them either. The world is better now that he is dead/

        • So, bottom line, you hated Colson because you disagreed with his political opinions and thus you’re glad he’s dead. Nice.

          For the record, I don’t recall any Christians reacting in this (childish, hateful) manner when C Hitchens passed away last year.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        My stepmother was a single parent in an era where Divorced Woman was considered one small step above Street Whore. To survive, she became tough and pugnacious, like the Boston Terrier she resembled. Unfortunately, when her life improved, she couldn’t take the chip off her shoulder. Even when things had changed and she didn’t need to fight for survival any more, she always seemed to be spoiling for a fight. She never could take that chip off her shoulder.

        Maybe Chuck Colson was the same way. Maybe he’d been “a brass-knuckled power politician” for so long that even after his conversion experience, he’d read any opposition or dissent as a power struggle and bring out the brass knuckles.

    • The Previous Dan says

      Having worked in prison ministry and in support of Angle Tree (and seen the tremendous good done by both), I can personally testify that the world is a better place for Mr. Colson having lived in it.

  7. Donalbain says

    Also, it is important to note that Chuck Colson did not work on behalf of “prisoners”, he worked on behalf of his particular brand of Christian who happened to also be prisoners. If you were the wrong sort of Christian he didn’t care, and woe betide you if you were a different religion or even an atheist.

    • Really? And you have proof of this? I have never come across anything even close to what you are alleging in all of my contact with Colson’s organization.

      • Yes. Courts found that the preferential treatment offered to Christians who signed up to his fellowship was illegal. He also stated that he did not think that Pagans had a right to have chaplains. His work was sectarian and intolerant.

        • cermak_rd says

          I seem to remember him trying to keep Muslim prosletyzing orgs out of prisons too. Apparently he didn’t like the competition.

    • I actually went into prisons with Prison Fellowship teams.At least at the team level we never discriminated against other beliefs/religions. We tried to engage people who disagreed. There were times when we had to take discussions “off line” so that others in the group got the seminar that they signed up for.

      My strongest memory is that of a woman who was attending the seminar who found out the second day of the seminar that she had HIV. Whatever Colson’s politics was he did do some good.

  8. Franky Schaeffer seems to have made a career of being consumed with anger.

  9. My take on Colson’s life and work was in the context of the politics Colson chose to follow. I wrote nothing about Colson that I had not said to his face (over the phone and in person in several conversations) and/or in print when he was alive. My essay on Colson is a public discussion of his public life. Colson’s legacy was to take the political “methods” of Nixon/Watergate and apply them (years later) to the culture war battles under the cover of good works for prisoners. Politics and political activism are hardball professions. There have been plenty of critiques of Prison Fellowship over the years. I did not go there. My “take” was strictly limited to the fact that Colson was fighting a political war against progressive politics while hiding behind religion. Politics masquerading as religion is still politics and should be judged as such. No one forced Colson to jump back into politics. And if that involvement shapes his legacy there is nothing to complain about any more than I should complain because of the comments on this site about my politics run to what might be called “heated” Agree or disagree comments that are unkind come with the heat in this particular kitchen. But it seems to me that friends of religion – right or left — should demand honesty. If you want to be in the political arena you can’t then complain when the critiques become political. My “tone” isn’t the point. The point is: was Colson political or not and if he was did he help the cause of Christ by helping to tilt the evangelical movement farther to the right? It is the reputation of Christianity we should worry about.

    • Thanks, Frank. I appreciate you reading and weighing in.

    • Ah yes, I’m sure Christ was shaking in His shoes at the thought that Chuck Colson’s political views might hurt His cause.

      I worked for Chuck Colson for ten years. He was a good and wise man, full of life and joy, and filled with compassion and concern for others. There was nothing oppressive about him. And never once, in all those ten years, did I EVER hear him speak with the kind of bitterness and venom that you have exhibited, Mr. Schaeffer. About anyone, for any reason.

      If you think that the great sin of disagreeing with you politically, or daring to have any political opinions at all, is enough to negate all the good work he did, then I’m afraid, sir, that says more about you than about Chuck.

      May God forgive you for the lack of charity and kindness you have displayed. I know Chuck would have. You see, he was that kind of person.

      • Full of concern and compassion for others. Unless they were gay. Or women. Or not Christian.

        • I’m a woman who, as his employee, benefited from Chuck’s encouragement, support, and guidance. Could it be possible that I know just a little tiny bit about his attitude toward women? 🙂

          • Donalbain says

            He said that if homosexuals were able to get any closer to equality in America, then it would be time for violent revolution. But yeah.. I guess that is not bitterness or venom. He said that giving rights to homosexuals causes terrorism. But yeah.. I guess that is not bitterness of venom. The man was scum. The world is better now that he is dead.

          • “…if homosexuals were able to get any closer to equality in America, then it would be time for violent revolution.” Didn’t know the man terribly well, but seems a tad out of character. Could you provide documentation?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And never once, in all those ten years, did I EVER hear him speak with the kind of bitterness and venom that you have exhibited, Mr. Schaeffer. About anyone, for any reason.

        Welcome to the bitterness and venom of the Utterly Righteous, Gina.

    • That last sentence speaks volumes.

    • cermak_rd says

      That reputation has already been largely destroyed.

    • so because you hate his politics, you hate the man. Nice. Glad to see you have fully embraced what the left really means when they use the term “tolerance.” No, it’s not the Webster definition. It means, silence those on the right and embrace what we believe.

  10. I disagree with the parting shot. Having said that , it’s like watching Statler and Waldorf, with one curmudgeon taking aim at the other. It was good, at least from the standpoint of hearing persuasive voices on both sides of the culture wars. Both are opinionated, Type-A believers who see what they’re doing as the Kingdom work they’ve been called to, along with a few past demons they’re reacting against, like the rest of us. But with the issues they sparred over; the solution always seemed to be on either side of an anthropocentric coin. And both of them – laymen – have taken on the mantle of spokesperson for the evangelical subculture in the tried and true way – through the church’s shadow government of parachurch organizations. Taking the long view, some of the legacy culture warriors have passed on, the others are octogenarians. God can sort out his church all by himself. The ref should hand Frank a yellow card for that play.

  11. Poor Franky Schaeffer has become quite a mess. Not at all having the grace his father did.

  12. I had never heard of Frank until an hour ago, and I wish I could turn back time and regain that innocence of the existance and writings of this person.

    How can anyone spew this hateful poison and claim to be a Christian? Disagreement and even dislike is one matter, damning someone to hell and assuming that one knows the state of another’s soul is the work of the evil one, clear and simple. I am used to reading illogical and vicious words from the secular left when Christians take a moral stance on anything, but nothing like this from someone who self-reports as a follower of Jesus Christ!

    Even ignoring what he says about Colson (whom I do not know enough about to even have an opinion) the rabid anti-Catholic viotrol and clear support of sinful life choices seem to be enough for any thinking Christian to question his theology and motives. Didn’t our Boss say some things about planks and specks in eyes, and laying down offerings if you have a grudge against your brother, as well as calling a brother “an idiot” being on par with violence, our sins being forgiven to the same extent we forgive those who sin against US?

    He is venomous regarding the alliance of relgion and right-wing politics (which we have discussed here in a civil fashion) and yet uses phrases like “getting middle class voters to vote against their own self-interests” while decrying the stupidity of those who have objections to contraception or gay marriage….staight out of the far LEFT playbook!

    This is one scary dude, and you can be very sure I will remain far, FAR away from him and his hateful speech in the future. Yet, I am glad in a way to have learned about all this, even if my ears are bleeding. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a sudden need to take a very hot shower with lye soap and bleach…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I first came across Frank Schaeffer in the Eighties, in the form of his book Addicted to Mediocrity, about Evangelical Christianity’s neglect of the arts and embracing of Christianese Jesus Junk.

      Shortly after, I heard him interviewed on the radio. It was the first time I had ever heard such rabid Catholic-bashing — Schaeffer couldn’t stop going off on rants about Catholics at the drop of a hat and he’d drop the hat himself. (There was foreshadowing of that in his book, about how the Protestant countries — those Calvinist Iconoclasts who whitewashed their churches like Wahabi mosques — far surpassed Italy in the Renaissance Arts. Say What?) That wrecked his credibility with me right there. So he has been foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Catholic for some time.

      As for “damning someone to Hell and knowing the state of another’s soul”, that’s normal in the Evangelical Wilderness. “God Hath Revealed It Unto Me” and all that. I remember somebody claiming it in one of these IMonk comment threads last year, that either him or his friend was Gifted by God to know the state of others’ souls and their eternal destiny, and God revealed it unto him at every funeral. My reaction was “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of evidence.”

      • Just wow…..Thanks for the info, HUG. I may have to shower again…

        Meanwhile, back across the Tiber, the official Church position is that YES, hell exists but NO, we don’t know who is there. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot….nope, can’t say for certain they were damned, as we don’t know what went on between them and their Creator just before death.

        Meanwhile, others like claiming to speak FOR the Almightly and His final judgments.

        Can we say “pride” or “hubris” or even “heresy”? Scary, scary people…..and possibly guilty of misleading the flock, which I hear the Boss doesn’t like very much,

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Meanwhile, others like claiming to speak FOR the Almightly and His final judgments.

          “A fanatic is someone who does God’s Will — or what God would Will if God only KNEW what was REALLY going on.”
          — don’t remember where I heard that, but it’s a good line

    • I haven’t read Franky’s current piece, but if it is anti-Catholic, that is odd. Didn’t he become Eastern Orthodox? Several years back, he wrote a book in which he turned around on Calvinism, tried to rip a few big holes in it, and recommend Eastern Orthodoxy as a solution to the West’s problems. (The book was called “Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion”.)

      • After the reading the piece, I am not sure I can see how it is anti-Catholic. It is against certain conservative Catholic political organizers, against Catholic teaching on contraception, and against recent moves by the bishops over contraception. This does not amount to hostility to Catholicism as a whole.

        The main problem appears to be tone and timing. Franky has always been a firebrand crusading tooth-and-nail against a monstrous evil. Occasionally that makes you want to stand up and cheer, but sometimes he’s fails to be gracious.

        • To clarify, when I write “monstrous evil,” I am not describing my own perception of anybody. I mean that Franky seems to view his actions in these terms. He had a highly combative, take-no-prisoners tone when he wrote and campaigned for the Right. He had it when he switched to Orthodoxy. (The problem in the Orthodoxy book was the entire West!) And he’s doing it now, as voice on the Left.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I haven’t read Franky’s current piece, but if it is anti-Catholic, that is odd. Didn’t he become Eastern Orthodox?

        If you’re going for an Ancient Church with a solid historical trace and don’t dare go Romish, your choice is a bit limited.

        • You have a point.

          Obviously I don’t know, but I think in Franky’s case, I wonder if conversion to Orthodoxy may partly have been a way to do something really radical and offbeat — I mean, he did title his book on the topic “Dancing Alone.”

  13. Contrast Schaeffer’s rant with the kind eulogy of Brian McLaren :


    Schaeffer and McLaren come from similar ideological places but I’ve got to respect McLaren’s tact on this one…

    ~Chris Smith

    • Great eulogy and great exchange between Colson and McLaren.

      As much as people often demonize McLaren, I have never heard him express anger or bitterness about it..

      I love the civility there and mourn how it sometimes seems lost.

      I am not sure why Schaeffer could not have simply expressed his disagreement with Colson and left it there. Was the hatred and anger really necessary. Maybe, because he knew that this kind of bland eulogy would not have received attention and he was looking to get attention?

      From time to time, I have expressed a similar kind of hot anger about individuals, and while it usually feel goods to express it, I often feel shame in retrospect.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It may be that Schaeffer is the “Angry Young Man” personality common among a lot of political radicals and Baby Boomers. The archetype of the In-Your-Face Idealist/Activist.

  14. CM, your comment on Frank’s blog was excellent, I pray that God will give him ears to hear. I had my first exposure to Prison Fellowship when I was a ministry volunteer at Graterford Federal Prison outside of Philadelphia. After seminary and ordination I served as a full time prison chaplain and always continued in contact with PF. In those days I always benefited from their training and my occasional contact/chat with Colson. Later when I’d hear him on the radio talking about culture war stuff, I’d shut it off. He was so instrumental in prison reform and helped me in the efforts I was making in that area back in the 80’s and 90’s. I’ll always be grateful for him.

  15. While Chuck is a household name, especially in evangelical households, I honestly don’t know enough about him, what he said or what he did to comment intelligently whether or his life on earth was a sum gain or loss of the cause of Christianity. I will leave that valuation to those who knew him better.

    I do know much more about Frank than Chuck. I, without hesitation, would say that Frank’s contribution has been a sum gain. While, like all of us, Frank my have his own demons, he has been the voice heralding the fact the Emperor is wearing no clothes. His deconstruction of Evangelicalism’s motives and his zeal for honesty in all things, while sand in the waistbands, crotches and shoes of the mainstream Evangelicals (actually, I’ve heard him referred to as “Satanic” by some evangelical friends) I believe is doing God’s work. The God who dwells in the places of truth and honesty. I am grateful for Frank’s writings, which have given me the hope that my observations of the Emperor’s pale naked flesh is not delusional, and my observations of my own corruptible soul is not unique but part of the true nature, even of the truest of saints.

  16. This is what Colson said about gay people in 2004 in “Christianity Today”

    Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America’s decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

    Giving gay people rights increases terrorism. Way to go Chuck

    • Have you ever read what the Bible says about the practice of homosexuality? I mean, if we’re going to condemn everyone who believes that it’s decadent, you’re going to have to have a few words with Paul . . .

      • You can believe that homosexual activity is decadent. That is fine, it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket. But when you state that the government should be able to use violent force against someone for homosexual acts, then you are a vile, hateful person and the world is better off when you are dead.

        • Pretty serious charge.
          Not being of the American persuasion, did this fellow actually advocate violence against homosexuals? Like mob violence where people are physically attacked?

          So far from what you have said it sounds more like you think that anyone who disagrees or takes public positions against your political agenda is somehow violent.

          Surely you can do better than that. Are there no hate laws in USA?

          • Donalbain says

            He was in favour of the criminalisation of homosexual activity. When it was made legal by the Supreme Court, he went on record opposing that decision. If you think that something should be illegal then, by definition, you think that the state should be legally allowed to use violence against people who do that thing. That is what it means when something is illegal.

          • Um, no. Speeding is illegal, and no cop should use violence against it. Apparently believing that a certain activity is harmful is the same as wishing harm on those harming themselves through said activity.

            Let’s remove gay from the issue. Replace it with, oh, I don’t know, headbanging to rock music, and let’s see if the logic flows: If I believe headbanging is harmful to both the individual participating in it and the society tolerating it, and I proceed to support legislation against the activity of headbanging, what I really have in my heart is a desire for headbangers to get their heads banged?

          • Donalbain says

            If something is illegal, then the state has the power and right to use force to punish you if you do it. If you speed, then the state will use the courts to punish you. They start by using fines, but ultimately, the power to impose a fine rests on the idea that they can us violence against you. Being arrested is an act of force. Chuck Colson supported that act of violence against people who engaged in adult, consensual sex. He was a vile, hate filled human being and the world is better off now that he is dead.

          • Donald, it seems you would prefer to rid the world of any who do not fully support the leftist gay agenda. Unless you oppose the established laws of traffic, you are condoning the use of violence against people who are in a hurry. “Colson supported violence against people engaged in adult, consensual sex.” Um, no, he opposed homosexuality, not consensual sex generally. Is this how you define being a “vile, hate filled human being?” Would you say that you do not seek to limit behavior that you are genuinely convinced is harmful to both the participants and to society in general?

          • Donalbain says

            If by “leftist gay agenda” you mean things like not using violence against people who are gay, then YES. I think the world is better off without people who do not support that agenda. And stop using the stupid traffic analogy. If I drive my car in a dangerous way, then I put OTHER PEOPLE at risk of injury. If my friends engage in homosexual sex, then they do not put other people at risk of injury and so there is no justification for the use of violence against them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Teh Gay Card is now in play. Watch for it to completely take over this thread.

      • So that means it is ok for Colson to lie about gay people? That is why I posted the quote. It is a lie. I doubt Colson really believed that giving gay people rights increased terrorism, but he still was willing to spread that falsehood around. He has said all kinds of lies like this. He stated that giving LGBT people rights would destroy democracy. I don’t have the quote on me but I believe that Colson advocated for the re-criminalization of homosexuality. I mean why say nice things about someone who spent years and years spreading lies and saying nasty things about us?

        • I just read Colson’s quote you posted, in my high school English the words This is like would have signaled the use of metaphor.
          Enlighten us!

          • Exactly, gay rights are not actually giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, but they might as well be. Come on, in the article Colson makes it clear that giving gay people rights will inflame Islamic terrorists and make them more likely to attack us. Because two men getting married is the penultimate sign of decadence.

        • The Previous Dan says

          How can you call Colson a liar when the Taliban Army was known to execute homosexuals and while radical Muslim clerics repeatedly stated that one of the reasons America needs to be destroyed is because of the decadence we spread? Don’t blame Chuck Colson for having an opinion on how that effected their attitude toward our country.

        • On this subject Colson was right. They hate us for gay rights. They hate us for nudity in movies. They hate us for mixed swimming. They hate us because we eat pork. They hate us because women go out in public without their “men” and showing skin. The extremists hate us for a lot of things. Colson was just going on, a bit too much in my opinion, on this one issue.

          But I don’t think he was wrong in his premise as much as in his presentation and emphasis.

    • I just read the whole article. It is in Christianity Today October 2004, Vol. 48, No. 10 entitled The Moral Home Front.

      As someone who lived for 8 years in the heartland of Islam (and the homeland of radical Islam) I would have to say he made some valid points. This paragraph rings true:

      Anger at Western decadence fueled the writings of the radical Sayyid Qutb, which so influenced Osama bin Laden. These people see themselves not as terrorists, but as holy warriors fighting a holy war against decadence.
      We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let’s acknowledge that America’s increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.
      Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America’s decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

      I found in my conversations in the middle east is that what bothered people was the moral corruption of the West. Whether or not we like it, we are judged by the Islamic world on those things. So when we do things like invade Iraq or intervene in Mid East politics they ask the question who are you to tell us the way to run our society when you do the following (and a list like the one above appears). And they do judge us on things like homosexual marriage, abortion, pornography and trashy TV.

      In the paragraph I quoted I can say as an ex-middle east expat Colson is stating the obvious. But that does not include all Muslims.

      • I am still not sure that I buy the idea that a major motivation of Islamic terrorism are gay rights in the west, but even granting that premise, so what? Colson advocated for the re-criminalization of homosexuality. Is that the solution? That if two men move in together they could be arrested for it?

        In the article I cited Colson says we should reverse American decadence, but he doesn’t say how. Colson has said that gay people are “Sexually Deviant” that same-sex marriage will cause “Cultural Armageddon.” At best what Colson has said about LGBT people is inflammatory and mean-spirited.

      • Colson is correct in his claim that the decriminalization of homosexuality in the West is perceived as decadence by many devout muslims. (However, I also think this sort of thing would play only a minor role in motivating an actual attrack.) Nonetheless, the paragraph is still one I would take marked exemption to. My problem with Colson’s paragraph, as quoted above, is that he still makes the gay community responsible (casually if not morally) for attacks against the U.S.; to boot, he contends that U.S. policy ought to be guided and Christian morals shamed by the sabor rattling of those who would actually take this disgust onto the battlefield. Whether he meant to or not, he rhetorically calls the gay community “innocent” of the charge of culpability, but cancels out the that statement by immediately saying that, in fact, they must be treated as if they are culpable. And if they object, I suppose, that they would then in fact be guilty of the attacks, by way of reckless endangerment of others. I suspect this is how rhetoric was read by many people, and likely intended.

      • What both of you seem to be missing is that he mentions gay marriage amidst a grab bag of things, the whole gist of the quote is not gay marriage, it is one of the issues.

        He argues that all of those things are taken together. When I lived in Saudi gay marriage was not even on the radar, and still the criticism would be we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth I would add that they thought our women dressed like hookers.
        Gay marriage would just be another on the list of sins of the west, further evidence of how gone we are.

        • Does the fact that he includes a bunch of other topics in the list change the picture very much? My point is that he doesn’t stop with the claim you have just advanced about islamic perceptions of the West. He proceeds to say something else entirely: that those engaged in the trends on his list are “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” That’s a weighty claim.

          It’s also a clever move rhetorically. He begins with the threat posed by a set of religious conservatives abroad, but then abruptly switches the blame to the threat to liberalism in the West. By doing this, he lumps one set of anti-American outsiders (Islamists) together with American liberals (traitors in our midst), even though those two groups share no common cause. Left in the middle is an evangelical American Self besieged from all sides.

          It might be noted that this bit of rhetoric doesn’t make Colson make especially outlandish compared to his peers: very similar things have been said by others. To pick a single example, several months ago Newt stood before an evangelical church and warned that atheists were working to advance a radical Islamist agenda.

          • Well I have to admit Danielle, I just do not understand how you do politics or religion in the US.

            The only part of his argument I do really get is that the Islamic world judges us on our lifestyle. They were quite deliberate on 9-11 attacking what they thought were the 3 gods of the US. Money, military and the Whitehouse.
            I do not see how someone can jump from saying we are judged by our lifestyle to this aiding the enemy other than in a radical Islamists mind these things just add up to just cause to mete out judgement on the kafir (Arabic term for heathen).

            As for Newt, can’t say, don’t know anything about him. An old friend of mine’s wife is his organizer for the state of Kansas. And she is so radical and in love with the guy I can’t believe it. Newt is like an American Princess Diana!

            I try to stay out of politics in conversation with my American friends. even though I am right wing in Canada, I think some of them think I am at least a Democrat, perhaps even a socialist.

  17. We are all mixed bags. There’s not a one of us who is worthy on our own merit to be called ‘Christian’.

    What would some of these folks done with a rememberance of St. Paul after his death? Or you…or me?

    So many believers and non-believers don’t have a clue as to what it means to be a Christian, and are so self-righteous and politically immersed that they haven’t an ounce of grace in them…even for the dead.

    • Well said, Steve. None of us are good enough to get to heaven on our own. We earn no merit badses for our “good” works or attitude. Humility is a virtue we should strive for.

    • cermak_rd says

      I probably would have said similar things to what Mr. Schaeffer said about Colson. I don’t, by and large, believe in redemption from our acts. We must atone for them the best we can and move on. Paul was a zealot first for one side and then for another and was willing to spill blood for what he considered righteous. And then he claimed to have a vision from the Almighty.

  18. Being of the generation that came of age during Watergate, I was not predisposed to cut Chuck Colson much of a break. When he converted in prison, I thought, “well, I’ll watch and see where this goes and how genuine it is.” I commended him for his work founding Prison Fellowship and his genuine concern in those matters. But I also felt he continued to be dominated by his political leanings, and found the culture wars to be an apt place to push an agenda while wearing the Christian label. It was hard to open up Christianity Today and read his regular column there, year after year. I always wished he would have just stuck to the much-needed prison ministry in his later years. Because to me, his past severely hurt his credibility in pushing a moral agenda, especially one so closely associated with the side of the political fence for which he committed his felonies.

    It’s all very complicated, isn’t it?

  19. While I don’t know much about Chuck, I do know a fair amount about the “Islamists.” The reason that Muslims hate us is not because we tolerate gay marriage. I’ve had many conversations with so called Muslim radicals and gay rights was never on the radar. While they may also (I use “also” as a pregnant word with lots of meaning) hate gays, they don’t hate the US for seeking gay rights. I won’t indulge into why they do hate us as that would get this posting completely off track.

    • That was my point. Colson said a lot of nasty things about gay people. Sure, he didn’t rant and rave, but in the quote I cited above he is literally saying that giving gay people rights will increase terrorism (potentially). This is not an isolated incident. Colson has said all kinds of really bad things about gays, same-sex couples etc. I am glad he has done good with his prison ministry, but that almost makes it worse. As he took all the good will he had gained and then used it to give him credibility when he then attacked gay people. It is so unfortunate.

    • They hate us for our foreign policy and our bullying in their part of the world.

  20. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    Regardless of one’s opinion on a person or their work, Schaeffer’s piece was simply inappropriate and uncharitable. Save the harsh critiques for later. Now is the time to mourn with those who mourn. And if that’s too much to ask, then keep silent until a reasonable amount of time has passed.

    I’m reminded of a talk I heard from Steve Brown where he admitted that loving each other can be too tall of an order, but at the very least we can be civil.

    • Joseph (the original) says


      it’s like Piper ‘piping’ up about God’s will in freaky weather/natural disasters because that’s his theological perspective, but totally insensitive to those that are suffering in the wake of those circumstances…’

      note: it was interesting that Schaeffer did post his comment to CM’s article. and i do appreciate the various voices adding to the discussion.

      i suppose most of us want to leave a positive legacy once we die. i am sure Frank does & Chuck did too. we will be remembered for both the good we do, & the not-so-good, regardless of what happens on our deathbed & how we enter into eternity. the messy amalgamation of religion & politics makes for strange bedfellows to be sure, but once a person has passed on & cannot defend themselves there should be a time to mourn without having to point out differences in such a forceful manner…

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • Amen, Isaac. In this case, some civil silence is in order , even if there is radical, and warranted disagreement.

  21. Pastor Don says

    I think I missed something–like understanding the Gospel and the New Testament. I thought that when a person received Jesus and believed in him that person was granted God’s forgiveness and given eternal life. It seems to me that there are a number of respondents who have forgotten that or who haven’t experienced the Gospel in their own souls. Those who receive Christ are new creations…at least that’s what God says. And they are continually forgiven for their sin as oft as they confess it and ask forgiveness. Isn’t that true? And if it’s true, it’s true for Chuck Colson. He became a new creation just like each of us and fought the sin nature in himself as each of us do. He was a Christian. In the end, what more matters…for any of us?

    • cermak_rd says

      The Almighty may forgive, but the rest of the world doesn’t have to.

    • Good call Pastor D. But I have to warn you, in this thread, talking the plain sense of Christianity won’t go over too well with those here pushing their own agendas.

  22. David Cornwell says

    Personal attacks on someone whether dead or alive are in poor taste. Most of us have done it sometime or another. When I stoop to it, I’m always sorry later. The low state of American political and religious discussion seems to draw it’s nutrition from this sort of thing. But it’s more like a cancer festering and metastasizing it’s way through our public debate than it is a real discussion about ideas. As a nation we are about to be treated to a barrage of this type of s***. As followers of Christ we should look for a better way of doing it.

    • +1,000. America’s culture is getting out of control. I think one of the main problems is that both sides think that being louder will get more people on their side & on top of that both sides think they are winning so they keep doing that!

  23. Schaeffer’s brand of intolerant, unforgiving, unbalanced, and melodramatic judgmentalism makes my head hurt.
    But, unfortunately, it is typical of the culture war mud being thrown from both sides these days. One would think that the very angels of heaven have divided up into liberal and conservative factions and are making war on each other over political issues here on earth. Pro-choicers are all baby killers, and pro-lifers hate and want to enslave women. You either want to outlaw homosexuality or you’re seeking to destroy families and traditional family values. No middle ground. No prisoners. No mercy for the enemy. No place for love and grace.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      No middle ground. No prisoners. No mercy for the enemy. No place for love and grace.

      Only for Power Struggle.

      Only for The Coup, followed by the mass graves of the Cleansing.

      • Yes. And we can all kiss our freedoms goodbye if either extreme end of the culture war spectrum ever gains a truly decisive and lasting advantage.
        But, truth be told, we’re in no immediate danger of becoming a theocratic totalitarian state run by a priestly class of fundamentalist preachers — and neither are we on the verge of becoming a completely socialized utopia controlled by an inner party of atheistic scientists and ideological purists.
        It’s just that the extreme left and right elements have become far too adept and far too loud in their efforts to demonize the other side.

        • Donalbain says

          Out of interest, who on the “far left” would you point to as an example of being the equivalent of people who want the state to use violence on people who are gay? I don’t know of any actual politicians who, for instance, want to make it illegal to engage in Christian practices, and for the state to use violence against people who do that. However, there ARE active, influential people who do want that to happen to gay people.

          • humanslug says

            I never said that far righties weren’t a little scarier than far lefties. In terms of loud-mouthed, mule-headed, thuggish ignorance, I’ll admit they are scarier. Far lefties scare me too — not so much in fear of immediate violence, but rather what society would eventually become under continuous ultra-lliberal control, once hard realities and human nature make their inevitable adjustments to their ideological visions of how things should be and how government should make it happen.
            It’s just that those of us who seek to maintain a more moderate, balanced, and fair-minded view of the world are just bloody tired of being caught in the crossfire. We never signed up for this cultural war, and we’re tired of taking verbal arrows from both sides every time we try to introduce some moderation of thought and broader perspective when it comes to the touchy issues.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          But, truth be told, we’re in no immediate danger of becoming a theocratic totalitarian state run by a priestly class of fundamentalist preachers — and neither are we on the verge of becoming a completely socialized utopia controlled by an inner party of atheistic scientists and ideological purists.

          But the two factions keep barrelling right at each other like two trains on a single track playing “Chicken” at full throttle with all the rest of us standing on the track.

    • Chuck Colson DID want homosexuality to be outlawed. Schaeffer does not want Colson’s form of bigotted hate speech to be outlawed. There IS a difference.

      • Yes, yes, we know. Tolerance means conform to the liberal way of thinking. Congrats on being able to redefine the term.

        • Donalbain says

          No. Tolerance means allowing people to do things you dont like without them being subject to violence for doing it. I don’t want violence to happen to people who agree with Colson. He DID want violence to happen to people who did things that he disagreed with,

          • No, he did not. Stop lying.

          • Donalbain says

            He opposed the legalisation of homosexual activity. If you think something is illegal, then you think that the state should use its monopoly on legal violence against people who engage in that activity. When the police arrest you for sodomy, they use violence against you. Chuck Colson WANTED that to happen to people who engage in homosexual activity. He wanted the state to use violence against gay people. He was a vile, hateful man and the world is better that he has died.

          • Wow…this is really a stretch. “monopoly on legal violence”???? Sorry, after that line, you have ZERO credibility.

          • Donalbain says

            That is the very basis of the state. The state is allowed to use violence against me if I break the laws. I am not allowed to use violence against other people. See, for a greater explanation of the term, Max Weber’s Politics as a Vocation. I am surprised that you have never heard the phrase before.

    • cermak_rd says

      Ahem, and who started the war? Seriously, I just wanted to live my own life my own way. And then the religious right showed up and started advocating for policies that would hurt me and the ones I love. And demonizing us. And that was when I got my leftist dander up and decided to fight!

      • The Previous Dan says

        Good question.

        “who started the war? Seriously, I just wanted to” pass my faith along to my kids. “And then the” elitist left “showed up and started” causing consternation in my kids by using my tax money to tell my child their faith and values were wrong. “And demonizing us. And that was when I got my” libertarian “dander up and decided to fight!”

        “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”
        ? Martin Luther King Jr.

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Move over Pat Robertson, there’s a new shoot-off-your-mouth loudest throat in town. Frank Schaffer has now officially gone round the bend.

    Schaeffer’s dyslogy reminds me of nothing so much as a Communist Party Ideologist denouncing a Counter-Revolutionary Reactionary Trotskyite-Goldsteinist ThoughtCriminal.

  25. After having read the original post and each of the following comments, the question that popped into my head was this:

    Would the apostle Paul have Cc’d his first letter to the Corinthians to us?

    I’m afraid so.

    I believe the Holy Bible is the inerrant, inspired, living word of God. When I have a question – and I have plenty – I go there, not to this leader or that. I believe we are to be in the world but not of the world, as Paul was according to 2 Corinthians 1:11-13.

    I do not believe the Word is a Build-Your-Own-God Kit, parts of which can be taken out of context and spun by either right or left. His Word is what it is, and I hope we would all take it for precisely that. Included in the Word is the directive to remove the log from one’s own eye before addressing the splinter in someone else’s. I’m not remotely close to perfect, and couldn’t suggest it with a straight face. I must ask however that we each examine this page carefully, and ask ourselves:

    Why the scarcity of the kind of charity our Lord told us to display for each other?

  26. It’s kind of funny that Colson got criticism from both sides on his involvement with the Manhattan Declaration. Tim Challies wrote a piece today that criticizes him for not being conservative enough: http://www.challies.com/articles/the-legacy-of-charles-colson

    • Someone recently commented that you know you are doing ok when both the left and right hate you.

      • Donalbain says

        Then someone was an idiot. You are not doing it right if you want to persecute gays quite a lot and someone on the right says you are not persecuting them enough and someone on the left says that it is wrong to persecute them at all.

        • Apparently the only coherent definition of “right” is “persecutor of gays,” and the only rational definition of “left” is “valiant crusader for the trampled.” Good grief, can you hear yourself?

    • This Challies blog sounds like fundamentalist central. Maybe Eagle could check it out, I hear he likes these things!

    • Spot on. Maybe that’s why I really like him (Colson). It seems to me that in the church today, there are two groups going overboard. There are a lot of the mainline people who believe that anything goes. You don’t believe in Jesus, and you wish to be our pastor? Swell, that’s awesome! We’re glad to have your here.

      Then, at the other end, you’ve got the MacArthur and Driscoll types who will call you a heretic if you’re on the wrong side of the infralapsarian / supralapsarian debate.

  27. This may sound like I’m continuing to defend Frank, but that’s not my purpose now. My question (and it isn’t rhetorical as I don’t know the answer) is there a place for the harsh voice in the body? Is it possible that we perceive niceness as the universal virtue when maybe it isn’t? I mean, the Victorian age was called by some as the “cult of respectability.” Maybe the modern Evangelical movement should be thought of as the “cult of niceness?”

    I would assume that in those places that our personalities protrude the most, we are most prone to successes and sin. Frank has always had a harsh voice. I’m not saying this to justify him. I am certain that he has the tendency and vulnerability to cross that line in the same way that I sin where I am most vulnerable and in my case it might be the opposite, too worried that I offend so I say nothing.

    I remember listening to a lecture by Frank when he was on the right. Even though I was on the far right at the time, I was appalled and offended by the anger I heard in his voice (towards the abortionists). Yet then, the Evangelicals around me saw his voice as God’s angry voice. Honest question again, could it be that God raises up angry voices at points in history to counter the absurdities of the opposite? Certainly there were many angry voices in church history, including some of our most admired saints . . . but also with some of the most hideous saints as well (I’m thinking of church leaders who disemboweled those—fellow Christians—whom they saw as on the “other side” of theological questions and literally danced in their physical contents).

    Yes, I think Frank goes too far at times in the same way I sin by my silence.

    Again, I know almost nothing of the recent writings of Chuck. My personal pet peeve are the likes of Benny Hinn and the TBN people who deceive the masses, manipulating them for money and in the name of Jesus. I will have nothing good to say about them even on their death beds and immediately after, should God grant me the grace to out-live them. For me to be kind to their legacy, I think, would be sin against those masses of good people whom they have deceived and stolen from,

    So, to summarize a convoluted question, is there a place within the Church for the angry voice? Have we taken niceness too far, disguising it as charity? I honestly don’t know.

    • I said in my response to Frank that there is a place for that voice but at the least his timing was not good.

      • I agree with that Chaplain Mike. I’m prepared to listen to anything Frank has to say because I have been a long time L’Abri person, know some of his family & loved his father’s work, without totally agreeing with his theology, so am interested in all his critiques & comments on that world. I am also a loud mouthed hot-head. But there’s a time & a place & a few weeks time was probably it.

  28. Interestingly enough, Tim Challies, at challies.com has a critical eulogy from the other end of the perspective.

  29. I am reminded of an old army song we used to sing when I was in the Canadian reserves:

    Sargeant: Who are we?
    Troop: Hasty Ps! (Hastings Prince Edward Regiment – also a reference to the speed at which you urinated in a battle zone.)
    Sargeant: What are we?
    Troop: Infantry!
    Sargeant: What do we do?
    Troop: Eat our dead!
    Sargeant: Lead away Wally
    Troop: Marvey, Marvey, Marvey (I have no idea what this means.)

    The point is: It is disgusting how certain Christians treat the recently deceased. Even Canadian politicians showed a lot more class when Jack Layton, the Leader of the opposition New Democratic Party recently died.

    • You are right. When Layton died not even the National Post criticized him. The closest they came was someone excoriating his followers.

  30. I read Schaeffer’s post a few days ago. I understand some of his irritation with Colson; it matches mine. If you were a pagan, and all you knew of Colson was from what he wrote and said—you knew nothing about his Prison Fellowship work, since most of that took place inside the prisons—all you would see was a Republican trying to mobilize evangelical Christians in right-wing activities. And get Roman Catholics to join their bloc.

    Colson was still very much a political animal, and his co-opting of the Schaeffer studies on worldview were part of his attempt to reconcile that kingdom with the Kingdom of God. As a result his writings—though maybe not his personal actions—emphasized the culture war far more than he emphasized the gospel, the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit, and the Kingdom. Disproportionately so.

    I find it disappointing rather than infuriating, but I understand those folks who think otherwise.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In other words, you view Colson as a bit of a tragic figure. Power politics and its accompanying attitudes were so much a part of the Colson’s psyche that it leaked through into his ministry as well. Like he couldn’t completely stop being “Nixon’s Hatchetman”, but only transfer that alliegance.

      Kind of like my stepmother I mentioned in another comment above, who’d had to fight for so much of her life she couldn’t stop acting belligerent and dominating when there was no longer any need.

      • I won’t speak for what K.W. was getting at, but that was certainly what I was trying to say in my post further up in the thread.

        And I like the analogy to your stepmother. I have known many people like that, who learn a protective or compensating behavior early on, but are unable to shed it when it is no longer necessary. I have a lot of compassion for such folks, even when they make life miserable for those around them.

      • Not so tragic. I know a bit about carrying a dysfunctional mindset with you, even though the original cause of the dysfunction is gone. (The currently popular Christianese term for it is “generational curse.”) One can move beyond such things—if we’re receptive to helpful input from other Christians.

        Emphasis on helpful. When I was heavily involved in Republican politics, I had a lot of enablers at my church who actually encouraged my bad behavior: “Right on, Leslie! Stick it to those Democrats!” Even from the leadership and pastors. Apparently I had a pass to indulge in the works of the flesh for partisan reasons. Lots of churches do this.

        As I mentioned on my own blog, Colson surrounded himself with like-minded individuals. In my experience, if you aren’t regularly challenged by dissenting individuals—and if you don’t take their challenges seriously, particularly when they’re practicing some of that logic and proper scriptural context that you claim to uphold—your propositions are unexamined, your flaws go unnoticed, and your dysfunction lives on. I tried to challenge him, but I didn’t get through. I don’t know whether he let anyone through. He let in Jesus—but how much?

        • HUG

          I hope you can still have a relationship with your MIL. My mother is in a similar place and she makes it very hard to be around her. If you don’t join up, take up your riffle, and head for the front lines, you’re a traitor in her eyes. It is sad but she Is blind to anyone not on her side.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            No, my stepmother died a few years ago. Skipping the gory details, we had become estranged shortly before my father’s death in 1994 due to a family feud between her and my NPD/BPD brother. She was similar to the way you described your mother, and when I bailed out of the family feud), I was A Traitor. It wasn’t just “pick up a rifle and head for the front lines”, it was strap on a suicide bomb belt and become My Fully Expendable Weapon.

            I mean, it was like standing on a stretch of single-track railroad and seeing two trains barelling full-speed at you from opposite directions. Are you going to stand there at Ground Zero of the cornfield meet or are you going to bail out of the blast radius? I punched out and became The Traitor to both sides.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Oop. Saw the “HUG” above and thought you were addressing me.

      • HUG

  31. Although the post itself was spot on, I would like to caution some of the more vitriolic commenters that you sound every bit as extreme as some of the leaders of evangelicalism that you seem to hate, just to the political left. You are no different than they are when you proclaim that everybody has to believe it your way or they are destroying the country, ruining the reputation of Christianity, etc. because of their conservative political views. An unwillingness to admit that it is alright to disagree on issues and still be respectful with each other is at the heart of many problems within evangelicalism today and is probably the reason a lot of you left it (or just dislike it from afar) to begin with.

    As for Mr. Schaeffer, to attack a fellow believer in this manner days after his death, with his family still mourning is just mean and ill mannered. Regardless of what you think about his politics or theology, no brother in Christ deserves that kind of treatment.

    • Donalbain says

      I am probably the vitriolic person you are thinking of, but there is a MASSIVE difference that invalidates your equivalence. I do not want people who agree with the vile moster that was Chuck Colson to be subject to violence. i want them to die in a comfortable old age, and for their vile ideas to die with them. Chuck Colson wanted my friends and loved ones to be the victims of violence.

      • No one wants anybody to be the subject of violence. I think you have totally misunderstood Colson’s comments. It looks to me like all he said was that the moral laxness in the US has made us targets for Islamic terrorists. He didn’t condone the violence in any way, shape or form.

        • Donalbain says

          No. He did. He wanted homosexual activity to be illegal. If you want something to be illegal, then you want the power of the state to use violence against people who engage in that practice. That is what it means for something to be illegal.

          • sowarrior says

            So, using your logic supporters of Obamacare support violence against those who refuse to buy health insurance or pay income taxes.

      • “violence”

        Donalbain wants us all to agree that his use of this word is correct and proper. Sort of like “biblical” and “gospel” in some evangelical circles. And unless you agree with his usage you are wrong. Just like in some evangelical circles.


  32. OK, I’m going to say something that may get me permanently kicked off this blog.

    Franky has a history of taking a massive dump on the deceased in order to push his own agenda. His most glaring rendition of this was when he did it to his father in “Crazy for God”. As much as I loved iMonk and agreed with most of what he said/wrote — and here’s where I feel the kick coming — he was never more wrong than when he praised/supported Schaeffer for being “authentic” in that book. To be honest, I’m not seeing anything all that different in his dyslogy of Colson.

    • You have to say a lot more than that to get kicked of this blog!

    • I thought Franky was authentic in the book Crazy for God. I admire him more for his honesty. However it was tainted by his bitterness, and that came out. That in some way is better than disguising it in syrupy Christianese.

      But I thought it was cheap for him to dump on his dad and mom, and wrote him a letter telling him what a positive influence his father had been in my life.

  33. Chuck is in heaven, but there are two things I found problematic about him in the last ten years.

    For starters, Colson was a signatory to the Land Latter, which was essentially an evangelical permission slip for George Bush to invade Iraq.

    At my blog I said this (in 2005):


    Charles Colson, one of the Land letter signatories, wrote an article in the December 9 issue of Christianity today that defended his position on “Just war.” He defends the position based on the idea that we should love our neighbour, and that sometimes war may be the best way to help them. Despite the wisdom that this appears to have, Colson then makes the most breath-taking of statements:

    “Of course, all of this presupposes solid intelligence and the goodwill of U.S. and Western leaders. I find it hard to believe that any President, aware of the awesome consequences of his decision and of the swiftness of second-guessing in a liberal democracy, would act recklessly.”

    This is one of Richard Nixon’s former advisors speaking here. Of all people who could know the utter stupidity that a president can fall into, Colson should know. But it seems he has not learned anything from Watergate. The fact is that Bush acted recklessly and without any thought to the consequences of his actions when he ordered the invasion of Iraq. Like other evangelical leaders, including those who wrote the Land letter, Colson has shot himself in the foot by presuming to trust in the judgement of a sinful man.

    Colson was also angry at Mark Felt for being “Deep Throat”:


    Charles Colson, Nixon’s chief counsel from 1969-1973, was one of the Watergate-affiliated people gaoled at the time for his illegal activities. He is well known amongst Evangelical Christians for his pre-trial conversion to Christianity, his “Born Again” biography, and his subsequent founding of “Prison Fellowship”. He is regarded highly amongst Christians, and is one of America’s best known Evangelical leaders.

    So when it was revealed that Mark Felt was Deep Throat, Charles Colson was genuinely shocked. Like Nixon, he had trusted Felt. Moreover, if you look at what Colson said about Felt during the interview, it is obvious that Colson was more concerned about the man’s “lack of loyalty” than anything else. He should have been loyal to his commander-in-chief. He should have resigned instead of having secret meetings with reporters.

    I find such an attitude appalling – Colson’s attitude that is. When has Loyalty been more important than Truth? Colson intimates that Nixon’s presidency may have been saved had Felt not blabbed – but that is the problem. Nixon had already committed crimes that deserved impeachment before Felt started his “cloak and dagger” relationship with Bob Woodward. If Felt had confronted Nixon, he would have been threatened or bribed enough to remain silent.

    The fact is that Felt was acting out of loyalty to something higher than the President – he was being loyal to the rule of law. Hypocritical, selfish, law-breaking fascist though he may have been, Felt knew that Nixon’s activities were highly illegal and needed to be exposed. Colson talks about loyalty to a person, to a position, while Felt acted upon his loyalty to the law.

    Colson’s attitude is even more remarkable considering the fact that the Bible speaks of an event where an individual, motivated by his loyalty to God’s law, confronted a hypocritical and corrupt king. We all know the story, it is the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). The individual who confonted David was the prophet Nathan.

    Sorry for copying and pasting stuff I wrote 7 years ago, but it beats having to write all that stuff again.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Now Haldeman and Grey
      And Mitchell and Dean,
      All these dudes a-shakin’
      On the White House Scene…”
      — “Watergate Blues”, 1974

      I find such an attitude appalling – Colson’s attitude that is. When has Loyalty been more important than Truth?

      I remember one of the more unsavory parts of the Nixon Tapes — either Ehrlichman or Haldeman saying “Grey has betrayed us. He must be eliminated.”

      And then for sheer weirdness there was G.Gordon Liddy…

      The fact is that Felt was acting out of loyalty to something higher than the President – he was being loyal to the rule of law.

      During the height of Watergate, before things got really crazy, the musical 1776 (i.e. the origin story of the USA) hit the big-time, including a special Presidential performance. One of the actors from the musical — the one who did Franklin, I think — showed up at one of the anti-Vietnam or anti-Nixon protests on the Mall in DC (which were a regular feature in those days) and took some static from the other protestors because he had “performed before Nixon”. He answered “No. I was performing before the President. The office, not the man.”

      • He answered “No. I was performing before the President. The office, not the man.”

        There are way too many people of all political and religious leanings who don’t get this concept.

  34. I have never understood some people’s (mainly media people) obsession with condemning a person who has just died. That said, I also don’t understand why some people whitewash the clearly faulted person after they die.
    Maybe our eulogy funerals should be more like the character in the Speaker for the Dead, who interviewed relatives and people who knew the deceased and then painted a true picture of who they were. Granted the FICTIONAL book is written by a Mormon, who is known to let some of his theological ideas into his fiction. But it would still be an interesting practice.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Speaker for the Dead was written by Orson Scott Card, award-winning SF author and direct descendant of Brigham Young.

      And the “Speaking for the Dead” eulogy is an analogy of the Last Judgment. Understand, my image of the Last Judgment was the one from the Jack Chick tract, the 300-foot lightbulb-headed God on the Great White Throne damning with “Begone from Me, Ye Cursed, Into Everlasting Fire…”

      Then I read Speaker for the Dead and Card put the first cracks in that image. You see, in Speaker for the Dead, the “Speaker” giving the eulogy researches the deceased’s life as thoroughly as possible before giving his “Speaking”. And in the Speaking, the Speaker tells the Absolute Truth about the deceased’s life, the good, the bad, the ugly, everything. The Absolute Truth.

  35. I am not adequate to discuss Chuck Colson or his legacy, and certainly not his ministry or his faith.

    However, I am concerned with the one place where I am familiar with him – his book “How Now Shall We Live”, ironically a play on Francis Schaeffer’s title. In this book Colson and coauthor Nancy Pearcey clearly lay out the acceptance of the literal reading of Genesis as a primary tenet of faith, if not THE tenet of faith. Forget the Creed.
    And he repeatedly implies that everything plaguing your life (rebellious kids?) was because of our society allowing the teaching of Evolution.

    • yes, a monstrously big flaw in the book and in their “wedge” outlook; evolutionary theory was the evil of all evils. this was/is a wrench in his (and Pearcey’s) credibility, IMO.

  36. “Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America’s decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.”

    Do radical Islamists use America’s decadence to recruit suicide bombers?
    It’s more likely they use the Support of Israel as THE primary reason to radicalize against the US. And stories of US soldiers flushing Koran’s, and pictures of US soldiers smiling over dead Islamists, which I imagine they find infuriating.

    When the culture war is looked at in an extreme way, anything threatening a Christian Nation, 1950’s whitewashed view of America is supposedly bad. Colson forgot that he was bad also.

    • Scott. You have hit on the biggest reason, the support of Israel.

      But the fact that we are godless heathens just makes it all the more justified when we are attacked.

  37. Rebuking in the spirit of love is not something FS Jr is noted for. As a Bible college student some 20+ years ago, I was given a writing assignment on his book “Addicted to Mediocrity” in a “Philosophy and Organization of Church Music” class. Although his arguments were cogent, his spirit and tone struck me as so caustic and petulant that I determined to “give him to God” and simply ignore him. Seeing this kind of graceless polemic from him now is, sadly, no surprise.

  38. In my opinion, people who write and publish dyslogies of recently deceased people display their own deep-seated emotional problems.

  39. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    What ever happened to not speaking ill of the dead? Chuck Colson was a deeply flawed human being. So am I. But, I sure he did some good in his life just like I have. I’m sure he has a family that loved him who are mourning his passing right now. The fact that he got held up as some kind of representative of the evangelical movement speaks more to the fact that evangelicals generally have 12 inches of dust on their Bibles than it does to Colson’s flaws.

    I really hope someone takes a crap on some of your caskets the way some of you are doing with Colson. It’s just not right.

  40. Some very brief take aways from this sas post:

    1) Frank S. has an anger problem (most men do) and from what I can tell, has had one for quite some time.

    2) He seems to put a very high priority on HONESTY. I think he would be better directed to head towards CHARITY, especially towards those who share the name of christian with him. As I recall, the goal of our instruction is not honesty, but love (yes I know they are not mutually exclusive).
    3) Some people treat “doctrine” or “the truth” the way Frank does honesty: see point 2.

    4)the fact that Frank was willing to say in person what he said in his blog counts for little: Fred Phelps and multiple others could say the same thing. The question shouldn’t be: is what I said true, but “is what I said helpful in THAT situation, to THOSE people.

    5)the best approach might be to do what one poster said above: ignore him.

    • Most men have anger problems? Really? Not been my experience.

      • Oh my, geeeeze yeah….. that’s cuz you live amongst laughing Labatt drinkers, and what small issues are left over get expressed on the hockey ice.

        • You have a point Greg.
          When I returned to Canada after 8 years abroad I went to a hockey game. Took my daughter who was born overseas. It was violent. And when a fight broke out the crowd loved it.
          I literally felt like I was in the Roman forum at a gladiator duel.

          But like Michael says, we don’t have anger problems. I just can’t figure out why we busted up Vancouver when the Canucks lost.

  41. 6) forgot one: it’s very unclear , to me, where Frank’s strongest allegiances lie. Is he a political guy who occaisionally invokes the gospel, or is Jesus and HIS cause central ?? I am not saying this based on his politics, which really don’t interest me in the slightest. His strongest emotion and passion seem to be political. Is it posible that he is using politics in much the same way that he is accusing Colson of doing it, but from a different political camp ??

    He mentioned “the reputation of Jesus”. Hooray for that. Is that what drives this man , or something else ??

  42. Frank Schaeffer, “finding a home in the Orthodox Church”? He does not seem to fit too well:
    “The Bible is a book filled with good things and lots of nonsense too. God — if there is one — is the creator of everything you see in the Hubble plus more. What some collection of Bronze Age mythology says and what is really out there (and in us) isn’t the same thing”

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