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Not long after his 1975 release from prison, former Nixon special counsel and Watergate figure Chuck Colson established what was to become the world's largest prison ministry: Prison Fellowship. And within a decade, the ministry had grown dramatically: volunteers were holding in-prison Bible studies and seminars across the country. But Prison Fellowship was losing ground. No matter how fast the ministry recruited new volunteers, it simply couldn't keep up with the nation's exploding prison population. And this was at a time when the country was enjoying economic prosperity—so why were more people ending up behind bars?
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It was not until Colson found the landmark 1977 study called The Criminal Personality that he was able to begin to fully appreciate what was going on. The study's authors, Stanton Samenow and Samuel Yochelson, rebutted the conventional wisdom that crime was caused by environment—things like poverty and racism. It was caused, they wrote, by individuals making wrong moral choices. The solution to crime, they said, was "the conversion of the wrongdoer to a more responsible lifestyle."
That insight, along with the work of Richard J. Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson (who, in Crime and Human Nature, concluded that crime is caused by the lack of moral training in the morally formative years), helped Colson see that the surging moral relativism in the culture was eroding our value systems. Young people especially had no moral compass.
Colson realized that if we were going to do anything about prisons bursting with ever-younger inmates, we would have to begin by changing the way people thought about life and moral values in the first place. We would have to help people begin to see the world through God's eyes, to see Christian truth in every area of life—from crime and punishment to medical ethics, from art and culture to marriage and family.
Thus, for the past twenty years, Colson has devoted himself to helping Christians articulate and live out a vital, biblical worldview. The culmination of that work is the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, which focuses on the proclamation of truth, leadership training, and movement building.
The Colson Center's most well-known program, BreakPoint radio, has helped Christians understand and respond to current events, politics, and cultural trends from a Christian perspective since 1991. It is now heard on 1,391 outlets nationwide. "The Point with John Stonestreet," aimed at younger Christians, airs on 797 outlets. And more and more visitors are flocking to Breakpoint.org and ColsonCenter.org to read the Christian worldview feature articles, blogs, columns, and reviews found there.
The Colson Center's Centurions Program has graduated 700 participants committed to (as a Washington Post feature article put it) knowing "their own world view and . . . [being] able to debate others with different beliefs." Across the country, certified Centurions are applying what they've learned by, among other things, starting a racial reconciliation movement in the Church, founding classical Christian schools, ministering to prisoners, and helping teens understand and desire sexual purity.
In 2011, Colson, Princeton professor Robert P. George, and Brit Hume released the groundbreaking DVD series Doing the Right Thing, which launched a nationwide movement to restore America's ethical foundations. Employing natural-law arguments accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike, this series is being used in schools and universities, churches, businesses, and civic groups.
Colson and the Colson Center were also major players in creating the movement behind the Manhattan Declaration, a Christian manifesto in defense of the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. In spring 2012, shortly before his death, Colson launched the "Breaking the Spiral of Silence" campaign, rallying Christians and Christian organizations around the country to speak out on these three critical issues. •
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