The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor And Living With Faith In A Hostile World, by Owen Srachan
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
It is unfortunate that many people are not more familiar with the late born-again ex-political prisoner Charles Colson, most famous for his strong pronouncements on his show BreakPoint and for his ceaseless advocacy for prison reform, the dignity of the unborn, the strength of the family, all springing from his Evangelical faith and the reality of his post-Watergate fall from power. This book does not shy away from the complexity of this man, and along with the essay on Colson in Metaxas’ recent book 7 Men , it ought to help bring Colson and his approach to the attention of many who have not read his excellent books like How Now Shall We Live?. It is probably not by coincidence that Eric Metaxas wrote the forward to this most excellent book, and if he is too modest about himself, the author gives him full credit for his efforts to engage in the sphere of culture and politics with strong examples from scriptures and church history.
In terms of its contents, this book is relatively short (its core material is a bit under 200 pages), divided into several chapters that examine aspects of Colson’s life that are both chronologically and thematically combined. For example, the book begins with his personal background and early academic excellence and rise to power in Nixon’s White House. Then the book looks at his conversion experience during the personal catastrophe of Watergate, which led to his time in prison, which takes up the next chapter. After this the book looks at how he sought to understand the roots of principled Christian engagement, through a familiarity with the writings and lives of people like Kuyper, Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul, Carl Henry, and William Wilberforce. After this, the book looks at the expansion of his ministry, where the word expansive appears often tied to Colson’s work and oversized personality, before looking at his witness to human dignity and worth as a defender of the interests of prisoners, his twilight years (including a love for his grandson with autism), and a look at the way his example serves as a model for others. All of this is done with a skillful use of description as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence that makes Colson a case study for contemporary Christian efforts in the larger cultural sphere.
There are several particular ways in which this book is powerful. For one, this book is extremely quotable, and written with obvious and immense rhetorical skill . For another, the book does a very good job at presenting the complexity of Charles Colson as a man, loud, a mixture of generosity of spirit, of prophetic skill, and of occasional struggles with pride, with being a workaholic, and with an occasional tendency to stick his foot in his mouth, combined with an unceasing and relentless drive for justice for the unborn and prisoners and those who are despised. Those of us who share his passion for those whom the world neglects have in Colson an example of an imperfect man, but a man of absolute commitment and an unceasing thirst for greater understanding of God and others. The book combines a great deal of hope with sober realism about the present state of our society, in the knowledge that God will triumph, but that in order to be a Christian it may soon become necessary to engage in civil disobedience in the knowledge that there may be repercussions for this, like exile or imprisonment. This book makes an eloquent appeal for speaking out, even if it is dangerous, but who will heed the calling of being the town watchmen that our world so desperately needs, even if it is not aware of that need.
 See, for example:
 See, for example, the following quotes:
“Prison for Colson was personal. Unlike many citizens, he could not conceive of it in the abstract. He had eaten the awful food. He had smelled the soiled air. He had heard the screams of men tortured, night after night, by nightmares that were no imagined drama but a rehearsal of everyday life. He did not disagree in the least with the belief that prisoners were sinners, corrupted and broken by their sin. But as a man of conscience and compassion, Colson also knew that every sinner was a human being made in the image of God, invested with dignity, no matter what he or she had done. Because of this belief, he never failed to see the potential in any person.” p. 64-65
“The cycle of brokenness begins with sin. From there, dysfunction easily spreads. Without a stable home situation, characterized by a dependable father and mother, children come to dislike the very institutions created by God to unleash human flourishing and curate human dignity. The home, ordained for stability and nurture, becomes a symbol of pain. The police, ordained to protect and help, become adversaries. The church, ordained to preach and bind up, seems shallow and ineffectual. The government, ordained to respect and strengthen the populace, seems corrupt and self-enriching. When the home suffers, the reputation and regard of other God-given institutions suffer as well.” p.97