Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chuck Colson, RI [not too much] P

So Chuck Colson kicked off, at the age of 80.  The guy was living proof that, when F. Scott Fitzgerald said that thing about there being no second acts in American lives, he was full of pretentious malarkey.  (Drinking with Hemingway again, weren't you Scottie?).  Colson's second act was long and influential.

Needless to say, the press was quick to remind us all about the first act, as the guy who volunteered to walk over his own grannie if it would re-elect Nixon, and who served time for same.  And needless to say, our friends at GetReligion were quick to jump on the press for being stuck in the 70s, so deeply enthralled by the glamorous tale of Woodward and Bernstein that it couldn't see past Watergate to admire Colson's second act, as the pious prison reformer, the "towering figure" who "shaped the state" of modern evangelicalism.  Such and injustice!

They actually had us going for a while there.

Fortunately, Gawker just responded with a blistering diatribe by pseudonymous blogger "Mobuto Sese Seko."  It's not really journalism, in the conventional sense of the word; there's no pretense of balance or objectivity.  We can't even call it a think piece or an editorial.  It's pure, snarling, savage catharsis.  And it's just what we needed.

Calling Colson by a name we can't use in a family blog -- okay, fine, twist our arm:  God's Own Ratf*****r -- Seko speaks as much ill of the dead as we have ever seen.  As for the "towering figure" reshaping evangelicalism, he snorts:
His anti-gay, anti-liberal rhetoric—and unscientific and ahistorical demonization and smears—never veered from the toxic and odious, but one could hear it lustily reaffirmed by almost every GOP primary candidate this season. His Manhattan Declaration, that devout Christians should reject laws at odds with the Bible, is merely the most prominent articulation of unconstitutional Dominionist hogwash. Further, this kind of personal rejection of the rule of law is overwhelmed by a current GOP climate where it's been translated into a war on birth control for women, while public officials muse unapologetically about secession and nullification.
So there.

Is Seko reaching when he draws a line from Colson to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer?  Probably.  Okay, definitely.  But Colson was a key figure in the development of modern conservative politics, as well as of modern politically-active evangelicalism.  So if you aren't wild about either of those things, or the antics of their advocates, consider Seko's curt analysis:
Colson left a snowball on a hill, and there were no shortage of people willing to help push it down.

1 comment:

Mark C. Christianson said...

The Get Religion piece seems to protest just a bit too much. His whole post-Watergate career has its foundation on his role in the Nixon era. His conversion story pulls all the Evangelical strings so well because of that background. He skillfully used it to forge his prison ministries and his involvement in conservative politics and Evangelicalism. The center of any biography of Chuck Colson needs to be on the Watergate era, both to explain his later career and to note why he gets broad attention in the secular media.

The thing that struck me as very odd about the article was the suggestion that Colson's conversion didn't fit the journalistic hero narrative of Woodward and Bernstein against the bad guys, apparently because Colson's conversion blurred the lines between the good guys and the bad guys. Really? That pretty much requires an acceptance that conversion made (of necessity?) him one of the good guys. But if one looks at his political and social issue activism, especially his rhetoric about gay rights and other hot button issues, I couldn't agree that such lines were at all blurred by Colson's conversation. Especially with things such as the hideous "Manhattan Declaration" he had an important role in creating and promoting, I would have to say he stayed on the "wrong" side.

From my perspective, at least, he didn't really change his tune, he just gave it new harmonies and maybe changed up the rhythm a bit.