By Tom Quiner

There is a special place in heaven for Chuck Colson

The young man was insufferable.

He showed contempt for his father by demanding his inheritance before his father died:

“Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.”

This is the set up to the most beloved parable Jesus ever told, known as “The Prodigal Son.” A parable is an earthly story that relates a spiritual truth. Jesus told 57 of them. This one’s theme is riveting.

You know what happens. The young man takes his loot and squanders it on loose living.

He hits rock bottom. He slinks home a broken man and throws himself on his father’s mercy:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”

The father is faced with three choices:

1. Reject him for his licentiousness and send him away.

2. Accept him back and let him work off his debt as a hired hand.

3. Embrace him with open arms and celebrate his return.

Donald Kaul would take the first choice. (Remembering Charles Colson.)

Jesus took the last.

I refer to Mr. Kaul’s remarkable column last week which denigrated the recently departed Chuck Colson. If you missed it, Mr. Colson was one of President Nixon’s henchman. By all accounts, he was a really bad guy. He was convicted of crimes associated with the Watergate break-in and went to prison.

He was a modern day prodigal son who squandered his inheritance by breaking the law.

It was only when he hit rock bottom that he began to see the path to life. That path was to help the least in our society: the incarcerated. That path, he told us, was revealed by God.

What Chuck Colson did for the rest of his life was remarkable. He seized his second chance with a vengeance and worked relentlessly to atone for his sins against God and man.

Rather than working for himself, he worked for others.

Rather than pursuing power, he gave up power by funneling proceeds from his prolific book sales into his prison ministries. He even gave away the $1.1 million Templeton Prize he won in 1993 for promoting religion.

Donald Kaul is a cynical man who only sees the worst in a person. Perhaps that is because of his choice to exclude God from his own life. God is the source of all beauty and the One who reveals it to man.

Chuck Colson’s eyes were opened when he hit rock bottom. How do you turn a criminal into a productive citizen? By changing his heart, said Mr. Colson, just as his own criminal heart had been changed by God.

He could see the potential beauty in the hardened hearts of the imprisoned.

Mr. Kaul was “never entirely convinced of Colson’s transformation from thuggish rogue to saintly do-gooder.” Kaul reminds me of the older brother in the Prodigal Son who resents the Father’s embrace of the wayward younger brother.

Mr. Kaul even sneers at the good work Chuck Colson did in the second act of his life:

“In fact, his work with convicts aside, the case can be made that he did more harm after his release from prison than he did before he entered. He was a key figure in forming the toxic coalition of Catholic and evangelical leaders to fight for laws banning same-sex marriage and abortion … He didn’t mitigate his zealotry; he merely learned to practice it legally.”

The “toxic coalition” to which Kaul refers is “Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). Like a couple of squabbling brothers, Catholics and Evangelicals don’t always get along. Colson helped them find common ground.

And what was that?



Once again, Chuck Colson worked on behalf of the little guy, the preborn, whom the likes of Kaul deny personhood. With Colson’s active participation, ECT embraced the idea that marriage is about creation.

Perhaps the difference between a Chuck Colson and a Donald Kaul is simply this: Colson believes life is beautiful. He spent the rest of his life working on behalf of Life.

Americans typically embrace stories of redemption. I can’t help but think that Jesus is speaking to the Donald Kauls of the world when he says:

“… this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”

There is a special place in heaven for Chuck Colson.

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  1. Diane Klopfenstein on May 28, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Donald Kaul should read From Gangland to Promised Land by John Pridmore. He would see how God really can change a life!

    • quinersdiner on May 29, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Diane … what struck you about this book the most? I haven’t heard of it.

  2. Lisa Bourne on May 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Why was it that Kaul is given any kind of forum again?

  3. Monte Gray on May 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    How come you did’nt include Mr Kaul’s entire quote? You left out the part that said, “In 2002 he signed a letter urging President George W. Bush to attack Iraq in the name of “a just war.”

    • quinersdiner on May 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      The quote I used sufficiently revealed Mr. Kaul’s animus toward Mr. Colson. Mr. Colson’s position on the Iraq War is not the central reason Mr. Kaul despises him. That is a mere side issue. He despises Mr. Colson because he embraced God and lived a life of atonement. He despised Mr. Colson because Mr. Colson found human life to be beautiful and worthy of legal protection, whereas Kaul doesn’t. He despised Mr. Colson because he viewed marriage through the timeless prism of a union between woman and man with creation as its object. Kaul views it as a political issue with creation nothing but a disease. Your comment suggests I distorted by not running the complete quote. I quoted the essence of Kaul to convey his utter rejection of the essence of Colson. Colson’s position on the Iraq War is a side issue.

      • Lisa Bourne on May 29, 2012 at 8:13 am

        Plus, Mr. Colson wasn’t/isn’t alone in the thought of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a just war.

        • quinersdiner on May 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

          That’s a good point. I’ve always maintained that there were honorable reasons to oppose the war just as there were honorable reasons to support it.

  4. Mike Manno on May 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Spot on!

  5. Monte Gray on May 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    So, if Mr John Edwards is found gulity and serves his time, and then finds religion in prison and starts a ministry will you be so forgiving of his sins? I’m afraid I will still have doubts about him, and I made the mistake of caucasing for him! So, I can understand Mr Kaul’s skepticism towards Mr Colson. The Prodigal Son is a great parable. But the prodigal son wasted his inheritance. I don’t recall he engaged in criminal activity. In fact he worked at the basest of jobs when he was down on his luck. If he had been involved in criminal activities as Mr Colson had, I doubt he would have lived to returned to be the Prodigal Son!

    • quinersdiner on May 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      I believe in redemption, because Jesus showed us its power. I’m not sure what more Chuck Colson could have done to atone for his sins. I choose to believe the best in him because of the 40 years of service he put in helping the needy. His actions rung loud and clear. Some folks will always be cynical. But if John Edwards did the same and spends the next 40 years serving the needy, I’d be commending him, too.

      • Karen Quiner on May 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        Monte, my friend, you seem to have missed the whole point of Christianity.

        Forgiveness. Redemption. Judge not lest you be judged.

        Your response seems to reveal a mighty hard heart. Knowing you, I find it hard to believe your heart is truly that hard and unforgiving.

        “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, amen.”

        I know you to be a much better man than these words reveal.

  6. Tom Maly on May 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Does anyone else see the irony?? Mr. K used to refer to Gov Branstad as “governor for life.” Shor ’nuff, Branstad is back!! However, we had no clue Kaul was going to be “columnist for life”! Are their lives cosmically (or comically!?!?) related or what!?!?!?!? i remember writing to the Register as follows: “Any jackass can kick a barn down; It takes a craftsman to build one.” i just MAY have had Mr. Kaul in mind as i penned those word!!!
    As i visit with the incarcerated at the Polk County Jail, it challenges me to believe that God’s grace can penetrate what seems to the the hardest of heart and in the most unlikley of places. Do all “jailhouse conversions” have the ending we would all like to see? — Obviously not! However, it does not alter our mandate to pray and love as our Lord did. i do all i can to recall the real work is His!

  7. Sue Thayer on May 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Mr. Kaul clearly has no understanding of the redeeming and forgiving love of Christ. Thank you for your great response, Tom! One day we will meet Chuck Colson face to face!

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