apologetics

Jordan Peterson's secular approach to the soul and the sacred (Part II)

Jordan Peterson's secular approach to the soul and the sacred (Part II)

It isn't every day that a University of Toronto psychology professor is asked to perform a wedding.

Then again, Jordan Peterson has outgrown the role of bookish academic, evolving into a digital-culture guru whose fame is measured in millions of online clicks.

The logical thing to do was hit the Internet and get ordained. Within minutes, the author of the bestseller "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" was the "metropolitan" of his own church -- with a one-doctrine creed.

"If you are a member of my church, you cannot follow stupid rules. That's a good rule, because it's an anti-rule rule," said Peterson, during an Orthodox School of Theology forum at Toronto's Trinity College.

This 2017 event -- "Resurrection of Logos: The Divine, the Individual and Finding Our Bearings in a Postmodern World" -- offered the scholar's unusual mix of science, art and theology. What matters to online seekers is that it's on YouTube, where debates about ultimate issues never end.

Not all rules are stupid, stressed Peterson. Consider this one: Don't tell lies.

"You certainly know when you lie, and you know how to stop doing that. So, I would say … stop lying. Try it for a year and see what happens," he said. "It also means that you have to not act in a way that you wouldn't speak truthfully about it."

Attempting to live a good life, he stressed, will force many people to realize that they are not inherently good.

"You cannot conceive of how good a human being might be until you can conceive how evil a human being can and will be," he said. "The pathway to Paradise is through hell. … If you don't go there voluntarily, you'll go there accidentally. So, it's better to go there voluntarily, because you can go with hope."

The online Catholic bishop pays a visit to 'Court of the Gentiles' at Facebook

The online Catholic bishop pays a visit to 'Court of the Gentiles' at Facebook

In Jerusalem's ancient temple of King Herod, there was an outer courtyard in which Greeks, Romans and non-Jews could gather to pray, pose questions and debate with any religious authorities willing to do so.

Whether modern clergy want to admit it or not, Facebook has turned into a "Court of the Gentiles" for two billion-plus users, said Bishop Robert Barron of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, speaking recently at Facebook headquarters near San Jose, Calif. Social media is where people air their doubts and convictions, hatreds and hopes.

Religion is often a bone of contention on Facebook, said Baron, an auxiliary bishop known for years of work online and in mass media. However, these digital faith fights rarely offer constructive arguments that produce clarity and understanding, as opposed to anger and confusion.

What the Internet needs is better arguments about religion, he said, in a talk that featured numerous lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas, but only one allusion to President Donald Trump.

"Some people say, 'Why are you encouraging people to have arguments?' By 'argument,' I mean something very positive," he said, in a talk that, logically enough, has been posted on Facebook. "If you go on much of social media -- I've been doing this now for much of the past 10 years, doing evangelization through the Internet -- you'll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There'll be a lot of words exchanged, often very angry ones -- a lot of energy, but very little real argument about matters religious. …

"That's a serious problem, because if we don't know how to argue about religion, all we're going to do is fight about religion."

Many Facebook combatants act like they can force other people into agreement, he said. Others "throw up their hands" and assume it's impossible to make progress when dealing with religion. True arguments take place in the middle, among people who believe faith and reason can work together.

Seeking a logical key to unlock mysteries of atheist Christopher Hitchens

Seeking a logical key to unlock mysteries of atheist Christopher Hitchens

The Shenandoah Valley was a spectacular place to spend Labor Day, even when rushing by car from Washington, D.C., to a public debate in Birmingham, Ala.

It helped that Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation had a lively conversationalist in the passenger seat during that 2010 road trip -- atheist provocateur Christopher Hitchens. And as the mountains rolled past, they worked their way deep into St. John's Gospel.

Taunton called this exchange a "Bible study." Hitchens called it "mutual textual criticism."

So here was the author of "god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," reading glasses perched on his nose, reading some of Christianity's most cerebral words in his rich British baritone, a voice abused by countless cigarettes and smoothed by rivers of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch. He kept a glass -- damn the highway open-container laws -- locked between his knees throughout the drive.

Thus Hitchens read: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." At one point, Taunton suggested that Hitchens record this text to sell as an audiobook.

"With that voice, Christopher would have done an amazing job. … You can only imagine the shock this would have caused among atheists and Christians, alike," said Taunton, reached by telephone. Hitchens, however, "knew that he didn't have much time left and he had so much that he wanted to do."

The Shenandoah road trip is a pivotal scene in Taunton's new book, "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist," which is causing fierce debates on both sides of the Atlantic.

C.S. Lewis: Still too popular after 50 years

Even though it has been 50 years since his death, the faithful at Headington Parish Church in Oxford, England, are constantly reminded of the loyal, but rather quiet, parishioner who always occupied the same short pew hidden by a sanctuary pillar. Going to church was never easy for C.S. Lewis, even before he became one of the world's most famous Christian writers, noted the Rev. Angela Tilby, in a recent service in memory of the Oxford don's death on Nov. 22, 1963 -- the same day as the death of British author, Aldous Huxley, and, of course, President John F. Kennedy.

Lewis considered church organ music far too grand and thought the words of most popular hymns were "a literary disgrace," said Tilby. Illogical sermons irritated him no end and he was highly critical of liberal trends in theology and biblical scholarship. As a former atheist, Lewis believed that far too many people in the modern world were slipping into an "easy," "fashionable" agnosticism.

In particular, Lewis was "aware of the way belief in an afterlife had come to be ridiculed by critics of Christianity as 'pie in the sky when you die' -- an imaginary compensation for those who had a raw deal in this life," she said, in a service broadcast on BBC Radio. "Lewis' response was to argue that hope for a better world could never deliver unless it was grounded in something more than the here and now."

Lewis lived to see his popular fiction -- especially "The Screwtape Letters" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" -- become bestsellers in England, America and around the world. Meanwhile, most of his Oxford University colleagues rolled their eyes at what they considered the merely popular Christian apologetics of his BBC commentaries and books such as "Miracles," "The Problem of Pain" and "Mere Christianity."

The bottom line: Lewis was considered a dinosaur from an earlier age and far too popular to be taken seriously. Half a century later, that verdict remains popular among many academics and liberal religious leaders.

Yet half a century after his death, to the day, a small stone marker in honor of Lewis was added in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, in the south transept near a variety of memorials for Geoffrey Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John Milton, John Keats and many others.

Meanwhile, the entire Lewis canon is as popular as ever, with so many books in print, with so many publishers, that researchers struggle to total the numbers. More than 100 million copies of the seven Narnia books have sold worldwide, in 40 languages. HarperOne's C.S. Lewis Signature Classics series -- the non-Narnia Lewis works -- was created in 2001 and sales are nearing 10 million volumes. An estimated 18 million copies of "Mere Christianity" have sold in the United States alone since its publication in 1952.

Memorial stones are fitting, but it's significant that Lewis is best known for his books, said the Rev. Alister Edgar McGrath of King's College in London, who will soon return to Oxford to teach science and religion. He is the author of the recent "C. S. Lewis -- A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet."

"In the 1930s, Lewis declared that a writer is not a spectacle, who says, 'Look at me!' Rather, a writer is more like a set of spectacles, who says, 'Look through me.' ... The Christian faith, Lewis discovered, gave him a lens that brought things into focus," said McGrath, in the text for his sermon during the Headington Parish service.

This focus -- in his writing, in the classroom and in life -- included an unashamed belief in the reality of heaven and eternal life. Yet Lewis argued that focusing on heaven was the best way for believers to be truly serious about the actions and decisions that make up everyday life.

The ultimate goal for Lewis, said McGrath, was to "raise our horizon and elevate our expectations, and then to behave on earth in the light of this greater reality. ... The true believer is not someone who disengages with this world in order to focus on heaven, but the one who tries to make this world more like heaven.

"Lewis is surely right when he declared that the 'Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.'"

Zombies are US, 2013 edition

It seems to happen whenever Steve Beard hangs out with friends -- especially folks who don't go to church -- talking about movies, television and whatever else is on their minds. "It may take five minutes or it may take as long as 10, but sooner or later you're going to run into some kind zombie comment," said Beard, editor of Good News, a magazine for United Methodist evangelicals. He is also known for writing about faith and popular culture.

"Someone will say something like, 'When the zombie apocalypse occurs, we need to make sure we're all at so-and-so's house so we can stick together.' It's all a wink and a nod kind of deal, but the point is that this whole zombie thing has become a part of the language of our time."

Tales of the living dead began in Western Africa and Haiti and these movies have been around as long as Hollywood has been making B-grade flicks. However, the modern zombie era began with filmmaker George A. Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, which led to his "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead." Other directors followed suit, with hits such as "28 Days Later," "Zombieland," "The Evil Dead" and "Shaun of the Dead." Next up, Brad Pitt in the $170 million-dollar epic "World War Z," due June 21, which could turn into a multi-movie franchise.

In bookstores, classic literature lovers will encounter a series of postmodern volumes clustered under the title "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Also, videogame fans have purchased more than 50 million copies of the Resident Evil series and these games have inspired countless others.

But anyone who is interested in the worldview -- if not the theology -- of zombie life must come to grips with the cable-television parables offered in the AMC series "The Walking Dead." This phenomenon, said Beard, has become so influential that it cannot be ignored by clergy, especially those interested in the kinds of spiritual questions that haunt people who avoid church pews.

Truth is, "The Walking Dead" is not "about zombies. It's a show about people who are trying to figure out the difference between mere survival and truly living," he stressed, in a telephone interview. "How do you decide what is right and what is wrong? How do you stay sane, in a world that has gone crazy? ...

"Where is God in all of this? That's the unspoken question."

In his classic book "Gospel of the Living Dead," religious studies scholar Kim Paffenroth of Iona College argued that Romero's zombie movies borrowed from one of the key insights found in Dante's "Inferno" -- that hell's worst torments are those humanity creates on its own, such as boredom, loneliness, materialism and, ultimately, separation from God.

As a final touch of primal spirituality, Romero -- who was raised Catholic -- added cannibalism to the zombie myth.

"Zombies partially eat the living. But they actually only eat a small amount, thereby leaving the rest of the person intact to become a zombie, get up, and attack and kill more people, who then likewise become zombies," argued Paffenroth. Thus, the "whole theme of cannibalism seems added for its symbolism, showing what humans would degenerate into in their more primitive, zombie state."

The point, he added, is that "we, humans, not just zombies, prey on each other, depend on each other for our pathetic and parasitic existence, and thrive on each others' misery."

This is why, said Beard, far too many women and men seem to be staggering through life today like listless shoppers wandering in shopping malls, their eyes locked on their smartphones instead of the faces of loved ones. Far too often their lives are packed with stuff, but empty of meaning.

Romero and his artistic disciples keep asking a brutal question: This is living?

"One of the big questions in zombie stories is the whole 'Do zombies have souls?' thing," said Beard. "But that kind of question only leads to more and more questions, which is what we keep seeing in 'The Walking Dead' and other zombie stories. ...

"If zombies no longer have souls, what does it mean for a human being to be soul-less? If you have a soul, how do you hang on to it? Why does it seem that so many people today seem to have lost their souls?"

Talking to real, live 'Nones'

Like many computer pros whose lives revolve around the Internet, Marc Yoder eventually created a weblog in which to share his views on life, technology, faith and other cultural issues that happened to cross his path. His "Marc5Solas" site -- the musings of a self-proclaimed "nobody from nowhere" -- drew a quiet hundred readers a week.

Then the 42-year-old Yoder wrote his "Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church" post, based on dozens of face-to-face conversations with college students and 20-something agnostics and atheists in San Antonio. He offered them coffee, the occasional lunch and a chance to vent. They did just that.

"We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship," noted Yoder.

Then they vanish. About 70 percent slip away somewhere between high school, college and the office, according to researchers. How many return?

"Half. Let that sink in," noted Yoder. "There's no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH."

Before he knew it, 500,000-plus people had visited the website and his manifesto went viral on Twitter and other social-media platforms. Then the agonized digital epistles began arriving. A few religious leaders started looking for the man behind the brash post.

"There was lots of church bashing, but I expected that," said Yoder, reached by telephone. What hit him hard were the "worried voices" of "people concerned that something fundamental had gone wrong in modern churches and they couldn't put their finger on what that something was," he said.

What Yoder had done was tap into one of 2012's hottest cultural trends, which was the rise of the "religiously unaffiliated" -- the so-called "nones." The key numbers emerged from research backed by the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life and the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

The study's findings have loomed over a variety of news events in recent months, from debates about gay marriage to the challenges facing a new pope. The key facts: One-fifth of the U.S. public -- and a third of adults under 30 -- are now religiously unaffiliated. The ranks of the unaffiliated have risen, in only five years, from about 15 percent of American adults to nearly 20 percent. This trend appears to be accelerating.

What is happening with the dropouts? Among Yoder's blunt observations:

* Churches offering the atmosphere of Starbucks/Dave & Buster's "knockoffs" are no longer cool for the young. "Our kids meet the real world and our 'look, we're cool like you' posing is mocked. ... The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn't relevant. Dress him up in skinny jeans and hand him a latte, it doesn't matter. ... The minute you aim to be 'authentic,' you're no longer authentic."

* Many young people have never been to a real church, since they were raised in multi-media nurseries and then taken into hip church services built around jumbo video screens and rock bands. "They've never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank," he argued. In short, many have never seen faith applied to the full timeline of real life.

* Rather than teaching tough truths about tough issues, many religious leaders now sell a faith rooted in emotions and pragmatism. "Rather than an external, objective, historical faith, we've given our youth an internal, subjective faith. The evangelical church isn't catechizing or teaching our kids the fundamentals, ... we're simply encouraging them to 'be nice' and 'love Jesus'," he said.

* Young people are also supposed to be winners all the time and there is little room for "depression, or struggle, or doubt" in many big churches, argued Yoder. The bottom like: "Turn that frown upside down or move along."

It's hard to talk about sin, repentance, grace and forgiveness in that kind of happy-talk environment. Far too many of what Yoder called the "big box" churches are not the kinds of places in which young believers learn to wrestle with the timeless tragedies and modern temptations of life.

"The church," he said, "is simply a place to learn life-application principles to achieve a better life. ... You don't need a crucified Jesus for that."

Commandments for believers who blog

Popes rarely produce viral sound bites, but legions of Catholic bloggers continue to pass around a quote from Pope Benedict XVI in which he openly blessed the passion that drives them to their keyboards. "Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for 2000 years," he said, in a 2010 Vatican address easily found at YouTube. The goal is to live in the "digital world with a believer's heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet's incessant flow of communication."

If that quotation is too long, bloggers can embrace this shout out from Pope John Paul II, who could become the patron saint of digital scribes. Just before his death in 2005, he proclaimed: "Do not be afraid of new technologies!"

That quote should fit atop a computer monitor.

"The greatest obstacle is always fear, when the church tries to get involved in something new," said Brandon Vogt, author of "The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists and Bishops Who Tweet."

"There's the fear of the unknown, the fear of making mistakes, the fear of creating controversy and, most of all, the fear of causing divisions in the church. ... Are there going to be bad apples? Of course. Will there be people who think they've been appointed as the pope? Of course. But Catholic leaders -- including our bishops -- can't ignore what is happening online."

As in the secular media, the social-media tsunami has rocked the old-guard religious publications.

For Catholics, diocesan newspapers long served as the official establishment voices, often clashing with independent publications on left and right, as well as those produced by religious orders such as the Jesuits. Now, Catholic bloggers have emerged as a quick-striking source of alternative commentary and information -- often from a sharply pro-Vatican point of view.

"The Catholic blogosphere is probably one of the most orthodox parts of the American church, in large part because there were so many people who feel like the church being attacked and they want to defend it," said T.J. Burdick, a Catholic educator who edited the new "One Body, Many Blogs" e-Book.

In this collection, a circle of Catholic writers provided their "10 commandments" lists for blogging about religion. In addition to the need for prayer before clicking "post," these blunt recommendations included:

* First, said Marc Barnes of the Bad Catholic blog: "Don't suck. There is a tendency within the Christian world to think the work we do will be good work, if only we do it for God." Anything less than excellence "is no service to God, no matter how well we think we are witnessing, giving testimony, or whatever Christian euphemism we want to use to disguise the fact that we can't be bothered to make something awesome."

* Never assume "everyone who reads your work has the same viewpoint on issues of faith," wrote Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com. "Find a Jewish, Protestant or even Atheist friend or acquaintance and invite them to join you for a cup of coffee and a peek at your blog. While they view it, watch carefully how they interact with your content and what lasting impressions they have in reading your work."

* Along that line, but in pews, Deacon Greg Kandra advised: "Keep an open mind to the many ways there are of Being Catholic. Not everyone loves the Latin Mass. Not everyone adores strumming guitars and liturgical dance." When in doubt, he added, "Ask yourself periodically: WWJB?"

* Kevin Knight of NewAdvent.org warned: "Truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a pixel, will pass from the Wayback Machine cache until all is accomplished." With a strong "amen," Katrina Fernandez of The Crescat said her first commandment is to "remember that we will be ultimately judged by every word we utter and write. The Internet is forever, folks."

* Former atheist Jeff Miller, blogging at The Curt Jester, advised: "Do onto other bloggers as you would want them to do onto you. If you want to be linked by others, then be generous in linking to others and to give proper attributions to where you first noticed a story. If you want others not to jump to conclusions about what you write, make sure you are not doing the same."

Seeking the hipster antithesis

Christopher Kerzich is preparing to permanently embrace a truly retro, timeless look. The basics -- black jacket, black pants and black shirt -- will be stark and radical, providing a kind of "this is who I am" vibe. Black fedoras, scarves and long overcoats are optional. For accessories, he'll have a silver cross and a white collar.

In other words, Kerzich is a seminarian at the North American College in Rome, preparing for his 2014 ordination as Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Although this wardrobe will stand out in almost any crowd, the last thing Kerzich expects to be is "hip." If anything, he hopes people his age and younger will see him as the antithesis of hip, which he believes will help him relate to the masses of fashionable young people known as "hipsters."

"If you are going to try to reach out to hipsters, the main thing you have to be is authentic. You have to be real. You have to be rooted in your faith," said the 28-year-old seminarian, during a recent home visit. "The one thing you cannot try to be is hip. You can't try to be something you're not. That would be a fatal mistake."

Defining the term "hipster" is a task that has baffled researchers -- from advertising executives to the college administrators. Kerzich finds it interesting that whenever he types a word like "hipsterdom" into his computer, the software underlines the term with the red, squiggly line that suggests this is not a real word.

The problem is that the hipsters do exist and their culture is real and it's growing. If religious leaders want to understand what is happening, he said, they must realize that there is more to the hipster ethos than Rat Pack hats, '50s dresses, plaid blazers, skinny ties, skinny jeans, rumpled hair, flashy accessories and occasional flashes of androgyny.

In his book, "Hipster Christianity," the evangelical writer Brett McCracken noted: "The only real requisite to being a hipster is a commitment to total freedom from labels, norms and imposed constraints of any kind. And this attitude must be very public, which is why hipsters are fairly easy to spot. ... The hardest part of the whole endeavor is also the most crucial: they must look like they don't care how they look."

There is more to this stance than mere appearances, he stressed. While there is no hipster creed, there are common attitudes.

"Chief among them is the instinct to be better than anyone else," noted McCracken. "Hipsters view any sort of prescribed system or hierarchy as absurd. ... They project themselves as being totally independent of any controlling influence, and masters over their own life and meaning."

The result is a brand of fierce individualism "verging on or leading to apathy," said Kerzich. At the same time, however, many hipsters see themselves as true originals, seekers and deep thinkers who want to escape the shallow, mundane, ordinary world of mass culture. For some, the radical demands of an ancient faith may actually seem countercultural -- not boring.

Thus, in an online essay on evangelizing hipsters, he urged pastors and youth workers to start frequenting places that hipsters tend to congregate, such as coffee shops, pubs and bookstores. Yes, a minister wearing a clerical collar is sure to be greeted with skepticism in such a setting. However, before long some of the locals will start asking tough, honest questions -- if the minister is truly accessible.

Also, more religious leaders are going to have to dive into social media, said Kerzich. It is no longer optional for faith groups to have a presence on YouTube or for bishops and other leaders to dialogue with critics, seekers and the faithful through Twitter and Facebook.

Once again, being "hip" is not the goal. The goal is to be available.

"No one likes someone who tries to belong to a group unnaturally," wrote Kerzich. Those attempting to reach "hipsters do not need to act like a member of their subculture. This movement focuses on being 'original' and 'different.' Thus, one should communicate how the message of Christianity is different than the messages emanating from society.

"For priests and seminarians remember your ministry is different, so confidently accept this reality. … One key to evangelizing this group is to become accepted by them without trying to become one of them."

Why Chuck Colson spent Easter in prison

It wasn't the typical Bible text for an Easter sermon, but the preacher knew what this congregation needed to hear. Never forget, he said, what Jesus proclaimed in his first sermon: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."

This isn't the sermon that many believers hear on Easter, but it's the one that prisoners need to hear, said Chuck Colson back in 1992, facing a small chapel packed with men at a federal prison near Denver.

This was also the sermon the former Watergate conspirator kept preaching to flocks behind bars during the decades between his own stay in Alabama's Maxwell Prison in 1974 and his death on April 21 at the age of 80. Anyone who wants to understand what changed Colson from President Richard Nixon's trusted "hatchet man" into one of the age's best-known Christian apologists needs to understand this sermon.

You see, Colson told prisoners across America and around the world, it was radical to proclaim "freedom for the prisoners" during the Roman Empire. And today? Anyone who preaches this message "in one of those nice churches downtown" will get the same icy response that Jesus did.

"The rich and powerful people," he said, with a dramatic pause, will "run you out of town."

Never forget, shouted the former Marine, that Jesus died as a prisoner. Was there anyone in the room who had ever been strip-searched, beaten and mocked? Did anyone know what it felt like to have the legal authorities use muscle in an attempt to wrench a guilty plea -- to a lesser offence, of course -- out of a desperate prisoner?

"Has anything like that," he asked, with a knowing smile, "every happened to any of you?"

"Amen," said the prisoners. Some laughed, while others stared at the floor. Many waved clenched fists in the air to urge the preacher to keep going.

Colson kept going. Was there anyone in the chapel who been betrayed by a friend, perhaps even a friend turned around and provided evidence to the state? Was there anyone present who had been convicted of vague crimes?

In the end, of course, Jesus was executed -- between two thieves.

But that wasn't the end of the story, on that particular Easter morning in Colorado, or in any of the other Easter services the former White House powerbroker chose to spend behind bars after he founded Prison Fellowship in 1976.

"If you want to know what Easter is about, then there's no better place to find out than in the tombs of our society -- which is what our prisons are," he said. "On this, of all days, prison is the one place that Jesus would be. Believe me."

After Colson's death, most of the obituaries -- especially those produced in elite East Coast newsrooms -- focused on his Watergate role and, perhaps, on his pivotal work creating a new and powerful coalition of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Working with a team of talented researchers and writers, Colson also produced shelves of influential books and commentaries that addressed almost every controversial issue in the American public life and politics.

Sadly, this all-politics DC Beltway perspective may draw attention away from Colson's trailblazing work in prisons, which ultimately created a network of more than 14,000 volunteers in more than 1,300 prisons nationwide and around the world. He also founded the Justice Fellowship organization, which has worked for the reformation of America's sprawling, bloated, crowded and, all too often, destructive prison system.

"That's where Chuck developed his social conscience. It was in prison, in all of those face-to-face encounters with those forgotten souls, " said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was also Colson's first research assistant and aide after the creation of Prison Fellowship.

"Chuck was never happier than when he took off his jacket and loosened his tie in a dingy prison chapel somewhere, facing rows of men in metal folding chairs who had big, thick Bibles in their hands. ... He embraced as many as he could. He tried to learn their names and hear their stories. He tried to make a difference in there."