CLARK AND COLSON

This the 350th post of LIFE MATTERS on WordPress.
Two icons died this week. One was an icon of rock, the other an icon of repentance. Dick Clark died on April 18th and Chuck Colson three days later on April 21st. Those of us growing up in the 50s and 60s were children of American Band Stand. Rock music was coming of age. There was an innocence and joyous spirit to the music that captivated many a teenager and energized with a vigor for living. Dick Clark was its originator and emcee and he became a wholesome and trusted friend. The Sixties were also the age of great political turmoil and disaffection. Chuck Colson was a political operative for the Nixon White House. Colson’s crimes and others in that administration gave America some of its darkest and most cynical political days. But while in prison Colson found both Christ and a moral compass. After his release he became a voice for integrity in American culture, but more importantly helped found Prison Fellowship which continue to be an awesome effectively force for the rehabilitation of so much of our population that has inhabited our prisons.

Clark did more than make rock music a household word. In emceeing American Bandstand for 30 years, Dick helped make it the music of adult generations. In a world where acid rock and gangsta’, Clark championed quality and positive, character-affirming music. He helped shape a youth culture that had many good points in a troubled world. Dick was often called “America’s Oldest Teenager.” A quiet and unapologetic advocate of racial reconciliation, shortly after taking over American Bandstand, Clark also ended the show’s all-white policy by featuring black artists such as Chuck Barry. In time blacks and whites performed on the same stage and studio seating was desegregated.

And then there was just plain fun. For many of us even now, he has made “watching the ball drop in Time Square a major cultural event.” I still switch to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve at 11:30 pm on December 31st. We will miss you, Dick.

Chuck Colson made his fame by having all the wrong values and living out the worst of American political attitudes and behaviors. He was sentenced along with the rest of the Watergate Seven to prison for obstruction of justice. After his release from prison, Colson founded Prison Fellowship which today is the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. Colson worked to promote prisoner rehabilitation and reform of the prison system in the United States, citing his disdain for what he called the “lock ’em and leave ’em” warehousing approach to criminal justice. He helped to create prisons whose populations come from inmates who choose to participate in faith-based programs. Colson became known for his bipartisan efforts to reform the American judicial system.

Sometimes vilified for his conservative religious, political, and cultural positions; no one can deny the hope brought to families of offenders through Project Angel Tree, through faith-based adoption of prisoners being released and then assisted to avoid the recidivism that continues to be rampant in our criminal justice system.

Having pastored churches affiliated with Prison Fellowship and taught social justice by our children being involved with offenders children through Angel Tree, I for one am thankful for who Colson became on this side of repentance. We will miss you, too, Chuck.

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