Book Excerpt: David Kuo's 'Tempting Faith'

I kept my politics at an ambivalent distance from my faith. It wasn't a wall of separation. It just hadn't dawned on me that my powerful relationship with God and my intense interest in politics could be merged into a single force. To the degree I did think of the two together I simply thought about whether the things I sought through politics lined up with the things I knew of Jesus. That made everything fairly easy. I was confident he liked my positions. But I never thought of invoking that endorsement to support my orientation. That seemed disrespectful.

My minister was no longer Jeff Brown. Now that I had moved to Tufts, it was an older man who worked with Christian groups at Harvard and MIT. Kevin was the walrus. He had a friendly face with emerging jowls and a big mustache and a friendly belly. In many ways he was the anti-Jeff. Kevin was brilliant and learned. He could have answered every one of those questions we asked when Christian had been killed. He would probably have cross-referenced those answers with dozens of books, articles, and sermons. He didn't have quite the same Jeff-like glow. But there was a profound kindness and gentleness to him. When he picked up on my intellectual hunger for Jesus he fed me books like G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, which I found initially thrilling and eventually impenetrable, and numerous works by the late Oxford theologian C. S. Lewis. And when he learned about my interest in politics, he introduced me to Chuck Colson.

One winter day during my sophomore year, Kevin told me Colson was going to speak at Brown University on Christian involvement in the political arena. I eagerly went. I knew very little about Colson, save that he had been Nixon's hatchet man, famously saying he would walk over his grandmother to get the president reelected. He had actually done far worse. He authored Nixon's famous "Enemies List" of all the president's political opponents. He led a dirty tricks campaign against George McGovern, Nixon's opponent in 1972. He leaked information on Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatric care, in hopes of discrediting the man who himself had leaked Pentagon information on how poorly the Vietnam War was going. Colson was eventually sent to prison for his crimes, but not before accepting Jesus and being born again.

His conversion gave political cartoonists months of fodder. But when released, Colson didn't retreat. After several years of quiet theological study, he founded a ministry for prisoners called Prison Fellowship. Still a right-wing Republican, he had seen the wastedlives of prison. He began advocating for better conditions for all prisoners and for white-collar criminals to be forced to give something back to society with their skills. At its heart, though, Prison Fellowship sought to bring Jesus into prisons through Bible studies. By early 1987 Colson had become one of the most influential voices in the evangelical world.

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