Earlier, I announced that we have launched the Colson Center for Christian Worldview™, and that I am devoting my remaining years of ministry to help build a movement of believers and ministries to renew the Church and transform the culture.
Some people have asked me whether this means that I’m leaving prison ministry—and Prison Fellowship—behind. The answer is simple: No. In fact, I see my work for Christian worldview to be the natural consequence of my work among prisoners.
During the first 10 years of Prison Fellowship, I focused on evangelizing prisoners, building discipleship programs, and training volunteers. But I became perplexed that our growing ministry couldn’t keep pace with the nation’s skyrocketing prison populations. And this was at a time when the country was enjoying economic prosperity; poverty was on the wane—so why were more people ending up behind bars?
It was not until I read the landmark 1977 study called The Criminal Personality that I was able to begin to fully appreciate what was going on. The study’s authors, psychologist Stanton Samenow and psychiatrist Samuel Yochelson, rebutted the conventional wisdom that crime was caused by environment—things like poverty and racism.
It was caused, they wrote (and both writing as Jews), by individuals making wrong moral choices. So the solution to crime, they said, was “the conversion of the wrongdoer to a more responsible lifestyle.”
I later read another seminal work, Crime and Human Nature, by Richard J. Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson, then at Harvard. They determined that crime is caused by the lack of moral training in the morally formative years.
It all came together for me suddenly: The surging moral relativism in our culture was eroding our value system. The family was breaking down. Sleazy television, movies, and music poisoned the minds of young people, dulling their consciences.
And the schools no longer taught right from wrong—only tolerance. Young people had no moral compass, and many of them followed their parents’ footsteps into prison. Samenow and Yochelson were right. Poverty and racism don’t lead people to prison, bad moral choices do.
I realized that if we were going to do anything about prisons bursting with ever-younger inmates, we would have to begin by changing the way people thought about life and moral values in the first place. We would have to help people begin to see the world through God’s eyes, to see Christian truth in all of life.
But that raises some difficult questions in today’s postmodern world. What is real? What is truth? And as I began studying biblical worldview—especially the writings of Francis Schaeffer and Abraham Kuyper—I realized more and more that these were critical questions for every area of life, from crime and punishment to medical ethics, from art and culture to marriage and family.
That led to BreakPoint radio, my books about worldview, and most recently our Centurions Program—all designed to help Christians articulate and live out a vital, biblical worldview.
That’s what the Colson Center will continue to do, but in a way that will draw on not only my teaching, but the teaching of many of the great Christian thinkers I’ve worked with. I hope you’ll tune in again tomorrow to learn more about this very exciting undertaking. And be sure to visit ColsonCenter.org.