Jack Abramoff seemed to have a great life, but it all came crashing down when he was convicted of fraud in 2006 and sent to prison. Like Mr. Abramoff, Chuck Colson knows what it's like to fall from grace and pay for it in prison, but he also knows about the forgiveness and redemptive power of Christ.
During this half-hour interview, Mr. Abramoff describes how he rationalized the illegal lobbying practices in which he participated, because, as he says, "I was working for things I loved, advancing causes that I believed in."
The ethics of the entire system, he argues, depend upon the moral restraint of those who run the show -- Congress and the special interests -- and that neither of these groups have shown a desire to curbing the "bribery" as he calls it, which takes place every day in the federal legislature.
Mr. Abramoff also shares how he believes that his own imprisonment and the periodic "reforms" which comb the lobbying industry are token measures designed not by sincere reformers, but by those who have every interest in preserving the status quo.
"The way they make rules to, quote, 'reform the system' is very disingenuous," he says. "The people who are in charge of changing the system don't want the system changed. They're living a very wonderful lifestyle, often they'll stay there for decades and decades, they have tremendous power... So what they'll do is they wait for a crisis or a scandal like mine, and after I'm safely tucked away in prison, they'll make a few little reforms that don't structurally change anything."
"People don't reform themselves unless they're forced to," agrees Chuck. "Either their conscience strikes them, they're driven to repentance out of gratitude for what God has done in their lives and they start doing the right thing, or the law gets them. Free societies depend on that work of the conscience."
"Who were the victims?" asks John Stonestreet, referring to Abramoff's crimes.
"My wife and my children," says the ex-lobbyist. "And as far-flung as the members of clients and [Native American] tribes I represented. Frankly, the American public, and my role in spoiling their view of their government."
All three find common ground in looking to God for forgiveness and a new start.
"Do you feel at peace with God a this point in your life?" asks Stonestreet.
"Yeah, I do." answers Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew. "My whole life, I have sinned... I'm a sinner, and I'm someone who is constantly falling. But the issue in my faith...is not 'where are you,' but 'where are you going?'. I just pray to God that I'm going in the right direction and that I keep going."
For Chuck Colson, who has dedicated much of his life to advancing the gospel and the Christian worldview in prisons and in the culture, forgiveness for his wrongdoings comes not from his admirable work, but through the sacrifice made on his behalf.
"I know in my own case," says Chuck, "that I am at peace with God because I think back to the Cross, and what Christ did for me on the Cross, and I know I'm set free. Now anything I do in the way of good works is in gratitude to Him, not because the good works are going to help me."
While Christians understand that Christ alone offers lasting peace and absolution from sins, Abramoff, Colson and Stonestreet agree that cleaning up American politics will require a consensus among members of all faiths, and a renewed determination to do the right thing. They propose that this solution requires more than nominal 'reform,' pleading for a revolution in the mentality at the heart of our representative government, and a revival of ethics harkening back to the founding ideals of our country. This, they agree, is the only way to return integrity and sanity to Washington.
Click here to get your copy of Abramoff's memoir, Capitol Punishment.