by: Charles W. Colson
(Excerpt of Foreword)

Before We Begin........

The origins of this book go back to a sultry late-summer day in 1974. President Nixon had only recently resigned. The government was in disarray and the country, exhausted by the convulsions of Watergate, was in numbed shock.

I was languishing in an Alabama prison, a casualty of the greatest political upheaval in American history.

My own spirit was crying out in agony. How could all of this have happened to me?

My mind wandered back over two decades from the days when I was a crew-cut Marine lieutenant to the years when I sat in the Oval Office at the side of the President of the United States. I had served all that time with a burning idealism about my country.

How could we who had the trust of the nation have strayed so far afield? There must lessons for my life—for others----for an anguished nation. What was the redemptive answer?

Around me in the dreary confines of that prison were hundreds of men trapped as much by circumstances of their own lives as by their captor’s chains. On their sorrow- ful, forlorn faces were written countless tales of human tragedy. I reflected back on the men with whom I served----Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Nixon. They had been trapped as well----by their own pretensions of power, victims of their own human frailties.

As I kept probing for the deeper meaning of what had happened to me and so many others, I began writing----pages of copy evaluating the men and events, forming conclusions, groping for corrective ideas. My focus was on institutions and the words as I reread them day by day after day seemed heavy, ponderous, and wide of the mark.

Prayer was still new to me. In my own inadequacy I sought God’s help. First of all,. Was I supposed to write a book? There were offers----one very attractive—to write about the Nixon years. But the more I prayed and searched, the more my thoughts centered about my own experiences. What had I discovered in my own life?

Then answers were supplied in unexpected ways. As I wrote letters to my new Christian friends in Washington, I tried to tell them how real God was to some of us in prison. Somehow the Lord helped me make the words in my letters come alive. Convictions deepened. YES! I was to write a book----but only if I sought His guidance as I wrote.

What form was it to take? Again I prayed for help. Again the answer came through events. As I recorded more of my prison experiences in letters to my friends, I felt God’s hand on my shoulder. “Put aside all their theories for now, “ I seemed to hear. “Tell the story of one life----yours.”

But who was I to moralize, to preach to others? I’d botched it, was one of those who had helped bring on Watergate and was in prison to prove it. Yet maybe that very fact, plus some unusual things that had happened to me, could give me some insights that would help others. Could there be a purpose to all that had happened to me?

And then I began to see it. The nation was in darkness; there was anger, bitterness, and disillusionment across the land. While my inclination was to think in terms of grandiose reforms, God seemed to be saying that the renewal of our national spirit can begin with each person----with the renewal of individual spirit. If you want to do something, submit yourself to Me and I will guide you. were the words implanted on my mind.

Submit yourself. Our founding fathers had built a nation on this principle, that fallible men are nothing unless they learn to depend upon God. It was to establish a true community of believer that the Puritans came to this continent. Somewhere at sea, aboard the Arabella, John Winthrop articulated the vision: “The God of Israel is among us....... We shall be as a city upon a hill.” They saws their destiny, not as political conquerors but as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”-----are the solemn words of the Declaration of Independence. And our greatest President----Abraham Lincoln---- humbly acknowledged that without God, “I must fail!”

How magnificently has God honored the covenant of our forefathers. How richly has he blessed our nation. So deep are our religious roots, but so far have we strayed.

As I wrote, it became clear to me that Watergate could work a healthy cleansing in the nation if it is understood for what it truly is. Were Mr. Nixon and his men more evil than any of his predecessors? That they brought the nation Watergate is a truth. But it is not only part of a larger truth.------that all men have the capacity for both good and evil, and the darker side of man’s nature can always prevail in any human being? If people believe that just because one bunch of rascals are run out of office all the ills which have beset a nation are over, then the real lesson of this ugly time will have ben missed-----and that delusion could be the greatest tragedy of all Watergate has raised so many questions. Can humanism ever be the answer for our society? There is an almost sanctified notion that man can do anything if he puts his will to it. This was once my credo.

Having seen through Watergate how vulnerable man can be, I no longer believe that I am master of my destiny. I need God; I need friends with whom I can honestly share my failures and feelings of inadequacy.

It was in this framework that I wrote this book: an inexperienced writer and a baby Christian, but in submission to the Almighty, praying that others might find hope and encouragement from my experiences. Out of prayer has come the help needed from experienced editors and publishing specialists.

From prayers answered by events came the title, which may amuse those who believe that Born Again is an overworked Protestant cliche. While accompanying my wife at her Roman Catholic church one Sunday, Patty flipped open the hymnal, smiled and nudged me. We both knew at that moment that after long weeks of searching and rejecting hundreds of ideas, the title was on that page; the hymn was “Born Again.”

For me it is anything but a cliche suggesting that someone has arrived at some state of spiritual superiority; it means only a fresh start at putting my life in order-----but it had to come with the renewing of my spirit.

I have prayed for honesty in my writing, knowing only too well that my basic nature would want to present myself in the most favorable light. As I have fallen down, picked myself up, and fallen down again during the past few years, I am learning how God can break us in order to remake us. And through my dependence on Him has come a surprising sense of freedom----and an exhilaration in my spirit.

I have been given a tremendous eagerness to share all this with others. As you travel through these pages you will ask for God’s hand on your life. And my most sincere and humble prayer now in this time of judgement is for a revival of the flagging national spirit. It can come in only one way----as each of us bows submission to Him and as the Almighty leads us from darkness into light----so that once again we might stand together , truly one nation under God.

Charles W. Colson
October 31, 1975

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