Monday, April 23, 2012

Legacies of Two Legends

Last week we lost icons from disparate realms of American society, both of whom forged enduring legacies.

Dick Clark burst into public consciousness as host of “American Bandstand.” I remember watching groups like Danny and the Juniors (“Rock and Roll is Here to Stay”), Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys and Paul Revere and the Raiders, as well as vocalists like Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Brenda Lee, Frankie Avalon, Ike and Tina Turner, and Bobby Darin.

Dick Clark (AP photo)
The Philadelphia-based “American Bandstand” regulars, who had their own fans, introduced us to dances like the Stroll, the Twist, the Pony, the Monster Mash.

Clark then expanded into entertainment entrepreneurship, hosting game shows, founding awards shows, and finally, creating what many people will most remember him for, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

His seeming perpetual youth, prior to suffering a debilitating stroke in 2004, earned him the label of “America’s oldest teen.” Without question, Dick Clark left an indelible mark on music and entertainment.

Entertainment was hardly the genre of choice for Charles Colson, the other departed icon. Politics was his initial arena, gaining notoriety as a driving force in Richard Nixon’s administration and being convicted as a key figure behind the Watergate break-in. For many in the unforgiving media, Colson’s involvement in that scandal dominated his obituary coverage.

However, through the humiliation of that scandal and subsequent imprisonment, Colson became a changed man and, ultimately, a major voice for Christianity in the U.S. and around the world.

Charles Colson
Along with President Jimmy Carter, Colson brought the term “born again” into common conversation with his autobiography, Born Again. He went on to write many other books and countless articles about the intersection of faith with everyday life and public service. A popular and eloquent speaker, Colson cast aside the stereotype of Christians being unthinking dreamers. Instead, he helped establish Christianity as both reasonable and rational, worthy of earnest debate and defense.

I had the privilege of hearing Colson speak on several occasions and interviewed him once for a magazine article, finding him engaging, challenging, and genuine in his devotion to Jesus Christ.

Along with his role in biblical apologetics – defense of the faith – Colson also founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. His own experiences in prison helped him to realize, “You can’t leave a person in a steel cage and expect something good to come out of him when he is released.” His focus on compassionate prisoner rehabilitation, anchored in Christ’s transforming power, was revolutionary.

Dick Clark changed how we were entertained. Chuck Colson provided evidence of how lives can be changed, turning self-driven ambition into selfless service. He also proved God can use even pride and imprisonment for His divine purposes: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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