SAN ANTONIO – Watergate figure Chuck Colson warned a gathering of Southern Baptist pastors Sunday night against what he described as two dire threats: the deadly marriage of Islam and fascism and a new, militant atheism growing in popularity in the West.
Colson, a former Nixon “hatchet man” who became a born-again Christian and founded a prison ministry, called on Christians to do a better job of explaining their religion’s worldview.
Colson, 75, spoke at a conference that precedes the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which begins here Tuesday.
At one point, Colson said, “Islam is a vicious, evil” and then before finishing the sentence, “Islamo-fascism is evil incarnate.”
“Islamists,” Colson said, “are very different. We will die for what we believe. They will kill for what they believe.”
“The problem isn’t terrorism,” he said. “The problem is an ideology that is mixed with fascism … We are in a long war, a long struggle.”
Comments about Islam have generated controversy at past Southern Baptist meetings.
In 2002, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, the Rev. Jerry Vines, called Muhammad, the Muslim prophet, a “demon-possessed pedophile.”
The second threat, Colson said, was evident in the popularity of several best-selling books espousing atheism by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others.
“This is a virulent strain of atheism which seeks to destroy our belief system.”
Colson also dismissed a burgeoning movement known as “the emergent church” – popular among younger Baptists and other evangelicals – as “abandoning the search for truth” in favor of “conversations in coffee shops.” He instead pointed to the success of booming Third World churches, which Colson said adhere to “pure orthodox truth.”
Colson, White House counsel for President Nixon, pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal. He started Prison Fellowship in 1976.
Southern Baptists form the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with 16.3 million members.