The Impossible Cover-Up

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Watergate, and friends have urged me to tell my favorite Watergate story. I call it Watergate and the Resurrection, and it probes the way a conspiracy works. Or doesn't work. You see, before all the facts were known to the public--in March 1973--it was becoming clear to Nixon's closest aides that someone had tried to cover up the Watergate break-in. There were no more than a dozen of us. Could we maintain a cover-up--to save the president? Consider that we were political zealots, among the most powerful men in the world, and we had a great deal to lose: military officers at our beck and call, airplanes waiting to take us anywhere we wanted to go. With all that at stake, you'd expect us to be capable of maintaining a lie to protect the president. But we couldn't do it. The first to crack was John Dean. First, he told the president everything, and then just two weeks later he went to the prosecutors and offered to testify against the President. His reason, as he candidly admits in his memoirs, was to "save his own skin." After that, everyone started scrambling to protect himself. What we know today as the great Watergate cover-up lasted only three weeks. Some of the most powerful politicians in the world--and we couldn't keep a lie for more than three weeks. What does this twentieth-century fiasco tell us about the first century? One of the most common arguments against Christianity is a conspiracy theory. It focuses on the key event of the faith: Jesus's resurrection from the dead. Why? Because if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then He wasn't God. And if He wasn't God but only a human being, then why should we give His teachings any special credence? That's why Paul says in First Corinthians, if Christ wasn't raised, your faith is futile. Critics of Christianity often try to explain the empty tomb by saying the disciples lied--that they stole Jesus's body themselves and conspired together to pretend He had risen. The apostles then managed to recruit more than 500 other people to lie for them as well, to say they saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. But just how plausible is this theory? To support it, you'd have to be ready to believe that for the next fifty years those people were willing to be ostracized, beaten, persecuted, and (all but one of them) suffer a martyr's death--without ever renouncing their conviction that they had seen Jesus bodily resurrected. Does anyone really think the disciples could have maintained a lie all that time? No, someone would have cracked, just as we did so easily in Watergate. Someone would have acted as John Dean did and turned state's evidence. There would have been some kind of smoking gun evidence, or a deathbed confession. Why didn't they? Because they had come face to face with the living God. They could not deny what they had seen. The fact is that people will give their lives for what they believe is true, but they will never give their lives for what they know is a lie. The Watergate cover-up proves that 12 powerful men in modern America couldn't keep a lie--and that 12 powerless men 2000 years ago couldn't have been telling anything but the truth. The third of four commentaries concerning Watergate.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary