Although unfamiliar to many Americans, Jonathan Aitken needs no introduction in the United Kingdom. He was born into a famous political family. As the son of an M.P. (Member of Parliament), grandson of a baron, and the great nephew of Lord Beaverbrook, Winston Churchill’s closest Cabinet colleague during WWI and WWII, Jonathan’s political prospects were limitless.
He served for 25 years as an M.P. and as Minister of Defense and Chief Secretary of the Treasury during John Major’s term as Prime Minister. During Major’s tenure, Jonathan was often mentioned as a potential successor. But his political career ended suddenly when he was caught telling a lie in the late 90’s in a civil libel action.
He aggressively fought the accusations with his now infamous words, “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it. My fight begins today.”
In 1999, Jonathan eventually pleaded guilty to charges of perjury as a result of having told a lie under oath. For his crime, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. A divorce soon followed as did bankruptcy since he was unable to pay for the legal costs of his trial.
Prior to his humbling journey, Jonathan describes himself as a “dutiful” Christian. He went to church, said the right things, but failed to do the right things in his life. His faith was “flawed.”
“I rather treated God as though He were my bank manager. But I thought I was in charge of the account so I could get away with what I wanted, and that is not a Christian life, but a self centered and proud life,” says Jonathan.
He admits that pride was a true stumbling block for him. “My pride had been such a powerful, blinding, demonic state of mind that it could only be cured by the severest of lessons,” says Jonathan.
At his lowest point, while serving his prison sentence, Jonathan converted to Christ. His friend Chuck Colson (who served prison time for his part in the Watergate affair) helped to guide Jonathan during this time in his life. He refers to Chuck as a “friend, mentor, and prayer partner” that helped him see that God could take the disgrace of his life and turn it in to something pleasing to God. Jonathan used the time in prison to study the Bible and learn Greek. Upon his release, he studied for two years at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, graduating with distinction in theology. He now speaks and writes extensively on the Christian faith.
Jonathan feels well qualified to talk about the life of John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” His own need for grace fueled his desire to write the book, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Just like Newton, Jonathan was a man that was “flawed” but, eventually redeemed. Both Jonathan and Newton share some similarities.
Each faced a shameful background, but experienced an amazing conversion that dramatically changed the direction for their lives. They both did not defend the past mistakes that they made, but instead decided to fall back on God’s amazing grace. After their conversion experience, both men also studied theology.