William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

William Sloane
Coffin, Jr.

American Liberal Presbyterian Christian Clergyman, Peace Activist, CIA Agent, Chaplain of Yale University, Senior Minister at Riverside Church in NYC, President of SANE/Freez (now Peace Action)

Author Quotes

What is faith? Faith is being grasped by the power of love.

What we and other nuclear powers are practicing is really nuclear apartheid. A handful of nations have arrogated to themselves the right to build, deploy, and threaten to use nuclear weapons while policing the rest of the world against their production... Nuclear apartheid is utopian and arrogant. It is a recipe for proliferation, a policy of disaster.

To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.

When a man is drowning, it may be better for him to try to swim than to thrash around waiting for divine intervention.

Too many religious people make faith their aim. They think 'the greatest of these' is faith, and faith defined as all but infallible doctrine. These are the dogmatic, divisive Christians, more concerned with freezing the doctrine than warming the heart. If faith can be exclusive, love can only be inclusive.

When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and there is at least one thing that should never be said. The night after Alex died I was sitting in the living room of my sister's house outside of Boston, when the front door opened and in came a nice-looking, middle-aged woman, carrying about eighteen quiches. When she saw me, she shook her head, then headed for the kitchen, saying sadly over her shoulder, "I just don't understand the will of God." Instantly I was up and in hot pursuit, swarming all over her. "I'll say you don't, lady!" I said.

Unity is not something we are called to create; it's something we are called to recognize.

When parents die, as my mother did last month, they take with them a large portion of the past. But when children die, they take away the future as well. That is what makes the valley of the shadow of death seem so incredibly dark and unending. In a prideful way it would be easier to walk the valley alone, nobly, head high, instead of ? as we must ? marching as the latest recruit in the world's army of the bereaved. Still there is much by way of consolation. Because there are no rankling unanswered questions, and because Alex and I simply adored each other, the wound for me is deep, but clean. I know how lucky I am! I also know this day-brightener of a son wouldn't wish to be held close by grief (nor, for that matter, would any but the meanest of our beloved departed) and that, interestingly enough, when I mourn Alex least I see him best. Another consolation, of course, will be the learning ? which better be good, given the price. But it's a fact: few of us are naturally profound. We have to be forced down.

We are not loved because we are valued; we are valued because we are loved.

While the faith takes care of the ultimate incongruities of life, humor does nicely with the intermediate ones.

We are not slaves but children of our Father, free to do good, free to sin. So when in anguish over any human violence done to innocent victims, we ask of God, 'How could you let that happen?' it's well to remember that God at that very moment is asking the exact same question of us.

With faith, we must endure. Human beings are endowed by their Creator to be creatively capable, and each of us are our own measure of God, compassion, wisdom, mercy. We must never give up our struggle for a world where ?justice rolls down like water and righteousness an ever-flowing stream.?

We call on all members of America's religious communities, as a testament of our common faith, to join Faithful Security, and to take action immediately to break faith with nuclear weapons.

Without love, violence will change the world; it will change it into a more violent one.

We can never really love anybody with whom we never laugh.

We don't have to be successful, only valuable. We don't have to make money, only a difference, and particularly in the lives society counts least and puts last.

We have sold our birthright of freedom and justice for a mess of national security.

We must be governed by the force of law, not by the law of force.

We must guard against being too individualistic.

We put our best foot forward, but it's the other one that needs the attention.

We want God to be strong, so that we can be weak. But He wants to be weak so that we can be strong.

We yearned for a revolution of imagination and compassion that would oppose the very aggressiveness and antagonism that characterized the actions of both Nixon and the Weathermen. We were convinced nonviolence was more revolutionary than violence. [referring to the organizers of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam]

A spiritual person tries less to be godly than to be deeply human.

Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.

I also was persuaded that the woman most in need of liberation was the woman in every man just as the man most in need of liberation was the man in every woman.

Author Picture
First Name
William Sloane
Last Name
Coffin, Jr.
Birth Date
Death Date

American Liberal Presbyterian Christian Clergyman, Peace Activist, CIA Agent, Chaplain of Yale University, Senior Minister at Riverside Church in NYC, President of SANE/Freez (now Peace Action)