William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

William Sloane
Coffin, Jr.
1924
2006

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

Many of us overvalue autonomy, the strength to stand alone, the capacity to act independently. Far too few of us pay attention to the virtues of dependence and interdependence, and especially to the capacity to be vulnerable.

The afterlife I leave to God, who is merciful and far too busy for impertinent questions from me. I may want to know more, but I don't need to. One world at a time-that's my feeling and that's more than enough given the present anguish that engulfs it.

To be avoided at all costs is the solace of opinion without the pain of thought.

All of life is the exercise of risk.

Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

I feel [this way] about religious faith; it should want to change the world? Spirituality takes various forms. In many faiths some are very profound while others, particularly these days, appear to be a mile wide and one inch deep. Urgently needed for our time is a politically engaged spirituality? A politically engaged spirituality does not call for theological sledgehammers bludgeoning people into rigid orthodoxy. Nor does it mean using scriptural language as an illegitimate shortcut to conclusions, thereby avoiding ethical deliberation. We have constantly to be aware of hard choices informed by the combination of circumstances and conscience. We insult ourselves by leaving complexities unexamined. But never must we become so cautious as to be moral failures.

It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it's a crutch. What makes you think you don't limp?

My own broken heart is mending, and largely thanks to so many of you, my dear parishioners; for if in the last week I have relearned one lesson, it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength.

The banality of guilt is that it is such a convenient substitute for responsibility. It's so much easier to beat your breast than to stick your neck out.

To love is surely to support and to encourage--but not necessarily to approve. Quite the contrary! If we love one another we will help one another fight against our evil dreams.

And if God is a suffering God, if this whole universe is borne on a heart infinite in compassion, then the more we suffer in his name the closer we come to him.

Every nation makes decisions based on self-interest and defends them on the basis of morality.

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.

It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, "Let justice roll down like mighty waters," and quite another to work out the irrigation system.

My own feeling is you have to be as pastoral as you can be without surrendering one single iota of ethical initiative. Nothing ever stops a minister from saying, in the middle of the sermon: "What I now want to say it?s hard for me to say, so I can imagine how painful it?s going to be for some of you to hear. Let us remember that in the church, our unity is based not on agreement, but on mutual concern. So let me tell you what?s on my heart and mind and then you be good enough to tell me where you think I went wrong. But that?s not the way it?s done. Right now, not to address the conscience of the nation about what?s going on in the occupation of Iraq--you can?t even do that? Just get it out there. Say it softly, don?t say it loudly. A freshman at Yale once said to me, "May I give you a bit of advice? When it?s true and painful, say it softly." Very nice. You have to say what?s true and painful, and you better say it softly.

The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverance can restrain violence - reverence for human life and the environment.

And if we are not yet one in live at least we are one in sin, which is no mean bond because it preludes the possibility of separation through judgment.

Fear destroys intimacy. It distances us from each other; or makes us cling to each other, which is the death of freedom... Only love can create intimacy, and freedom too, for when all hearts are one, nothing else has to be one--neither clothes nor age; neither sex nor sexual preference; race nor mind-set.

If we misconceive God as Father Protector,...then each disappointment reduces what may confidently be affirmed about God. And this is how most people lose their faith.

It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, 'Let justice roll down like mighty waters,' and quite another to work out the irrigation system. Clearly there is more certainty in the recognition of wrongs than there is in the prescription for their cure.

No sermon on love can fail to mention love's most difficult problem in our time--how to find effective ways to alleviate the massive suffering of humanity at home and abroad. What we need to realize is that to love effectively we must act collectively...

The consequences of the past are always with us, and half the hostilities tearing the world apart could be resolved today were we to allow the forgiveness of sins to alter these consequences.... if we were to say of ourselves, 'The hostility stops here.

And if we exalt freedom?, we must remember that freedom is grounded in love.

For finally, we are as we love. It is love that measures our stature.

If your heart is full of fear, you won't seek truth; you'll seek security. If a heart is full of love, it will have a limbering effect on the mind.

Author Picture
First Name
William Sloane
Last Name
Coffin, Jr.
Birth Date
1924
Death Date
2006
Bio

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)