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

There are two ways to be powerful. One is to seek and acquire power, the other is not to need it. There are also two ways to be rich. One is to gain riches, and the other is not to need them.

Charity is only a waystation on the road to justice.

Hope criticizes what is, hopelessness rationalizes it. Hope resists, hopelessness adapts.

Instead of becoming alienated from their faith in God, wouldn't it make more sense for them to become alienated from their mislaid hopes in human beings, alienated from shallow notions of automatic progress, from sentimental notions about the 'nobility of man'? [When things go badly]

Love measures our stature: the more we love, the bigger we are. There is no smaller package in all the world than that of a man all wrapped up in himself.

Socrates had it wrong; it is not the unexamined but finally the uncommitted life that is not worth living.

There is more mercy in God than sin in us.

Compassion and justice are companions, not choices.

Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. If your heart's full of hope, you can be persistent when you can't be optimistic. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing has the evidence any chance of changing. So while I'm not optimistic, I'm always very hopeful.

It is a mistake to look to the Bible to close a discussion; the Bible seeks to open one.

Love, and you are a success whether or not the world thinks so. The highest purpose? which is primarily a way of life, not a system of belief--is to love one another.

Spirituality means to me living the ordinary life extraordinarily well. As the old-church father said, 'The glory of God is a human being fully alive.

There is no smaller package in the world that that of a person all wrapped up in himself.

Dare to act wholeheartedly without absolute certainty.

Hope reflects the state of your soul rather than the circumstances surrounding your days. Praise God and your soul gets stronger.

It is bad religion to deify doctrines and creeds... Doctrines, let's not forget, supported slavery and apartheid... Moreover, doctrines can divide while compassion can only unite.

Many of us are eager to respond to injustice, as long as we can do so without having to confront the causes of it. There's the great pitfall of charity. Handouts to needy individuals are genuine, necessary responses to injustice, but they do not necessarily face the reason for injustice. And that is why so many business and governmental leaders today are promoting charity; it is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality. First these leaders proclaim themselves experts on matters economic, and prove it by taking the most out of the economy! Then they promote charity as if it were the work of the church, finally telling us troubled clergy to shut up and bless the economy as once we blessed the battleships.

That's why immediately after such a tragedy people must come to your rescue, people who only want to hold your hand, not to quote anybody or even say anything, people who simply bring food and flowers--the basics of beauty and life--people who sign letters simply, "Your brokenhearted sister." In other words, in my intense grief I felt some of my fellow reverends--not many, and none of you, thank God--were using comforting words of Scripture for self-protection, to pretty up a situation whose bleakness they simply couldn't face. But like God herself, Scripture is not around for anyone's protection, just for everyone's unending support.

There is nothing anti-intellectual in the leap of faith, for faith is not believing without proof but trusting without reservation.

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.

It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.

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.

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)