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William Coffin

William Coffin
William Sloane Coffin served for 18 years as chaplain of Yale University, was senior minister of Riverside Church, and is president emeritus of SANE/FREEZE: Campaign for Global Security. His books include Once to Every Man: An Autobiography, The Courage to Love, Living the Truth in a World of Illusions, and A Passion for the Possible.

Heart Is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality, The
William Coffin
William Sloane Coffin offers here a powerful antidote to the politics of the religious right with a clarion call to passive intellectuals and dispirited liberals to reenter the fray with an unabashedly Christian view of social justice. Refusing to cede the battlefield of morality to conservatives, he argues that “compassion demands confrontation,” as he considers such topics as homophobia, diversity, nuclear weapons, and civil discourse.

No stranger to controversy, Coffin became famous while chaplain at Yale in the 1960s for his active opposition to the Vietnam War. Jailed as a civil rights “Freedom Rider,” indicted by the government in the Benjamin Spock conspiracy trial, he attained popular immortality as Reverend Sloan in the Doonesbury comic strip. Now in his 70s and retired as pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, Coffin has lost neither his fire nor his wit. The seven pieces collected here are peppered with memorable aphorisms and pithy, political one-liners meant to turn bitterness to anger and anger to action. “I stress anger because the country as a whole is despiritualized by moral lassitude,” he writes. “Having gotten used to genocidal weapons, are we now going to get used to starving children?”

Unafraid to call himself a Christian, Coffin reclaims Jesus and the Bible from religious fundamentalists in his call for liberalism and justice. The “simplicity, beauty, and difficulty of Jesus’ message” informs much of Coffin’s thinking as he strives to restore spirituality to intellectual life. Politics and religion, long taboo at polite dinner parties, are powerfully reunited here.

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