Twenty pearls from William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006)

by Kim on September 24, 2010

Joy is the most important Christian emotion. Duty calls only when gratitude fails to prompt.

True, we have to hate evil; else we’re sentimental. But if we hate evil more than we love the good, we become damn good haters, and of those the world already has too many.

Diversity may be both the hardest thing to live with and the most dangerous thing to be without.

Truth is always in danger of being sacrificed on the altars of good taste and social stability.

The argument that gays threaten to destroy heterosexual marriage is an assertion only, not an argument. If anything destroys marriage, it’s married people, not gays.

In the United States grim poverty is a tragedy that great wealth makes a sin.

Jesus knew that “Love your enemies” didn’t mean “Don’t make any!”

All nations make decisions based on self-interest and then defend them in the name of morality.

Christians forget that it was the Devil who tempted Jesus with unbounded wealth and power. And it is the Devil in every American that makes us feel good about being so powerful.

I only trust sad soldiers, as I only trust sad revolutionaries. Enthusiastic soldiers are always out to get someone.

The United States doesn’t have to lead the world; it has first to join it. Then, with greater humility, it can play a wise leadership role.

The trouble with violence is that it changes not too much, but too little. Nonviolence is more radical because it is more truthful. Violence always ends up calling on lies to defend it, just as lies call on violence to defend them.

Isn’t that what growing up is all about - learning to outlast despair?

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

Many of us Christians who feel so at home in our churches may, in fact, be miles away from God. As Karl Barth observed, “Many people go to church to make their last stand against God.”

The Bible is something of a mirror: if an ass peers in, don’t expect an apostle to peer out.

Believing that all things worth knowing are already known, fundamentalist preachers create an atmosphere of cultivated ignorance which guarantees that mediocrity will be a virtue.

Biblical inerrancy is not upheld in Scripture, and belief in the inerrancy of Scripture has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is a matter of repentance and of faith in Jesus Christ. There is no domino theory of faith. Loss of one belief doesn’t lead automatically to the loss of a second; it makes the second possible with greater integrity.

Nothing like blind belief so fosters its opposite - blind unbelief.

A Chinese emperor once asked a wise man to take a month off to figure out the meaning of happiness. When he returned, the wise man said, “Happiness is when the grandfather dies, then the father, and then the son.”

From William Sloane Coffin, Credo (Louisville / London: Westminster John Knox Press: 2004).

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1

Rick O'Donnell 09.24.10 at 5:07 pm

Mmmmm….quite a bit to chew on there. The Church as a crutch indeed; do we not all not limp a bit? Must re-read later in the day. Thanks, Kim.

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