From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Online chat explores Coffin's thoughts on social

Date Wed, 7 Apr 2004 14:26:37 -0500

Note #8192 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 7, 2004

Online chat explores Coffin's thoughts on social justice and faith

by Alexa Smith

LOUISVILLE -- An online discussion of Credo, a 173-page compilation of quotes
by the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, that is climbing the country's best-seller
lists, began this week on Ecunet, the computer communication network that
includes the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s PresbyNet.

Now 79, Coffin was the voice of liberal dissent in the north for more than 40
years, achieving fame for being jailed as a civil rights Freedom Rider and
for opposing the Vietnam war from his pulpit in the Yale University Chapel.

The book was released this spring by the Westminster/John Knox Press.

The Rev. Dr. Erik Kolbell, a longtime friend and colleague of Coffin, is
facilitating the conversation. Kobell is the former minister of social
justice at the Riverside Church in New York City, where Coffin served for 10
years and where he still occasionally preaches.

To sign up for the discussion, go to the Web site

Coffin's words in Credo address the social movements that defined Coffin's
times and the life of faith:

* On the End of Life: There is a Zen paradox whereby we may lack everything
yet want for nothing. The reason is that peace, that is, deep inner peace,
comes not with meeting our desires but in releasing ourselves from their
power. I find such peace is increasingly mine. It is not that I am
withdrawing from the world, only that I am present in a different way. I'm
less intentional than "attentional." I'm more and more attentive to family
and friends and to nature's beauty. Although still outraged by callous
behavior, particularly in high places, I feel more often serene, grateful for
God's gift of life. For the compassions that fail not, I find myself saying
daily to my loving Maker, "I can no other answer make than thanks, and
thanks, and ever thanks.

* On Life in General: The worst thing we can do with a dilemma is to resolve
it prematurely because we haven't the courage to live with uncertainty.

* On War: Let us recall that wars begin in the mind. We have first to think
others to death. You can't kill a brother. You can't kill a sister, a friend,
a fellow human being. But you can kill a Marxist, a capitalist, a terrorist.
You can kill a Red Menace, or a "shark of Wall Street." And we further
prepare the mind to kill by using such juiceless jargon as "collateral

* On Social Justice and Civil Liberties: I think we know far more of God's
heart than we do of the mind of God. It's God's heart that Christ on the
cross lays bare for the whole world to see. And 'God is love, and those who
abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them' (1 John 4:16) - that
passage suggests that revelation is in the relationship. And a relationship
with God provides more psychological certitude than intellectual certainty.
Faith is not believing without proof; it is trusting without reservation. I
think all belief systems that rest on absolute intellectual certainty - be
that certainty the doctrine of papal infallibility or the doctrine of the
verbal inerrancy of Scripture - all such belief systems should go out the
stained glass windows, for they have no proper place in church. They induce
Christians to sharpen their minds by narrowing them. They make Christians
doctrinaire, dogmatic, mindlessly militant. To such absolute belief systems
can be attribut!
 ed all manner of unchristian horrors such as inquisitions and holy wars,
witch burning, morbid guilt, unthinking conformity, self-righteousness,
anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia.

The book may be ordered by contacting the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
at 1-800-227-2872 or by ordering from the website, Copies may
also be purchased at

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