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William Sloane Coffin imomortalized in Doonesbury
Society and Community:
William Sloane Coffin
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Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.

Bill Moyers conducts a poignant and revealing interview with the Reverend William Sloane Coffin, considered by some to be one of America's great moral and religious leaders.

"People in high places make me really angry — the way of corporations now are behaving, the way the United States government is behaving," Coffin says. "What makes me angry is that they are so callous, really callous....When you see uncaring people in high places, everybody should be mad as hell."

Today, even though doctors say he has only a short time to live, Coffin is continuing to listen and speak out on God and religion, on tolerance and faith, and on world events and politics. Renowned for his role in the civil rights movement and as a vocal opponent against nuclear weapons proliferation, it is a belief in faith as a force for resisting evil that continues to drive his commitment to global peace and social justice.

My understanding of Christianity is that it underlies all progressive moves to implement more justice, get a higher degree of peace in the world," he tells Bill Moyers. The impulse to love God and neighbor, that impulse is at the heart of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. No question about it — we have much more in common than we have in conflict."

William Coffin

William Sloane Coffin served as chaplain of Yale University from 1958-1976. He also served as chaplain at Williams College. He was senior minister of Riverside Church for over ten years and continues to preach there on occasion. Throughout his years as chaplain and minister, Coffin has hosted such world leaders as Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Rose Styren, Olaf Palmer among numerous others. He has been presented with over 30 honorary degrees from Universities, Colleges and educational institutions throughout the country.

Coffin initially became famous at Yale University in the 60's for his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was jailed (the first of many times) as a civil rights Freedom Rider," indicted by the government in the Benjamin Spock conspiracy trial, and is president emeritus of SANE/FREEZE: Campaign for Global Security. He fought in World War II, worked for the CIA for three years, and has been immortalized as Reverend Sloan in the Doonesbury comic strip. He is a prolific writer and has penned several books including ONCE TO EVERY MAN: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, THE COURAGE TO LOVE, LIVING THE TRUTH IN A WORLD OF ILLUSIONS, A PASSION FOR THE POSSIBLE, THE HEART IS A LITTLE TO THE LEFT and CREDO (Westminster John Knox Press, November 2003). He credits Arthur Miller and his English professor at Yale for helping him hone his writing skills.

Yale University has recently announced the William Sloane Coffin Scholarship through their Divinity school for Peace and Justice. Union Theological Seminary has established a scholarship in his name and recently presented him with the Union gold medal of honor. Yale University Press has just published a biography of Coffin by Warren Goldstein called WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN JR.: A HOLY IMPATIENCE.

William Sloane Coffin continues his activism today 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."

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