Thursday, April 13, 2006

William Sloane Coffin Jr. (1924-2006)

William Sloane Coffin Jr., a minister and social activist, died yesterday. Rev. Coffin was a Freedom Rider in the early 1960s, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War while serving as chaplain at Yale University, and an advocate of nuclear arms control while serving as the senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City. He was also the model for Rev. Sloan in Gary Trudeau's comic strip, "Doonesbury." Rev. Coffin described his frequent dissent from the policies of the United States government as a "lovers' quarrel."

On June 1, 2002, Rev. Coffin said, "President Bush rightly spoke of an 'axis of evil.' But it is not Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Here is a more likely trio calling for herculean efforts to defeat: environmental degradation, pandemic poverty and a world awash with weapons."

In a sermon once he said: "The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love."

And then there's this line: "No nation, ours or any other, is well served by illusions of righteousness. All nations make decisions based on self-interest and then defend them in the name of morality."

Rev. Coffin's obituary in the New York Times is available here. For a 2004 interview conducted by Bill Moyers, go here.