Thursday, April 13, 2006

william sloane coffin

William Sloane Coffin died yesterday (NY times article here)
this man has been a deep encouragement to me. he seems to have been cut from the same cloth as my favorite 20th century missionary, E. Stanley Jones.

both of these men had a gift for one-liners and carrying a certain passion and hope into dark places. they managed to deal with persistently somber issues while maintaining a joyful tone. i need to be more like this.

here's a taste of the way he communicated...

"I want to join the many people I know in the United States and abroad, and the many more I have yet to meet, who feel as I do that fresh energies have been released, that now is the time to devote themselves anew to the creation of a world without famine, a world without borders, a world at one and at peace. It may well be that our efforts will not be successful if only because what human beings seem most to fear is not the evil in themselves but the good - the good being so demanding. But it's there, stubbornly there, even after we have finished deploring all that is deplorable in human nature. So while not optimistic, I am hopeful. By this I mean that hope, as opposed to cynicism and despair, is the sole precondition for a new and better life. Realism demands pessimism. But hope demands that we take a dark view of the present only because we hold a bright view of the future; and hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible."

(William Sloane Coffin's final paragraph of his autobiography "Once to Every Man", 1977)

(more quotes)

1 comment:

billy said...


Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful and humbling thoughts. The reminder about the infinite difference between living as a person of hope versus embracing despair and cynicism is both timely and at the same time universally applicable. Holding on to hope and believing that the world can be a better place, the kind of place that it was meant to be, is probably the central challenge for every generation. I think that it is one of the most profound and enduring acts of courage, and not surprisingly, probably the least recognized for the reasons that Coffin notes. The quality and depth of your own committment to keeping hope alive is clearly evident in the people that you set as examples for your life. You set that bar very high for yourself by looking to people of exceptional character and depth, and I join with you in mourning the death of one of those persons. Thanks again for sharing...walk on.........