THE COURAGE TO LOVE by William Sloane Coffin


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Ten sermons, readable if not brilliant, intelligent if not profound, mostly on topical matters. Rev. Coffin--long in residence at the Riverside Church, NYC--is probably the country's best-known Protestant liberal and social activist; and in this slim volume he expounds traditional liberal views on such issues as the arms race, homosexuality, abortion, the Moral Majority, etc. His overriding theme, as expressed in the title (deliberately echoing Tillich's Courage to Be), is that ""the opposite of love is not hate but fear."" Thus, Coffin argues that both Fundamentalists and Pentagon generals are driven by the anxious desire to build a completely secure world. But this obsessive (and by implication unchristian) fear narrows spiritual and intellectual horizons and shrinks the heart. On homosexuality, Coffin invokes Peter's vision at Caesarea (Acts 10: 1-20) to propose that the Levitical ban on homosexual acts be lifted just as the Levitical dietary laws were. On abortion, he skirts the question of when unborn life becomes human, observes that outlawing abortion won't stop it, and ends up citing Margaret Mead's ambivalent view that ""Abortion is a nasty thing, but our society deserves it."" He is at his most insistent and most convincing on the subject of impending nuclear war--though the boundary between theology and secular humanism gets rather blurry. Still, when Coffin isn't talking about controversial issues (e.g., in the chapter on St. Paul's ""thorn in the flesh""), he's distinctly less interesting. A respectable performance.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row