Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Heart Is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Heart Is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality

Article excerpt

The Heart is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality. By William Sloane Coffin. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999. x + 81 pp. $15.95 (cloth).

During the "Preppie" craze of the early 1980s, a little book called Climbing gave tips on maintaining the illusion of being upper class. This is the advice called "Soul":

Depending on the particular circle you are trying to crack, join an Episcopal or Christian Science church, a Baha'i temple, an Ethical Culture club, or the Society for Cosmic Rejuvenation. If all else fails, make friends with William Sloane Coffin.

Bill Coffin was then the Senior Minister at Riverside Church, one of the nation's prominent and news-making pulpits, organizing international conferences on arms control and preaching, continuing his lifetime of engagement with the gospel, the world and the cause of justice. I suspect the superficially religious readers of Climbing might have found Coffin's class background to their liking but his politics not, and his preaching too demanding for a complacent faith.

Coffin's current book of essays, adapted from lectures and sermons given since his retirement from Riverside, shows the preacher and activist in prime form. The title of the volume comes from Dom Helda Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil. Coffin writes, "I once heard him say, with a broad smile and in a heavy accent: `Right hand, left hand-both belong to ze same body but ze heart is a little to ze left.'"

It is indeed the heart of William Sloane Coffin that shows through in this slim volume of seven essays, a heart that is full of compassion and certainly to the left. …

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