“The Right Fights”

April 17th, 2006 by john

Rev. William Sloane Coffin
From PBS, a 2004 interview with the late Rev. William Sloan Coffin, who reflects on a life of faith and political activism.

Q: As you look back on everything you’ve done in your wonderful life, what are you most proud of?

A: I never thought that was a question I should answer. It’s not so much a question of pride; it’s deep satisfaction. Joy in this world comes from self-fulfillment. Joy is a more profound experience than mere happiness. Happiness connotes pleasure. Joy can include, and not exclude, pain. The moments of great satisfaction in my life are many, for which I’m deeply grateful. Most of all because I’m a pastor and my pastoral relations have been some of the most satisfying experiences of my life. After all, when I was at Yale for 18 years, I spent almost every afternoon when I was in town — and that was most of the time — just counseling students, one on one. People who invite you into the garden of their soul are really wonderful people. They’re never boring. I don’t bear fools’ company gladly, but people who are deeply personal and willing to air their conflicts — that’s very satisfying. That was a part of my life that was very satisfying. And, I must say, when you feel a sense of undeserved integrity because you think you’re in the right fight — against segregation, against the war in Vietnam, against the stupid and cruel discrimination against gays and lesbians — these are the right fights, I feel very deeply. The sense of self-fulfillment which comes with being in the right fight is a very wonderful thing. And lastly, only because I’m mentioning it last, is my family. I was too busy when I was younger to really appreciate the incredible ties I have with the family, with my children and two stepchildren also, and with a wife without whom, I think, I would not be sitting here now. When you get older, friendship obviously runs deeper and deeper. And, I would add, nature gets more interesting the nearer you get to joining it, and also more beautiful. I can sit on the front porch here with a little bit of “mother’s milk,” which I learned to appreciate when I was a liaison officer with the Russian Army (they had lots of it), and just sit there and watch the sun coming in through the maple leaves. You know, God is good.

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