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Book cover of William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience

William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience

by Warren Goldstein

Publisher: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
Paperback
ISBN: 9780300111545






Available to Buy

Overview of William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience

A magnet for controversy, the media, and followers, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr. was the premier voice of northern religious liberalism for more than a quarter-century, and a worthy heir to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. From his pulpits at Yale University and, later, New York City’s Riverside Church, Coffin focused national attention on civil rights, the anti-Vietnam War movement, disarmament, and gay rights. This revealing biography—based on unparalleled access to family papers and candid interviews with Coffin, his colleagues, family, friends, lovers, and wives—tells for the first time the remarkable story of Coffin’s life.

An army and CIA veteran before assuming the post of Yale University chaplain at the youthful age of 33, Coffin gained notoriety as a leader of a dangerous civil rights Freedom Ride in 1961, as a defendant in the “Boston Five” trial of draft resisters in 1969, and as the preeminent voice of liberal religious dissent into the 1980s. This book encompasses Coffin’s turbulent private life as well as his flamboyant, joyful public career, while dramatically illuminating the larger social movements that consumed his days and defined his times.

Synopsis of William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience

"This is an elegantly written biography, a portrait of a complex man negotiating complex times, written by a scholar equal to the task. In many ways this is the best way to see post-World War II America—from the inside out—through the eyes of a flawed humanitarian and restless searcher."—Ken Burns; "Warren Goldstein has given us a brilliantly insightful, richly detailed portrait of one of America's larger-than-life heroes-a man who, despite terrible blind-spots and flaws, managed to breathe passion back into Christianity and high moral purpose into the political struggles of the sixties."-Barbara Ehrenreich; "Bill Coffin is an American Knight, stranger to fear, the visionary's best companion, a joyfully embattled Christian, his life the richest imaginable. This book is a worthy and moving introduction to his grand transcendent spirit." - Arthur Miller, playwright and author

Author Biography: Warren Goldstein is associate professor of history and chair of the department of history at the University of Hartford. His essays and reviews have appeared in Lingua Franca, the Gettysburg Review, the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, The Nation, and many other publications, and his books include the prize-winning Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball.

The New York Times - Richard Lingeman

Warren Goldstein has achieved the difficult task of depicting fairly a life storm-tossed by religious and political controversy.

About the Author, Warren Goldstein

Warren Goldstein earned his B.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. He is associate professor of history and chair of the department of history at the University of Hartford. His essays and reviews have appeared in Lingua Franca, the Gettysburg Review, the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, The Nation, and many other publications, and his books include the prize-winning Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball.

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Editorials

Richard Lingeman

Warren Goldstein has achieved the difficult task of depicting fairly a life storm-tossed by religious and political controversy.
— The New York Times

Publishers Weekly

From the mid-20th century until now, Coffin has served as the prophetic conscience of a nation divided by race, war and economic injustice. In this compelling and eloquent biography, Goldstein captures the enigmatic nature of the great preacher and activist who came to be called the voice of American Protestant liberalism. Drawing on interviews with Coffin's friends and family as well as on unprecedented access to his archives, Goldstein begins with Coffin's privileged early life in a wealthy family committed to helping in various social causes, then highlights his stint as a second lieutenant in the army. After the war, Coffin studied at Yale, where he discovered the significance of religion as a cultural force, and at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where his uncle, Henry Sloane Coffin, had been president. Although he spent only one year at Union, his study there amongst the giants of theology and social activism-Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich and John Bennett-cemented his commitment to social justice and the ministry. With the advent of the Civil Rights movement, Coffin threw himself headlong into the fray; he participated in 1961 in the Freedom Rides and in various demonstrations, and later joined Benjamin Spock and Daniel Berrigan in actively protesting the Vietnam War. Goldstein captures Coffin's fervent commitment to helping others as well as his flaws as a husband and father. Coffin remains one of America's most important cultural figures, and Goldstein's first-rate biography provides a deeply appreciative and unflinchingly honest tale worthy of its celebrated subject. (Mar.) Forecast: Goldstein's biography nicely complements Coffin's own recently published memoir, Credo (WJKP, Dec.). These two books come at a time when Coffin has also been the subject of a "Talk of the Town" piece in the New Yorker. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

For three and a half decades, from his position as Yale University chaplain and later as pastor of New York City's prestigious Riverside Church, William Sloane Coffin (b. 1924) challenged the political and religious status quo with his biblically grounded bons mots. Modeling a "holy impatience" with injustice, he was the media-savvy prophet of liberal Protestantism and a clarion on behalf of civil rights, the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, nuclear disarmament, and the acceptance of gays and lesbians. Yet while Coffin thrived on the public stage, in the domestic arena he was woefully incompetent. Goldstein (history, Univ. of Hartford) ably contrasts Coffin's public giftedness with his sad inability to comprehend the needs of his wives and family. Coming a quarter century after Coffin's own memoir, Once to Every Man, this biography tells a story of which Coffin himself seems only vaguely aware: the tale of a profoundly influential yet tragically flawed public figure. This honest and compelling account, based on in-depth interviews with all the principals, captures the excitement and drama of Coffin's public and private life. Highly recommended.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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