I'm very pleased to welcome you all here this evening on the behalf of SMTI [Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, now University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth] Humanities Series. Before I introduce our speaker I should like to make an announcement. After the lecture there will be a reception held at the SMTI campus in the north lounge of the building. Coffee and tea will be served and all those who would like to attend are cordially invited. I'd like to further mention the Reverend Coffin has been willing to have a question and answer period immediately following his talk.
It is a singular pleasure that we have with us tonight the Reverend William Sloan Coffin Jr., who has been University Chaplain and Pastor of the Church of Christ at Yale since 1958. Mr. Coffin was born June 1st, 1924 in New York City and prepared for Yale at Phillips Academy. During World War II he served with the United States Army in Europe as an infantry officer and as a liaison officer with the French Army. Then for two years after the war he was assigned as liaison officer with the Russian Army and was released from the service in 1947.
Mr. Coffin received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale in 1949 where he had majored in Government. In 1949 and 1950 he studied at Union Theological Seminary, and then from 1950 to 1953 during the Korean War, he served abroad working for the government in Russian Affairs. He entered the Yale Divinity School in 1953 and received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1956.
Mr. Coffin has perhaps become best known in this country and abroad for his strong interest in interfaith and interracial programs. He demonstrates his belief that church leaders should take an active stand on social and political issues. In the summer of 1960 he led a group of 15 students to Guinea to work as part of the Operations Crossroads Project in Africa. When the Peace Corps was started early in 1961, the Reverend Mr. Coffin was one of the men named as an advisor and consultant. In the summer of 1961, he organized and became the first director of the Peace Corps' field training center in Puerto Rico, where the young men and women of the Peace Corps received both classroom and physical training before assignment overseas.
In May 1961, he was one of seven Freedom Riders arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. The group was protesting local Southern segregation pertaining to bus transportation and restaurant seating. Arguing that such local laws were in conflict with the integration ruling of the United States Supreme Court.
In the summer of 1964, Mr. Coffin made an extensive tour of the Far East where he particularly visited and lectured in universities in northern and central India. His India trip was made possible by the Special East Program of the United States State Department.
It is a privilege for me to present to you this evening, the Reverend William Sloan Coffin, whose subject is "God, Man and Change". [Clapping]
William Sloane Coffin: Ladies and gentlemen in order to save time, may I assume that you know that I know that is a great honor to be part of this very distinguished series. I don't know how I rated it, and to be at this place, I haven't at on Cape Cod since I was a small boy. I've watched things change around this part of the country, but I've never been honored enough to have an invitation to stop off for a bit, so I'm just delighted. To hear not this lengthy introduction I apologize, Yale news bureau must have sent you an awful lot of stuff. But I did like to hear, “he received his Bachelor of Arts,” and World War II and all that wonderful New England accent again, which I must say I've always liked.
Now let's get at the subject then: God, man and change. When I think of the Church in the United States, I seem to have two very strong, conflicting emotions. On the one hand I think the situation in the average, standard brand church, be it Catholic or Protestant, let's leave the Jews out for a moment, is so bad that probably one could predict that 20, 25 years from now people will be going to church in this country about three times. To be baptized, to be married, and to be buried, which means two out of three times they'll have to be carried in.
On the other hand, on the other hand, the situation, probably because the situation is so bad, there is a kind of new breed of fighting nuns and priests, the hierarchy of course is dreadful, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is just dreadful, but the lower-archy is just brilliant. There's a new breed of fighting nuns and priests, rabbis, and a few of my colleagues in the Protestant ministry. Paul Goodman says the most exciting things going on in university campuses across the country are going on in religious groups. That's rather discouraging when you know what's going on, but then there's Saul Alinsky who's saying, "Twenty years ago when I was invited to Kansas City at the invitation of the unions there wasn't a church within spitting distance and now when I'm invited to Rochester, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Brooklyn at the invitation of the churches, there isn't a union within spitting distance."
So maybe there's some real hope for the church. You know, Paul Goodman, who's a pretty splendid anarchist, and Saul Alinsky who's not exactly the most devout pietist in this country; when these people think that the Church is really doing something interesting and worthwhile, there is hope. And I still am deeply convinced that an authentic Christianity is as relevant today as all it's sentimental and distorted versions are patently irrelevant. And if this is true today it's going to be even truer tomorrow. For instance, 25 years from now machines will suffice to keep most of our economy going. The Protestant ethic will have to go. That's alright. Let it go.
And we can say that for centuries, men did the work of animals and then they did the work of machines. But now at last, animals will be doing animal work, and machines will be doing machine work, and human beings at last will be free to do human work. Who knows what human work is. Which is why Berdyaev prophesied correctly that when bread is assured, God becomes a hard, inescapable reality, instead of an escape from harsh reality. So it is in this second, that with a second strong emotional conviction that this is true. From this kind of conviction I want to talk tonight, on the subject God, Man and Change.
Now if we talk about the world in a, with sort of refreshing, careless scholarship, in a kind of broad, brushed way. Most scholars you know talk to the world through their footnotes these days which means that they're terribly erudite. The fact that they're just burdened with erudition and most of them are paralyzed with indecision. They're a bunch of learned paralytics these days. But if we look at it kind of broadly and we're sort of careless about it, I think there are two things we could say about the world and probably get away with it. The first one is borrowing from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit paleontologist. The first thing we could say about the world is that a unified mankind is now an evolutionary fact. A unified mankind is now an evolutionary fact. That's a pretty revolutionary thing to say, because what we're saying of course is the Utopians, not the quote “realists,” are the scientists. McLuhan points out that as electrically contracted the world is no bigger than a village. An astronaut can encircle it in an afternoon stroll.
More and more we have to talk about convergence of the world rather than divergence of the world, where we're going to talk about systems of science, or unification of the earth's energies in a more and more unified economy. One could argue from many different points of view that we're living in a more and more convergent world, and Teilhard de Chardin would say a unified mankind is now an evolutionary fact. Which shows how far we have to go to catch up with ourselves.
Second point is that history has reached a kind of flood tide, that nothing is going to reverse, nothing is going to alter, let alone reverse, the course of many events in our time. That we have reached many what Bowling calls boundary breaks: you can't get back again. And while we don't know much about the future, one thing seems certain: we are well on the way to the future that will shatter a great deal of what we know is present.
So what we have to talk about tonight is, what is Christianity, but on earth or in heaven, is Christianity the same to a world in which, to a unified world in which, change is as insistent as breathing; a unified world in which change is as insistent as breathing? Well let's talk for a minute about change because I think it's easy to talk about change, but it's very difficult emotionally to accept change. And of course the hardest thing of all is to affirm change by actively willing it. It's a science thing that nations, and institutions, and individuals all know that change is inevitable and that the art of life therefore is to cooperate gracefully with the inevitable. We all know that. And yet the attitude of nations, and institutions, and individuals is pretty much that of the caterpillar who said looking up at the butterfly, "Ha, you'll never catch me flying around in one of those damn things." [audience laughter]
First let's take an example of an institution, the Church. How many times has the Church in human history mounted the barricades facing the wrong direction? Instead of seeing itself as a force, the Church again and again sees itself as a form, a fixed form. With fixed purposes and a fixed liturgy. Let's be real mean, the church theologically, this is a bit gross now but it's basically kind of true I think, the Church theologically is tended to present a god, eternal and unmovable, high in the heavens, in order not to recognize the young man in constant circulation.
Or take the nations: we live in a unified mankind and yet we're certainly living in the most nationalistic period in all of human history. Even the communists are so nationalistic, we say we haven't had a decent communist in the sense of being a real internationalist since Trotsky was around. And of course the United States, as a foreigner said recently, “Jesus Christ has now become your Secretary of Defense.” This is not the idolatry of McNamara this is the idolatry of the American public who is so convinced that Jesus is on our side.
Or take the question of disarmament. Now Jerome Wiesner I understand was here earlier. Jerome Wiesner, your, all scientific advisors from every president from Eisenhower down to the present has said that the more we increase our armaments the more we decrease our national security- the very thing armaments are supposed to provide. Ah, we're now building our anti- missile missiles. We're going to spend millions and millions of dollars. Maybe not, but chances are we will. Meantime, shortly Peking and presently Moscow I dare say, could take any nuclear device, put it in a mine, carry it by any ocean going vessel to the twenty mile limit outside the Atlantic and Pacific coastline of America. Sow these mines, from north to south in the Atlantic and Pacific. Mines that could be triggered by remote control in Moscow or Peking. Could set off catastrophic tidal waves with all the lethal fallout on the Atlantic and Pacific, which would ensue while we're building our anti-missile missile system.
Those of you who are microbiologists know better than I do, at least I've been told, that now there are microbes that are resistant to antibiotics. So it is actual fact that if Ho Chi Minh had half mind to and if the Russians would go along with it, he could sow the bubonic plague throughout this country while we're building our anti-missile missile system.
There is no technical solution to this problem. This is a political problem now but we can't face it. We cannot face change. A change situation which says we are absolutely, America the Beautiful, is America the Insecure. And Russia's insecure and China's insecure, but we can't face it. And even individuals, especially, maybe individuals have hard time facing, emotionally accepting change. Of course anytime at Yale there's a suggestion of change, why the alumni sort of drop out of the trees and come running. Ah, which tends to be the case pretty much everywhere.
And then of course the vested interests in the academic world show how reluctant we are to face change. Why if edsel had been a university subject it would still be taught in the vast majority of colleges. In the country today we are so reluctant to change. And even the New Left is far more anti-establishment than it is pro-change. It hardly conforms to Camus’ definition of a rebel which is to know on behalf of what you're rebelling all together, as much as what against what you are rebelling. Of course the New Left is the most promising thing we have in the student world today, but it's a pitiful small majority and the vast majority are singing, “for weal or woe my status is quo.”
So here we are at this real problem of emotionally accepting change even though intellectually we know it's inevitable. Now this is a religious problem because the reason we cannot accept change is of course because of the inevitable insecurity inevitable change produces. All of us want to secure ourselves against our insecurity. And if somehow we can keep our “quo status” maybe we can survive a little bit longer. But if you can say in the hymn, the greatest of all hymns let's be dogmatic once again, if you can say in the words of the greatest hymn, A Mighty Fortress is not my status quo, not my nation, not my weaponry, not my ideas, not my way of teaching et cetera, et cetera. A mighty fortress is my God the sole bulwark which faileth never. Then of course you can end that end with this fantastic statement of freedom, let goods and kindred go. All the things to which for security's sake we ascribe too much value and too much permanence. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also/ The body they may kill, and that means the body of institutions. Yes they too can die, and nations can die, and the body of Christ can die. For who could consider the head of the Church, Christ himself, concluding a concordant with Pontius Pilate in order to save himself from crucifixion?
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also/ The body they may kill: but God still provides for us still/ His kingdom is forever. That's a real free statement. If a man really believe that then you see emotionally he can appropriate all the insecurity, the inevitable insecurity of inevitable change. Now the fact that Christian folk are so bad at this just shows how little faith they really have. Because it's a fundamental tenant of the faith, one can let goods and kindred go.
Alright we said something about talking about change, something about accepting change but what about affirming change by actively willing it. Now here's where I think the faith has a great deal to say. Because if you read the Bible, the way the Bible is supposed to be read you know not these little Gideon passages to massage your troubled ego: Feeling a little sad? Read this. Feeling a little glad? Read that, now hit him over the head with that. And of course everybody reads the wrong passages. All those who are burdened with guilt, you know, open the Bible, “Thus sayeth the Lord”, let him have it you know. And then all the self-righteous Pharisees read "While you were yet sinners Christ died for you" you know all the reassurance that Jesus cares, and all the rest of it you know. Everybody reads their own passages in the Bible.
And they also don't read the Bible the way the Bible essentially is supposed to be read: as God's manifesto. Let's not be rabbits holed [?] about the term, God's manifesto. His design for all of human history, from Alpha to Omega, from Creation to New Creation, from Beginning to End. That's the way the Bible is supposed to be read. As a fantastic panoramic view of all of human history.
One of the great theologians in our day is a Dutchman by the name Theodore van Leeuwen. Now little countries, Holland, all these little countries turning out all these exciting theologians today. It's really amazing. Like Denmark turned out Kierkegaard a hundred years ago.
Van Leeuwen says that the ancient civilizations of the world, China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India were all what he calls, well never mind what he calls them, the terms I think are confusing. They are essentially static civilizations in which people tend to believe in a once and for all ordered creation. In which everything was part and parcel of the sacred whole. An Egyptian for instance would never think of ordering a revolt against Pharaoh, divinely ordained as Pharaoh is conceived to be. These were great civilizations that were more or less static in their outlook on life. Believing everything to part of a sacred whole.
Then along came these pushy Jews. And the old Hebrews didn't believe in a once and for all ordered creation, but rather in an ordering activity in creation. They believed in history i.e. change. And the history which as they saw it was initiated by God and renewed by God every time Man in his sinfulness tried to put the freeze on history. Tried to say, "No, no we're going to cut off history right here. This is the way it's going to stay". And this is of course the point of the story of the tower of Babel, That tower you remember was built to have its top in the heavens. What does that story represent if not the magnificent, wonderful, all out, flat out effort on the part of man to build a from here to eternity edifice, a once and for all creation. And what was the result? Utter confusion. The confusion that always ensues when men try to put a freeze on history; that always ensues whenever men try to build eternal edifices, be they of brick or ideas.
And so in the Bible we pick up the power of God and now we're beginning to be able to say, "It is the will by a power by which all things are that all things will change." And we pick up the power of God moving symbolically away from the tower of Babel and bringing Abraham out of static Mesopotamia, Moses out of static Egypt, and then moving to Judea and then Jerusalem, and then the Christ. And while Christ in many respects can be seen as a fulfillment, in more respects he can be seen as a new beginning, a new promise of a New Creation, and a new Israel and a new departure for all four corners of the world. And according to van Leeuwen it was the dynamism of this ancient Hebrew vision of the fact that it is the will of a power by which all things are that all things will change, so that our images are wrong. We shouldn't see Eternal God and moveable man, but moving, moving God versus intractable man.
And it was this ancient vision of the Jews that was picked up by the Christians, that animated great deal of Western Civilization. And therefore to which we must attribute a great deal of the credit for the technology, which is a fruition of this Western Civilization and which in now engulfing the whole world. So while it is clear that the period of Western domination is over, the period of Western influence, in a technological sense is just beginning to get underway. And because technology so undercuts, undermines all static forms of life, nations and institutions, and so opens up for mankind such copious expectations of a wonderful, new future van Leeuwen is prepare to say Christ is present incognito in technology. Which I traveled all they way up to New Haven to a technological institution in order to be able to say, “Christ is present incognito in technology.”
Now you see we can begin to see what the faith has to say about a unified mankind, in which change is as instant as breathing. Because, while the Bible, ah because the Bible has always affirmed the hidden unity of all men. And has always looked forward to a day when men would no longer be scattered in their pride from that symbol of pride, the Tower of Babel, but would be united in love around that counter symbol to the tower of Babel, Mount Zion; from which flows forth that love, that light which alone is able to unite and guide all mankind out of the wilderness that is human freedom.
Animating all the scripture from beginning to the end is this view of the latter days when this hidden unity will become increasingly manifest, when it will be an evolutionary spiritual fact that mankind is indeed one, not only as [?] would say, [?] to [?], [?] to [?], body to body, and mind to mind , but also heart to heart. That is the vision that animates all the bible in its view of human history. And of course, probably the most famous passage is in the fourth chapter of Micah (Micah 4: 1-3) when we read, "It shall come to pass in the latter days that mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the highest of all the mountains and shall be raised up above the hills, and people shall flow to it and many nations shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. For out of Zion shall go forth the law. And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many people. He shall decide for strong nations and far off. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their swords into pruning hooks. And nations shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war."
[inaudible] The Pope knew exactly what he was talking about. He decided to make present, actualize today a future vision which may not really be that future if in fact it is an evolutionary fact, scientifically speaking, that mankind is now unified.
Now there are two things we have to say right away. One, this is history. Not an automatic process, no escalator automatically carrying us upwards and onwards to fairer and fairer fields. No. It is an escalator of possibilities only, which is up to Man to realize or not to realize.
And the second point which ties to this one, is only a fool would fail to see, as it were, the anti- Christ, too that is his goal for all four corners of the world. And the die is really cast. I remember a Peace Corp volunteer once saying, a truck driver asked him, "Why'd you join the Peace Corp?" He said, "There comes a time, Reverend, when you gotta decide, you gonna deal yourself in, or you gonna deal yourself out." Well, the time has come when the church has got to decide if it’s going to deal itself in or deal itself out. Because Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide that famous hymn of James Russell Lowell for the first time is now true. Because it used to be twice, three, four, five times, theologically an unsound hymn, but not any more: Once to every man and nation, comes a moment to decide.
Every generation of students has always been called to solve problems it did not create, but ours is the first generation of students who know that failure to solve these problems may spell the destruction of mankind. So how can we stand aloof from the fury of our history? Sit on our little liberal fences with our fears on either side? And hopefully out of our love for the oppressed can we sow the seeds of a terribly new hatred, beautiful, better for the many members of the New Left. I'm not going to get into that, but that should be discussed.
We have to in universities move as it were from ivory towers to control tower. Not control in the sense of running the whole show, but taking part in it. And from cloister to the marketplace, in the religious view, where we take our stand beside the neighbor and enemy. Put it this way, in the words of a psychiatrist, Oedipus is finished and Orestes is the new paradigm hero of our time. Oedipus represents that symbol of struggle, man trying to find his identity, more driven than driving. While Orestes, you may remember, symbolically takes up a vow of responsibility to Apollo; symbolically moves from exile into the city, where in order to fulfill his mission he has to kill his faithless mother, mother symbol of warmth, security, and authority, be it political, material, or ecclesiastical. Orestes is now our new hero. Now I cross the real question, how can you separate the Christ from the Anti-Christ? And anybody who thinks he can draw this line is deluding himself in the same way any man is deluding himself who knows in the church the difference between being a fool for Christ's sake and being a damn fool. And unfortunately in the academic world we're so afraid of being a damned fool that we won't run the risk of being a fool for Christ's sake. That's what I mean about being a bunch of learned paralytics.
It's impossible, really, to draw the line between the Christ and the Anti-Christ. And I think one of the great roles of the church is to say, "It's more complicated. It's more complicated than you think Lyndon Johnson, Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara. It's a lot more complicated than you think.” And in all things, you have to say, "It's a lot more complicated than you think."
But I do think that in our old division, the vision of a unified mankind, we do have a sense of the movement of history. We do have a sense of the vision, without which the people perish. We do have a sense of enough of a vision that provide as a kind of motivation that keeps you going, even when you feel its pretty hard to keep on going. I imagine many of you feel the same way I do. You wake up in the morning and you feel like a sensitive grain of wheat looking at a millstone. [audience laughter] And about all you can say is, "Hi millstone. Grinding anyone fine today?" You know, this sort of thing. Then there are the other days, my better days, when I think, “No, no, no, that's not the way it is.” Life presents us with a series of brilliant opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insuperable obstacles. [audience laughter] So I imagine we many of us have felt the same way on this. Particularly as you watch a beloved country there in Southeast Asia looking more and more like one of these prehistoric animals that was inexorably sucked to its death in one of those bogs, under the placid surface of a small pond.
I do think that in this vision we do have something, though, to guide us ahead, and it tells us what things we ought to be concentrating on and some of the things we ought to be doing. If we say, for instance, that a unified mankind is now an evolutionary fact, and that nations, and institutions, and individuals are way behind the evolutionary reality, and that ah, then obviously this says something about international organizations. That international organizations, which embody to some degree this increasing convergence of the world, have to be given a great deal of importance. Hence, what about the UN? Now a Latin American diplomat at the UN, a couple of years ago, said a rather cute and profound thing. He said, "Around here, things tend to disappear. If it's a conflict between two small nations and we deal with it, its a conflict. And it tends to disappear. But if it's a conflict between a small and a large nation, then alas, it's a small nation that tends to disappear. And if it's a conflict between two large nations, then it gets dramatic because it's the UN that tends to disappear."
And you start to think, why does the UN tend to disappear with such breathtaking regularity? Because not one of the sovereign nations of this world has surrendered to it one iota of its absolute national sovereignty. And we don't know if we're ever going to have one world. And I'm sure we will if there just these little men from Mars would only materialize, boy, we'd end this Cold War, hot war and everything else. We'd have a one-world world government in no time. If these little men from Mars only turned out to be true. And if any of you scientist can tell me that they're really there, let me know. I can stir things up enormously. So, I'm dying to have them materialize. They may be our best bet, you know, otherwise we're not going to survive.
We don't know just how we're going to have one-world, what kind of a law, how we're going to have diversity within unity. But two things that seem to me are crystally clear. We have to begin to internationalize power. The nation, with its absolute national sovereignty, and their power, completely, so much power in their hands, are really like a room full of six-year olds with mighty clubs with spikes in them and boots and everything else. They're swinging at each other with a kinda sickly ten year old, the UN, sort of trying to keep order. It's an impossible situation, and we're not gonna survive much longer because it doesn't take an aggressive act, all it takes is a nervous response and the whole thing is over. [audience laughter] So we're going to have to internationalize power.
[inaudible] so long in the India-Pakistan border, there are now, I think, fourteen UN officials, and there's a thousand mile border. It's ridiculous, ridiculous. Why, there's fourteen people on a Harlem Globe trotters squad, and you have to be as tricky and a fast as a Globe Trotter to cover a thousand miles with fourteen UN people. So obviously we need to work towards let’s say a small standing army. A small standing army that could be quickly airlifted to Israel, Jordan.
Quickly airlifted to India, Pakistan. That the Soviet Union and United States would be very happy to sort of deal, probably, we'd better work towards this, they'd be happy to deal with things so that they, as powers, wouldn't have to commit as much of their power and prestige as we fatally have done, for instance I think, in southeast Asia.
There is a possibility now to work at least a little bit toward an internationalization of power, a small standing army. And I would recommend to any student here seriously to consider a real good form of civil disobedience, I fight only for the UN. I would like to see a group of students say, "I fight only for the UN."
Now this obviously means a little bit of independent income for the UN, too. That would be good. I'm waiting for some of these great scientist around here, you can see I'm a little bit like, ah, Eisenhower and the business community. Now Eisenhower, anything Humphrey said, you know, and that was it for Eisenhower. I remember Mrs. Roosevelt was once asked, you know, if she thought the president was a little bit over-influenced by the business community. Mrs.
Roosevelt gave one of her beatific smiles and said, "One is always overly impressed by what one doesn't understand." And I think maybe that's the same way with me and the scientific community. But some day some of you great scientists are going to get that wealth out of the floor of the ocean. Right? All that mineral wealth there in the ocean and has yet to mined. And it must be there. Why shouldn't we, politically start working for an acceptance of the fact that that money, that wealth ought to start going to the UN? It's hard to give money now, but the new wealth might be tabbed as going to the UN. So we'd begin to get a little bit of independent income to the UN.
Secondly, the other thing that the UN has to build up, not in a big way, see I'm trying to be quite practical about the little things that seem to me can be done right now to move though in the general direction of a unified mankind. One, is the beginning of internationalization of power. The second thing, of course, in economic development. And now you remember you saw it announced at the beginning of this decade that this was to be the decade of development. And what's happened? The whole thing is down the drain.
One of the great problems about the war in Vietnam is that if you're going to have 85 billion dollars spent on a war, space, and defense, you are not going to put in at even 1% of your gross national product into development, which is the way that you fight communists, incidentally. If you really want to be anti-communist, get with it, you don't do it with military means, you do it like not allowing the body politic get so diseased as it was in South Vietnam. That's why the dominoes fall. It has very little to do with external power, it's got everything to do with internal weakness.
But there hasn’t been this development. Eighty-five percent of the Brazilians are still off the economy on subsistence farming. We've got to get money into the developing parts of the country, and best to do it through international agencies. Here is a great role for the UN to play. But how is it going to get its money? Well, we can project ahead without any trouble at all, if we have just a little imagination, that as we move to a welfare state, we've got to move to a welfare world. As we move to a national income tax, we're going to have to move to an international income tax, which is going to take money from the richer northern tier and give to the poorer southern tier. And if we'd had this four or five percent of the national income, of the richer nations of the world, we would have had, I've forgotten, I figure it all out once, 50-60 billions of dollars for the decade, far more than is necessary for the most ambitious of plans for the UN for development.
How are we going to move then, toward that international income tax? I think with a very simple device. Why don't we petition Congress, we the citizens of the United States. We ask Congress to give us permission, on a voluntary basis, individual citizens to give up the 10% of their income tax on a deductible basis to the UN. To be used for peacekeeping purposes and development. And the UN gives us a receipt, send it back, and we send it in April to Washington. Here's my receipt, I've given my peace tax to the UN. What could be easier, you know. It makes such sense, this idea, you know. It's not mine, that's why I can talk about it. It makes such immanent sense, that you really wonder why haven't we done it. This is the moment, this is perhaps a great moment to do this. And in the same way that private charities preceded foundation, preceded income tax, or what private charity income tax and the foundation to avoid income tax. Now the same way in the world, it can be private philanthropy starting in America quickly picked up by other countries involved in the UN, which would then be perhaps a first step to the regulated world-wide income tax, in a few years.
Now it seems to me that this kind of vision, of one of a unified mankind, unified in love dictates this kind of immanent, eminently practical kind of steps vis-a-vis the UN. Now if the religious community instead of fooling around with the ladies alter guild and things like that, let the ladies fool with the alter but doesn't take that much and, “ What does the Lord require?” Not a beautiful alter guild but let there be a little bit of justice and unity and love among the people of the nations of the world. And all the talent of the religious community is not being tapped to come through with ideas like this lobby, ideas of this kind. Which would really fulfill, I think in some modest measure, what the Bible is talking about.
All right, second thing, and I'll stop, I think with this one. I may only have time for one brief suggestion I have and [that's the night?]. Because it's illegal. It's not why, but it's an important thing. The second one is this, If we're moving toward a more more unity, and clearly we must separate the profound forces in the universe which make for more unity from the more superficial forces which make for more dis-unity. And we have to recognize all men have more in common than they have in conflict. And furthermore, it is precisely when what they have in conflict seems to be overriding, that what they have in common must be reaffirmed.
Now what I'm getting at is ideology. I think we have allowed an ideology, which relatively speaking is a superficial difference, to become absolutized to go all the way down, so that it has, ah, taken over the area of our commonality. So that when we look at 750 million Chinese, what do we see but Red? In both senses of the word. Instead of being able to see, at least without making any argument for the present regime in China at all, it has nothing to do with whether they are right or wrong or indifferent. But it is saying that we ought to be able to look at 750 million Chinese and see 750 of our fellow human beings, inheritors of the travail and glory of this universe. With the same promises before them as for us, who then happen to be Chinese, Red enemy, or anything else. But first and foremost they are fellow human beings. And the fact that we cannot see Chinese in this fashion is an indication of how deep we've allowed this force which makes for dis-unity to take over the area where it should be at least taking over for unity.
Now lets go a little bit further on this question of ideology. There's a man named [Opperchensky?], a Czech, a Marxist, and a Christian, in a lot of ways to the average American I'm mixing terms here. Nonsense, the Church has excess baggage, which it can chuck. Marxism has its excess baggage, which it can chuck, including messianic atheism. That has nothing to do with the essence of Marxism. And this man [Opperchensky?] thinks he's a devote Marxist in an economic sense and he's also in a more profound sense a Christian. Now he's a very interesting fellow for Christian students to hear in this country, so he's invited here quite often.
He was at my living room this Fall, and he says, "Its a funny thing, but maybe the Chinese are the same way. I don't know cause I've never been there, but this is easily the most ideological country I've ever been in. You Americans are so much more ideological than we Communists are behind the Iron Curtain. I mean no Czechs are as ideological as you are, in a sense of seeing every thing through a prism of ideology. And that's why you're so rigid and moralistic."
And I remember the man who I think can make the best case for the War in Vietnam, and you’d have to be a pretty good man to do that. A political scientist not far away from here, he made a wonderful case for the war in Vietnam, but he ended up by saying, “I just wished it wasn’t the Americans who were involved because the Soviets are flexible, but not the Americans.” And let me tell you one more story, which really illustrates my point and will really make I think, your blood runs just a little bit cold. There were two Marxists behind the Iron Curtain, two Communists who had been touring this country, who came back, and they said to me, "How do you do it?" As I knew they'd just been in the Midwest, I thought they were talking about the corn, as high as an elephant eye, you know. And my bosom swelled with pride remembering that the Soviets are still fooling around with that miracle wheat, you know, you plant it in the Ukraine and it comes up in Canada. And so I thought undoubtedly this is what they had in mind.
Nonsense, I didn't know what they had in mind at all. They went on to explain that what they had in mind was something quite different. "How do you do it?" they said. We watch television very regularly and as far as we can see there is no significant difference between NBC, CBS, and ABC. We have listened to your radio programs and they are incredibly alike. With the exception of editorials and such few papers as the Saint Louis Dispatch, the Louisville Courier, and the New York Times, your editorial policies are very much alike and the AP and UP reads the same all over the country. With the exception of some few fringe magazines and newspapers all in the mass media is the same. No, what we want to know is how do you do it? How do you get this measure of thought control without resorting to terror." [audience laughter] And the irony that Communists will soon be coming to this country to study the thought control patterns of the world's leading democracy. [audience clapping]
This is what I mean allowing ideology differences to become absolutized. That we must separate out, then, that which makes what men have in common from that which he has in conflict. And keep working, keep working on that which all men have in common as opposed to that which they have in conflict. Now very practically speaking, I mean one would have to realize then we’ve got to take some overtures toward China. Recognition of China is long overdue.
Recognition has nothing to do with moral approval. It's just an effort to get in contact with people to guard against error and misunderstanding. Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself, there are 750 million of them, with nuclear devices now. And 200 million of us, with a whole weaponry, an arsenal off nuclear devices. And the entire conversation, dialogue, contact, almost the entire contact between these two nations hangs by a slender thread on a Warsaw tea house where the two fellows haven't even shaken hands. Now are you willing to sit back and say, "That's alright." And particularly if you have any kind of religious vision, have you any right to say, "That's alright." Or isn't this just blaspheme at the face of the Creator who has willed that there will be unity among all his people?
I think it's absolutely scandalous that people have been able to sit back and let that sort of thing happen. Now obviously we have to press for recognition of China, more contacts, and uh, I think the way we may have to do is to do it by the route of, uh... I'm making everyone look a bit silly.
You know, I don't often quote Dwight David Eisenhower, but he did say one very good thing in 1959, when he said, "I like to think that people want, are going to do more to promote peace more than governments. In fact, I think people want peace so badly, that one of these days governments better get out of the way and let them have it." Now that's an indication that when governments are [inclined?], people need to get out there ahead. They ought to get out in front of their governments and get them out of these boxes. Now if Peking and Washington are in such a bind now, because each has escalated its intransigence to the other so regularly, you know. It's ironic, back in '56 the Chinese said, "Let's exchange newsmen," and we turned them down. In '58 the Chinese said, "Let's have a nuclear [inaudible]." We turned them down. In 1960, when they exploded their nuclear devices they said, "Let’s have a conference at Geneva, somewhere, all the nuclear powers," and we turned them down again. So we have had a measure of success in this whole process of escalating intransigence, in fact its a measure of our responsibility. Why shouldn't [inaudible] say , "we're going to China." I think now the United State's State Department would let us go. I think they would, they’re not too dumb and they’d let us go. But I don't know that Peking would let is in, so we'd sit on the border, sit in on the border and say, "Are we going to get in or not?" With the whole spotlight of the world on you, you know, saying "This is the silliest thing in the world." Why, we’re not going to be told by our government that we a can’t to talk to every fourth inhabitant of this planet, and that we don't see those people over there have any invested interest in this situation, either, and so we ask Peking, "Can't we come in?" Make them look a bit silly. That's what Parks used to say in civil rights days, “Make them look silly. Make them look silly.” Well, this is the same kind of sort of thing.
Alright, I think I'll wind up with this point. with a quick summary. What I was trying to say is that the world is unified on an evolutionary point of view. It is as [inaudible] would say, body to body and mind to mind, but not yet heart to heart. But change is as insistent as breathing. And first off our first problem is to deal individually with change, to accept we’re messed up so we don't all become prisoners of our own experience. In which case we become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. And then, having accepted in ourselves, or open at least to say how change comes about, and then as a matter of faith, because to those of us who have it this because a easier, a little resource here, and there's also this vision to animate to make us feel that not only is change inevitable, it's right. It's right and we must keep urging it on, and in the direction of a kind of unity, so that all men are more heart to heart.
[inaudible] and so we take the international organizations like the UN and try to sponsor them through these various devices and we begin to wage an anti-ideological warfare. A warfare on ideology so that we get our ideological differences in the proper state. Because all men do have in a religious point of view more in common than we have in conflict. And once again it is precisely when what we have in conflict seems overriding, that what we have in common must be affirmed, just as free speech must be most expected when its exercised is most effective.
And of course, ah, a religious belief is of course absolutely at the heart of all this because from the point of view of a religious belief, all men are equal means in its original Greek, all men are one. We all belong one to another. That's the way God made us. Christ died to keep us that way. Our sin therefore is that we are constantly trying to put asunder what God himself has joined together. Am I my brother's keeper? No, I am my brother's brother. From a religious point of view, the brotherhood of man is not something we are called upon to achieve, it's something we are called upon to recognize as a reality and try to make more and more manifest. Well I think it's time we start to live realistically. Thank you very much. [clapping].
Mehra: I heard Mr. Coffin at Haverford College at 1963 and I note that he has lost none of his dynamism. [inaudible] If you any of you have any questions, Mr. Coffin will be happy to entertain them.
Audience Question: On the morning that the New York Times had complete text our President Johnson said in the Union address was also a complete press conference with U Thant regarding south-east Asia. I was wonder how we strove so hard to have U Thant reconsider his resignation. Why this particular dichotomy of thought doesn’t capture more attention of our press, our mass media [inaudible].
William Sloane Coffin: Well I think as far as the press goes that part of it may be, U Thant gets pretty good coverage when it already has a press conference. Now U Thant is committed to a very good policy to saying little and trying to do much. And the less talk the more you can do particularly when it comes to this delicate diplomacy. I think we backed U Thant because in all the areas we were very high on U Thant, back and though his ideas were very good and of course afraid that somebody else, when we were with a minority, the western world is a real minority in the assembly and its just one place where the General Secretary could come through for Asian and Africans and get something much worse. However the sad thing is that we’ve managed to spike U Thant rather effectively [inaudible]. When Goldberg was a wonderful person, with whom U Thant thought very highly, but when Goldberg said we are asking in presence the same thing, we are asking the Secretary General to do everything he can to bring this [poor woman ?]in. He didn’t know they were going to say that publicly. And if they would have asked him of course, and say why they didn’t ask him, he would have said, “Don’t do it.
Because if you were really serious about this I can do it much better in a quiet way. Now you make me look as if I’m your boy being sent around on your errands.” And of course the UN is
not popular with North Vietnam anyhow because North Vietnam is not in the UN. and so neither is [China or Thailand]. So U Thant is not all that far enough involved with the other side, so we just made it a little bit worse for him. And this is the kind of thing we do with great regularity and the American public doesn’t realize that we are spiking our chances at peace. See the moment Goldberg says, [inaudible] sounds very reasonable to the American public. But the other side is just determined they’re never going to show a sign that’s going to be the result of being blackmailed into [in audible] So the moment Goldberg says that he may win brownie points in Washington and around the country but he loses the operation on the other side.
And this is something where unless you have a good knowledge you don’t realize what’s going on sometimes, the average American public doesn’t. U Thant, I think is a very special [in audible]. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting him alone several times now up there at the top of the UN usually at dusk and the lights coming on way down there below on the East river and there’s this Neanderthal there and he’s the only American on the floor. And there’s the African telephone person and a hired secretary and then there’s [inaudible].
[in audible] And he certainly thinks American is making a colossal mistake of course in going on with this war, particularly when U Thant thinks we can end it. [inaudible]
Audience question: [inaudible] William Sloane Coffin: [inaudible for several minutes]
William Sloane Coffin: ...well there are these two irons that cross the UN. Some say that the UN as an organization is no good. And other like U Thant and others say the organization is alright only its not being used. And that if it was used it could develop it's muscles, which are there and we'd be alright. Now I think if there were this kinda independent source of income and little more for the UN to do, that that would probably, ah, if it was agreed that this is what the UN ought to do then this would produce they kind of people to do it. So the motivation would obviously be changing if we got around to voting an independent income or got a small standing army in the UN. I think the two of them would be happening at the same time.
I think you're asking a very profound question, uh, whether we're after a change in motivation. I think essentially, yes, we are trying in a sense to change motivation, but we have to recognize that it is the environment which also conditions, that it doesn't determine motivation. That we can't legislate morality, but we sure can legislate the conditions that are more conducive to it. And if we abolished our slums, by voting an awful lot more money for the schools, which are absolutely dreadful. And got enough employment so that all these fathers that can't find enough to keep their ego intact, and so tend to disappear and get drunk wouldn't have to do this. And enough low income housing, which we could do now, so we could get out of these terrible rat- infested tenements. If we did that we'd produce, we'd tend to produce another kind of kid, because in the environment, the slum, the kid, almost everything his environment constitutes one assault after another on his self-confidence. Everything tells him he's no good and he's a failure, including his chief baby-sitter, the TV which shoves the good life down his throat, by showing him nice houses, good, warm meals, present fathers. So as a result our kids I think grown up like these birches which we're going to begin to see around this neck of the woods, which are all these little thin birches, you know, all bent over. Why? Because the ice storms of this last Winter hit them before they were ready, and now no amount of warmth and sunshine this Spring or this Summer is ever going to straighten them again.
Now there's an environmental conditioning, of slum kids, which I think could be improved, so that their motivation might get a little better. But I think our primary problem is we don't have enough moral commitment to do this. Our motivation is the problem. I'm not worried about high school drop-outs as much as I'm worried about moral drop-outs, or those outside the ghetto. Mr. Mehra, my host.
Jagdesh Mehra: What, in your judgment, are the problems that arise when the rich and powerful countries try to solve the problems of the further parts of the world?
William Slone Coffin: Well as I said to a clergy group earlier this evening, so forgive me if I just repeat this one phrase. I think it's kind of a basic problem. We're a conservative nation because we have a lot to conserve. And we're facing a world which is largely revolutionary because nobody wants to conserve poverty, illiteracy, and disease. So for a conservative nation to give relevant leadership to a revolutionary world, is asking quite a bit. And then of course, when you have a lot of power, uh, then it gets kind of dangerous. And then we see the phenomenon, which I think it's fair to describe as the United States passing through isolationism, to interventionism, without passing through internationalism. And this, I think is the basic problem of the United States today. That we have passed into interventionism without passing through internationalism.
Audience speaker: I see education or a nation of education, much as you see religion. The two relate. Where do you see education in this [inaudible]?
William Slone Coffin: Right, Obviously I'll have to be brief as this could open up a whole other evening. I think the problems of education is that education tends to drive a wedge between thought and action, instead of enabling action of a higher kind. As a further basic problem with education, education is only good when people are motivated by love of truth. But most of us are motivated very often by fear of truth, and hatred of truth, so what's emotionally rooted is not intellectually soluble. So you can't educate people, for instance, out of their prejudices. So almost, you could say, at that point men need redemption in order to have education.
And this is what I think is one of the roles of the church and university is what's seen by the genial insight by the Roman Catholic Church, when it made the first cardinal virtue, Prudence, prudentia, providentia, which really means damn good thinking. Recognizing that when you're heart is in the right place, when your heart is full of love, your mind is no more an instrument of error and delusion, but you are now free to see what's going on. You're free to see what's going on. And so I always like that [inaudible]. "Mighty God onto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." Yeah, that's a horrible thought. That's why a lot of people don't believe in God, of course. "Cleanse the thoughts of our," not minds, it reads, "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit." So that we can start to think correctly.
And so here I think is a good tie-in for religion and education, just to get people motivated by a love of truth so that the truth that educational world has to offer can be really accepted and be appropriated. And I think that ties in also with that first thing I said, you know, the problem is all the guys who’ve got some passion in this world don't seem to have much judgment. Whereas, all the academics who’ve got all this judgment don't have any passion. So how are you going to get the two of them together? You see both sides of the question, then you see three, four, five, or six sides of the question, and then to be or not to be? You start debating this thing. So it takes a kind of courage, which hopefully a religious vision would give one.
Actually scholars shouldn't have to have it, scholarship just thrives on errors, so why the hell are scholars so reluctant to make errors? [audience laughter] So again, there'd be a kind of religious tie-in at this point. Now this isn't to say, let's get quite straight, that the non-believer doesn't just put the believer to shame, again and again. My theology is that there's quite a lot of unrecognized grace around here, not that I want to go around patronizing the non-believer by saying, "Oh, you really do believe." But put it this way, I find myself asking, more and more, not "who belives in God, but whom does God believe in?" And Coffin, you best find out whom God believes in and get with him. And there's plenty of atheists around whom God really believes in. And as I say to my atheist friends, "You know it is more important whom God believes in, than who believes in God. So what you believe in isn’t really that important.” Kind of a dirty crack, but basically this is true. [audience laughter]
So if faith is being grasped by the power of love, if faith is that which doesn't converts man from life to something more than life, something less than life, or the possibility of full life itself. That's what faith is all about. Trying to make humanbeings more human. Now we find an emminently human being, able to make a gift of themselves, able to be open, able to love, obviously you have to say if "God is love. He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." In some degree, this is a man of faith, whatever he says off the top of his head.
So there is, I want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding in this, any question in who's a man of faith, this is a pretty wide open question. Not all who say "Lord, Lord" are let into the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus said. But I do think it's terrible important to have faith. Because I put in a lot of stock in having the courage of one's convictions. I think this country basically is kinda gutless now, frankly. I think what Yevtushenko wrote about the Soviet Union, he could have written about the United States when he said, "Ah with what horror and shame our children will look back on these times, noting that common integrity could be made to look like courage." I think that's what has happened in this country, common integrity has been made to look like courage.
And if we had a few more convictions, we'd do better. Cause if you stand for something you won't fall for anything. And it gives you a kind of courage to live a little more openly, a little bit more courageously, a little bit more loving. As a sensitive grain of wheat looking at a millstone for a few days longer, and so in this sense, too, it's important that we know what we believe and I think Christianity has a lot to offer. However before I get lost in sermon number five of the evening, I think we better call it quits, Mr. Chairman. Let me thank you once again for the invitation to be part of such a nice series and for waiting it out for as long as you have, thank you.
Jagdesh Mehra: I'd like to invite you all once again to go over to the SMTI campus for coffee and a reception following this. Thank you very much for being here.