Excerpted from "Credo" by William Sloane Coffin with permission from Westminster Knox Press

Not to take sides is effectively to weigh in on the side of the stronger.

The Bible is less concerned with alleviating the effects of injustice than in eliminating the causes of it.

With spiritual arrogance goes the itch to destroy. History warns that the best is always a hair's breadth from the worst, and that heartless moralists in the corridors of power are those who start inquisitions.

Hell is truth seen too late.

When the rich take from the poor, it 's called an economic plan. When the poor take from the rich, it 's called class warfare. It must be wonderful for President Bush to deplore class warfare while making sure his class wins.

Not only Christians but all Americans subscribe to the notion that "all people are created equal." But how many feel the monstrosity of inequality? I'm thinking not only of racial inequality, but also of today 's excess of wealth and poverty, the absence of affordable housing that "Mr.Conservative," Senator Robert Taft, in the 1940s considered a moral imperative. (The stated goal of the 1948 Taft Housing Legislation was a decent home for every American family.) Few of us today are troubled by the way our economy flourishes not by providing necessities but by providing luxuries, and by the national goal of ending welfare as we know it, when a more just goal would be seeking to end poverty as we know it. We Christians mean well, feebly. We may be repelled by materialism, but we are caught up in it. We are troubled by widespread poverty, but we overly esteem wealth. In short, ours generally is a superficial religious identity, and a superficial religious identity is just that. Superficial.

The word "homeless " is devastating, suggesting neither comfort nor companionship, dignity nor grace, and precious little identity. To have no place is to be no place. Homelessness is nowheresville .

The separation of Church and State is a sound doctrine, but it points to an organizational separation. It is not designed to separate Christians from their politics. For our faith certainly should inform our common life, as well as our personal, more private lives.

A politically committed spirituality contends against wrong without becoming wrongly contentious. It confronts national self- righteousness without personal self-righteousness. It cherishes God 's creation; it serves the poor; it is not interested in the might of a nation but in the goodness of its people.

Truth is above harmony. Those who fear disorder more than injustice invariably produce more of both.

My dream for America is to see economic justice established in an atmosphere of democratic freedom. But I am old enough to have seen how corruption works in a democracy, how the taint of it spreads bit by bit, touching one person and then another, until it is carried by a whole culture. I have seen how painfully and degradingly simple it is for leaders to deceive the people. Foreigners, for example, are often struck at how many Americans, even poor Americans, think privilege is something earned or deserved. Rarely do Americans see privilege as a form of theft.

Let me suggest that we not look overly to our political leaders. As their ethical impulses tend to be so much weaker than their political ones, in order not to stand out they 'll do most anything to .t in. They 're right to think that politics is the art of the possible, but wrong to forget that politics is also the art of making possible tomorrow what seems impossible today.

Already it is by the laws and policies of this country .whether we are talking about an insane war abroad or the mental genocide that takes place in slum schools .it is by the laws and policies of this country that the consciences of people are being racked. Of course we need to be concerned for order. Without it there is chaos, and with chaos there is no justice. But today what Christians in particular need to remember is that God never stands for stability at the expense of truth, that God has no interest in any status quo whatsoever. For God does not want to freeze history, but rather to move it continually toward that ultimate goal of his kind of unity in justice and mercy.

So what the Christian community needs to do above all else is to raise up men and women of thought and of conscience, adventuresome, imaginative people capable of both joy and suffering. And most of all they must be people of courage so that when the day goes hard and cowards steal from the .eld, like Luther they will be able to say, "My conscience is captive to the word of God go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me."

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