Tag Archives: economic system

nourished on the blood of sinners

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (1924–2006) was a clergyman and long-time peace activist. Ordained in the Presbyterian church, he later received ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ. He was an athlete, a talented pianist, a CIA agent, and later chaplain at Yale, where the influence of Reinhold Niebuhr’s social philosophy led him to become a leader in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He went on to serve as Senior Minister at the Riverside Church in New York and President of SANE/Freeze (now Peace Action), the nation’s largest peace and justice group.

Coffin prominently opposed United States military interventions in conflicts such as Vietnam up to the Iraq War. He was also an ardent supporter of gay rights.

In his book, The Courage to Love he wrote:

The temptation to moralize is strong; it is emotionally satisfying to have enemies rather than problems, to seek out culprits rather than flaws in the system. God knows it is emotionally satisfying to be righteous with that righteousness that nourishes itself on the blood of sinners. But God also knows that what is emotionally satisfying can be spiritually devastating. 

Pointing a finger is far easier and far more emotionally satisfying than offering understanding and having the courage to search out the root causes of social ills. Many among us even blame the poor for their poverty rather than search for the flaws in system that perpetuates their poverty.

The growing number of poor and the hungry in our country are not our enemies. They are the living and suffering symptoms of a flawed and spiritually devastating economic system that we refuse to address.

With less self-righteousness and  more courage to love we might come to a place where we are willing to look at the system rather than just continue pointing our fingers. Until then, however, we just continue to be nourished on the blood of sinners.

 

“mirror, mirror, on the wall…”

Poverty is not wholly a personal failure. It also represents the failure of an economic system. And the remedy is not wholly one of charity, but of political and economic action. Poverty is a reflection also on those who are not poor.

This 1951 quote from Once Around the Sun by Brooks Atkinson is more true today than when it was originally penned. The growing poverty we see, especially in the United States, is more a reflection on those of us who have the power and the voice to repair the failures of a broken system than those trapped and buried alive by it.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest…” Maybe we should turn away before we see the truth. Complicity casts a ugly reflection.