By Charles Lemert
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) was once a Protestant preacher, an influential spiritual philosopher, and a huge ethical consultant in mid-twentieth-century the United States. yet what does he need to say to us now? In what means does he tell the deliberating political leaders and commentators from Barack Obama and Madeleine Albright to David Brooks and Walter Russell Mead, all of whom recognize his impression? during this vigorous evaluate of Niebuhr's profession, Charles Lemert analyzes why curiosity in Niebuhr is emerging and the way Niebuhr offers the solutions we soreness for within the face of seismic shifts within the international order.In the center of the 20th century, having outgrown a theological liberalism, Niebuhr challenged and rethought the nonsocialist Left in American politics. He built a political realism that refused to sacrifice beliefs to mere pragmatism, or politics to bitterness and greed. He tested the matter of morality in an immoral society and reimagined the stability among rights and freedom for the person and social justice for the various. With brevity and deep perception, Lemert exhibits how Niebuhr's rules remove darkness from our so much tricky questions this day. (20110510)
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Extra info for Why Niebuhr Matters (Why X Matters Series)
The priest with his ecclesiastical regalia and ofﬁce can bring the Church into those homes. The Protestant minister, with his plain shirt, brings only himself and the charge that he is meant, somehow, to cause something good to happen; and this with the family dog snifﬁng at his crotch. If wise, as Niebuhr was, the young minister learns to accept the limitations, which are nowhere more exposed than when preaching. There is something ludicrous about a callow young fool like myself standing up to preach a sermon to these good folks.
The Detroit years are rightly considered the key to Niebuhr’s life and work—not for any one aspect but for the total experience. Pastoral and political work against stark injustices brought home the realization that when one trusts reliable conviction, thinks deeply, and works as hard any one person can, things can change for the better. This is not a lesson easily learned by the young. 14 Why Niebuhr Matters It is learned, if at all, in the day-by-day push and pull of political exertion. Niebuhr kept a journal of his years in the Detroit parish, later published, with heavy editing, as Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1929).
In Germany, however, Adolf Hitler became a German citizen in 1932, and the Nazi Party began its rise to power. Not by quirk, fascist forces rose to power in Italy and Spain. In Eastern Europe, Josef Stalin crushed resistance in the Ukraine while failing to stop famine in the USSR. In East Asia, Japan invaded China, the beginning of another war to come. Nineteen thirty-two was a year when, the world over, national and international power relations tumbled head over heels, cracking the shell of nineteenth-century modernity.