An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story

I will be viewing this documentary about Reinhold Niebuhr when it comes to TV this Spring. Niebuhr spoke as a self-identified Christian and in the Christian tradition though he was anything but theologically orthodox. Yet as part of the Protestant Mainline, he questioned its utopianism and diminishment of mankind’s sin nature, and therefore their too easy capitulation to the dark forces being unleashed upon the globe by the “isms” of the twentieth century.

The Mainline denominations had abandoned the traditional Christian position of just war and had by and large become pacifists. Niebuhr stood as a “Christian Realist,” building a case for Western democracies to oppose with force ideologies built upon conquest and destruction.

The Mainlines never actually learned the lesson Niebuhr wanted to teach, but the Christian tradition’s case for peace through strength received a boost from him. There is a lesson here for Evangelicals who have a strong leftist branch that has taken pacifism as one of its foundational building blocks.

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