Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited: Engagements with an American Original

Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited: Engagements with an American Original

Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited: Engagements with an American Original

Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited: Engagements with an American Original

Synopsis

In 2007 then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama called Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) his "favorite philosopher." Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited offers fresh and creative ways of looking at this influential American theologian's views on religion, politics, and culture through the eyes of diverse respected scholars.

Excerpt

Martin E. Marty

“Be the first kid on your block to …”

When that call or advertisement came to us Depression “kids,” it might have been a bid to a hearer or reader to be the first possessor in the neighborhood of a baseball cap available to anyone who might send in two box-tops of a certain cereal, “plus twenty-five cents for postage and handling.” When a new fashion appeared — in my Nebraska, it might have been an update of an old-fashioned bandanna — we would scurry and hope to be seen by others on the block who had not been quite so up-todate or in the avant-garde. Being first in intellectual life also provides credentials for those hungry for recognition as a possessor or trendsetter.

“Be the first kid on your block to …” may seem to be a dated colloquial phrase with which to help readers anticipate a reasonably formal collection of “engagements” wwanted to establish their currency by writing him off as obsolete, to be consigned to the dustheaps of history in a world where theologians of some sorts found it valuable to be typed and seen as being “with it.”

Niebuhr was being dismissed as so mid-century, meaning midtwentieth century, and was hardly seen as the setter of terms for theology in public life that he had been from the mid-1920s to at least the late 1950s. With him out of the way, religious thinkers, it was often believed, could be free to face issues that he did not regularly touch: hermeneutical questions . . .

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