Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993

Article excerpt

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993. By Mark Hulsether. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 1999. Pp. xxxix, 374. $38.00.)

Reinhold Niebuhr founded Christianity and Crisis magazine in 1941 in order to combat the pacifism of The Christian Century and the social gospel more generally. For the "utopian" thinking of the social gospel, Niebuhr and his allies sought to substitute "Christian realism." They emphasized God's transcendent judgment on sinful humanity and attacked all types of "Progressivism." At the same time, they were committed to liberal social action. For the next fiftytwo years, until its demise in 1993, Christianity and Crisis was an important part of the Protestant left. Mark Hulsether's new book is a well-written and well-organized account of the. history of this magazine.

Hulsether's primary interest is in the way that Cbristianity and Crisis shifted "paradigms" from Christian realism to liberation theologies. In its first decades, the major emphases of the magazine were "anticommunism, New Deal type economic reform, and pro-western international development," and the magazine consistently worked in conversation with the secular elite. Sometime in the late 1960's, however, the magazine began to focus more on contextual theologies and to stress "possibilities for radical change from the standpoint of oppressed communities" (p, xvii).

Hulsether describes this paradigm shift as a real transformation, and yet he also discerns continuities within the magazine across the decades. He notes that the magazine adopted a dialectical style in which articles typically affirmed "X, but at the same time Y. …

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