Reinhold Niebuhr as Christian Critic: Public Theology and the American Century (transcript)

Posted on October 27, 2015 by PLT Staff

Lecture given by Eugene McCarraher at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. With the imminent need for a new political imagination in the coming decades, McCarraher argues that Reinhold Niebuhr cannot help us in the reconstruction. For McCarraher, Niebuhr’s Christian realism is too focused on man’s shameful shortcomings to offer any helpful guidance. Rather, any potential radical reconstruction must be rooted in faith that acknowledges the possibilities of the future while carefully avoiding past mistakes. For a listing of all our Occasional Lectures, click here.

Excerpt: “By deferring to the cognitive and political expertise of the imperial state, ‘Christian realists’ both stoke imperial desire—and thus ensure their irrelevance—and obscure the range of moral and political possibility. So rather than lament the lack of ‘hope’ or ‘idealism,’ today’s apostates from empire must reclaim the language of realism. They must be visionaries in the proper sense of the word—people who see what’s really there, in fact and latent in possibility. It may turn out, ironically, that Niebuhrian realism paralyzes the moral and political imagination not because it is realistic, but because it is not realistic enough.”

  • Paper Information
  • Author: Eugene McCarraher
  • Creation Date: October 13, 2015
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