Political Theology Today A Forum for inter-disciplinary and inter-religious dialogue among clergy, scholars, students, and activists

All posts tagged Reinhold Niebuhr


The Limits of Drones, the Law, and Obama

President Obama’s recent speech at the National Defense University was billed as a major speech on US counterterrorism policy, especially on drones and Guantanamo. The New York Times was among those organizations that billed it as a significant change. Following the speech, debate arose over the true extent of that shift. Then came the Snowden release, […]

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3 for the Price of 1!: Christian Realism as God’s Totalitarianism

The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) is really three books rolled into one, with three separate but overlapping arguments. Because of this, it can be hard to follow the different strands. I thought the most helpful way to introduce my book to readers would be to unpack each of the arguments. Before I begin, though, let me define briefly my subjects, the “old ecumenical Protestant left.” Like the old left it was affiliated with, the old Protestant left has often been reduced to a few of its leaders, namely Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich; the community orientation of the movement has thereby been lost…

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Needing Niebuhr Still?

In my book, The Right of the Protestant Left (Palgrave, 2012), I tried to restore Niebuhr to his precarious place within what I called the “old ecumenical Protestant left.” The reality is, the more Niebuhr’s celebrity rose among those outside of the church, the more marginal I found that he became to the main currents of liberal American Protestantism. I’m not referring here to the pacifist circles that Niebuhr turned his prophetic pen on. Rather, his friends, colleagues, and younger brother were so frustrated by Niebuhr’s indifference toward building a inter-Protestant world community—their chief interest—that they even considered leaving him out of their project altogether. Niebuhr was eventually reconciled to the ecumenical movement by his critique of “secularism” and his analyses of national and world problems through the lens of “original sin.” Still, those closest to Niebuhr continued to deride him as the “sackcloth and ashes man,” the “sin-snooping” saint who was fundamentally out of touch with the Christian hope….

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Holder & Josephine case_Ashgate 234 x 156 case 16mm

Obama’s Irony and the American Political World — R. Ward Holder and Peter Josephson

In our last post, we noted that Barack Obama was the willing victim of a particularly delicious moment of irony. The very framework that has given sophistication and moral purpose to his governing – a Niebuhrian Christian realism – could cost him the 2012 election. While Christian realism allows a statesmanlike distance between the goals that can actually be achieved and the pretensions to virtue and excellence that may be desired, very few in the American electorate wish to hear about that. In other words, to win American elections, one must be a cheerleader, or a political evangelist.

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The Metaphysics of Exceptionalism vs. Bovine Flatulence

We face a seductive fantasy of independence from a wider, dynamic order of things, with the result that our response to challenges in international relations or ecological crisis have been rather consistently out of touch. But of course this is far from simply an American problem. I suggest that it stems from a disease of the modern subject, a way of looking at the world that treats “its” objects as inert and easily manipulated. In other words, this is a deeply-rooted metaphysical problem, a constitutional failure to account for the capacity of objects in the world to push back…..

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