Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reinhold Niebuhr rediscovered - SOF podcast

The Speaking of Faith podcast observes that the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr resurfaces in thinking and influences both progressives and conservatives. The podcast shows Niebuhr to have been a very careful thinker. He was aware of the aspiration of man to be a moral actor, but simultaneously to the fallibility translating this personal level to the societal. Show host Krista Tippett interviews Paul Elie who says:
The very idealism that has animated so many good things in the history of this country also lead us to be arrogant, lead us to be insensitive to the cultures of other peoples, lead us to overestimate the ability to get things to go our way.

The program shows how Niebuhr's views made him take a position for worker's rights, against segregation and the war in Vietnam, yet also in favor of American involvement in the Second World War as well as the Cold War. His book Moral Man and Immoral Society has influenced not just human right activists such as Martin Luther King, but also conservative thinkers and politicians.

The program, as well as current thinkers try to apply Niebuhr's thoughts to current issues such as the war in Iraq, on Terror, Gay Marriage and more. A definitive answer cannot be given, but Niebuhr does not seem to invite that but rather to put borders, pointers and safeguards in our politics. In addition to what was aired on the radio and in the podcast, the website offers a transcript and extended versions of the interviews and other material pertaining the issue.
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