Sunday, June 21, 2009
REINHOLD NIEBUHR b. JUNE 21ST 1892
"One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay that leads to death has already begun."
speaking of resurrections, niebuhr had pretty much disappeared from any kind of conversation in & about america. i studied niebuhr, along w/his brother, in a seminar at new college w/jay moseley.
obama has mentioned him as his favorite "philosopher" & he's being referenced again in various books & magazine articles. he's another guy philip & i used to argue about. i think philip preferred reinhold & i preferred richard, his brother. i know i preferred richard's prose but he also started moving towards a wider acceptance of other world religions. not to say that reinhold didn't agree w/his brother but his brother made his positions explicit.
mainly, a solid cold war democratic liberal, warts & all. he took on the great events of his life(two world wars & various smaller ones, desegregation, the cold war w/russia)& wrote about them thoughtfully through the clear lens of his christian faith. he wrote at a time when christian faith could intelligently inform a political position. he was as engaged in the world & it's affairs as sartre was. he was that extinct beast known as a public intellectual. it's good to have him back.