Reinhold Niebuhr

Richard Wightman Fox, Author Pantheon Books $19.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-394-51659-2
Although he died only 14 years ago, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr seems an elusive figure. Neoconservatives claim him for their own as a foe of Soviet communism and utopianism. Leftists champion the angry critic of consumerism, the Socialist candidate, the supporter of workplace democracy who exposed Henry Ford's exploitative practices. This biography by Fox (a historian at Reed College) is the fullest and most thoroughly researched to date, offering a vibrant portrait of the prophet-like minister whose views throughout his life were proof of his tough-minded independence. Preaching to Detroit's working-class population in the 1920s, Niebuhr told his flock that true happiness meant constant struggle, or what the world called unhappiness. In the 1930s he shocked his fellow pacifists by arguing that violence is not intrinsically immoral. In 1943, he was one of very few Americans who urged FDR to allow more European Jews to emigrate to the U.S. After World War II, Niebuhr, an anticommunist, repudiated any simple contrast between an evil Soviet regime and virtuous American democracya message that seems especially timely today. This is a valuable starting point for an understanding of Niebuhr the theologian, the political thinker and the man of action. January 21
Reviewed on: 11/01/1985
Release date: 11/01/1985
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-8014-8369-1
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