Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Bible in one hand, The Nation in the other

In the thick of the Detroit auto boom in 1927, the young pastor Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this entry into his journal:
I believe every preacher ought to take several radical journals, preferably the ones which are extremely inimical to religion. The ethical ideals of Christianity are so high and the compromises which the average church and the average minister has made between these ideals and the economic necessities of society are so great, and self-deception is so easy, that we need the corrective and perhaps cynical evaluation of religion in modern life.

I should like to recommend this kind of reading who are so easily obsessed by a messianic complex because of the compliments they receive. Let them remind themselves that there are astute observers who think that all their preaching is superficial and never touches the fundamental defects of modern society, and that these critics are at least as near the truth as their too generous devotees (Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, Meridian Books, 1957, p. 204.)
Were you aware, gentle readers, that Niebuhr wrote prodigiously for such secular journals as The Nation and The New Republic as well as the newly established Christian Century? If you wish to take up Niebuhr's advice, doubtless you can find what you need via the blogosphere and Twitter. But if you are still a little perplexed, allow me to get you started with this.

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