Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Favourite Place in Autumn

Moral Man and Immoral Society

Moral Man and Immoral SocietyMoral Man and Immoral Society by Reinhold Niebuhr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have never been a fan of Niebuhr. But I'd never actually read him. Only secondary treatments. Having been influenced by Yoder and Hauerwas, his Christian realism never set well with me. That it could be claimed by neo-cons and liberals both in the last 13 years of American political life, didn't help.

But I found myself more persuaded than I expected. Maybe it is because I've grown more pessimistic and cynical?

I began the book in August when the world appeared to be going to hell (that I was behind on finishing it is one of the things I wanted to get done this week), and it's opening statements that humanity could not be expected to improve much for many more centuries fit the mood of the time.

The book is so much more political thought than traditional theology. That alone surprised me. If you want a careful analysis of the state of reform in the early 30's, here it is, with his prognostications that another world war is probably necessary before humanity really begins the necessary changes to bring about justice and equality.

He is critical of moralists who think that society can abide by the same ethics as individuals. He doesn't think it can, at least at this point in human development. He is critical of Gandhi, but appreciates that Gandhi isn't the typical pacifist or believer in non-resistance. Gandhi engages in coercive resistance. Niebuhr doesn't think that non-violence is inherently more moral than violence, that either approach is simply a means to an end and both can be coercive in destructive ways. He does advocate the approach for "the American Negro," believing that it is the only approach that will lead to their equality.

There is more of value for me to consider from this book than I expected. And I am almost certain to use elements of the opening chapters in my Advent sermon series "Be Not Afraid."

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