Birthday of Reinhold Niebuhr | Naming the Days


Numerous individuals know Reinhold Niebuhr, even when not directly, via the Serenity Prayer which he authored and which 12-Step packages like Alcoholics Nameless adopted. That is the model that he most popular:

“God, give us grace to just accept with serenity
the issues that can not be modified, braveness
to alter the issues which needs to be modified,
and the knowledge to differentiate the one from the opposite.”

Within the full model of the unique (ca. 1942), Niebuhr went on to say:

“Dwelling sooner or later at a time,
Having fun with one second at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it’s,
Not as I’d have it,
Trusting that You’ll make all issues proper,
If I give up to Your will,
In order that I could also be moderately pleased on this life,
And supremely proud of You endlessly within the subsequent.

This prayer picks up a number of of the primary themes within the teachings of this Reformed theologian, Union Theological Seminary professor, and influential commentator on public affairs, who was born in Missouri on at the present time in 1892. In contrast to those that adhered to liberal theologies well-liked in his time, Niebuhr counted sin into his world view, Christian Realism. He knew by remark that teams of individuals search their very own benefit over the wants of others and that historical past reveals people as effectively to be tainted by insecurities and defensiveness. However he additionally had a belief that God may make issues proper and that by accepting hardship and overcoming pretensions, individuals may work towards peace.

Niebuhr’s theology and politics morphed with altering instances and his personal altering circumstances. His first pastorate — after receiving a Bachelor of Divinity diploma (1914) and a Grasp of Arts (1915) from Yale College — was in Detroit, the place he turned a socialist in help of laborers within the auto business. In 1928, he left to show at Union Theological Seminary in New York Metropolis. He remained there for greater than 30 years, and within the Nineteen Thirties, he broke with the Socialist social gathering. Repulsed by World Conflict I, he had been a pacifist, however he got here to imagine that nonviolent options don’t work in all conditions.

Within the Nineteen Forties he turned an anti-Communist Democrat, and he did a lot to steer Christians of the significance of combating Hitler. His 1952 basic, The Irony of American Historical past, checked out America’s position within the Chilly Conflict and the convenience with which assumed advantage can flip into vice. He was one of many first theologians to oppose the U.S. involvement within the battle in Vietnam, contemplating intervention to be an faulty means of imposing options.

Creator of greater than a dozen books on theology, politics, and ethics, Niebuhr influenced individuals not solely in his day however even as much as the current, starting from Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama on the left to John McCain and David Brooks on the suitable. Barack Obama wrote, “[Niebuhr] is considered one of my favourite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling concept that there’s critical evil on the earth, and hardship and ache. And we needs to be humble and modest in our perception we will get rid of these issues. However we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have now to make these efforts realizing they’re exhausting.”

Niebuhr was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. He died on June 1, 1971 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

To Identify This Day . . .


Which of the next quotes by Reinhold Niebuhr evokes you to see the world in slightly totally different means than you had been? Carry that quote with you as we speak for reflection.

“Humor is the prelude to religion, and laughter the start of prayer.”
— quoted in Praying with Physique and Soul by Jane Vennard

“Our desires of bringing the entire of human historical past underneath the management of the human will are satirically refuted by the truth that no group of idealists can simply transfer the sample of historical past towards the specified objective of peace and justice. The recalcitrant forces within the historic drama have an influence and persistence past our reckoning.”
— in The Irony of American Historical past

“Nothing we do, nonetheless virtuous, may be completed alone; subsequently, we’re saved by love. No virtuous act is sort of as virtuous from the standpoint of our buddy or foe as from our personal; subsequently, we’re saved by the ultimate type of love, which is forgiveness.”
— in The Irony of American Historical past

“My private angle towards atheists is similar angle that I’ve towards Christians, and could be ruled by a really orthodox textual content: ‘By their fruits shall ye know them.’ I would not choose a person by the presuppositions of his life, however solely by the fruits of his life. And the fruits — the related fruits — are, I might say, a way of charity, a way of proportion, a way of justice. And whether or not the person is an atheist or a Christian, I’d choose him by his fruits, and I’ve subsequently many agnostic buddies.”
— in an interview with Mike Wallace, ABC TV (April 27, 1958)

“One of many basic factors about non secular humility is you say you do not know in regards to the final judgment. It is past your judgment. And in case you equate God’s judgment along with your judgment, you’ve got a improper faith.”
— in an interview with Mike Wallace, ABC TV (April 27, 1958)

Religious Practices

In When True Simplicity Is Gained, Martin and Micah Marty quote Niebuhr as praying, “O God, who hast certain us collectively on this bundle of life, give us grace to know how our lives rely upon the braveness, the business, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow people; that we could also be trustworthy in our tasks to them.”

Write down three ways in which your life depends upon the braveness, business, honesty, and integrity of others. If the names of any individuals personally come to thoughts, you might need to share your listing with them and thank them.


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