Daniel A. Morris is a lecturer in the Religion Department at Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois). His research in Christian ethics and American religious history has appeared in The Journal of Religion, Soundings, and Journal of Religious Ethics. His book, entitled Virtue and Irony in American Democracy: Revisiting Dewey and Niebuhr, was recently published with Lexington Books.
As we inch toward the presidential elections of 2016, crawling through a seemingly endless desert of soundbites, debates, and TV advertisements, we would do well to step back and revisit Reinhold Niebuhr’s Cold War liberalism. The new collection of Niebuhr’s Major Works on Religion and Politics, edited by Elisabeth Sifton, shows that Niebuhr’s political reflections are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote, and can guide us through the political wasteland in which we currently find ourselves.
Part of the frustration of reading Niebuhr on racial injustice comes from the fact that, as Paeth says, Niebuhr failed to support black liberation and empowerment at the precise moments when the logic of his Augustinian thought should have told him to do so most strongly.
Maybe it’s strange to think about political theology at a wedding ceremony. But political theology was on my mind a few years ago, when I attended the wedding of a same-sex couple in my extended family. The recent victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington have me thinking about political theology again. I had a Thomist epiphany at that wedding years ago, and as the levees blocking marriage equality seem ready to break, I’d like to share that experience…