Mark Edwards


The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) is really three books rolled into one, with three separate but overlapping arguments. Because of this, it can be hard to follow the different strands. I thought the most helpful way to introduce my book to readers would be to unpack each of the arguments. Before I begin, though, let me define briefly my subjects, the “old ecumenical Protestant left.” Like the old left it was affiliated with, the old Protestant left has often been reduced to a few of its leaders, namely Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich; the community orientation of the movement has thereby been lost…

Needing Niebuhr Still?

In my book, The Right of the Protestant Left (Palgrave, 2012), I tried to restore Niebuhr to his precarious place within what I called the “old ecumenical Protestant left.” The reality is, the more Niebuhr’s celebrity rose among those outside of the church, the more marginal I found that he became to the main currents of liberal American Protestantism. I’m not referring here to the pacifist circles that Niebuhr turned his prophetic pen on. Rather, his friends, colleagues, and younger brother were so frustrated by Niebuhr’s indifference toward building a inter-Protestant world community—their chief interest—that they even considered leaving him out of their project altogether. Niebuhr was eventually reconciled to the ecumenical movement by his critique of “secularism” and his analyses of national and world problems through the lens of “original sin.” Still, those closest to Niebuhr continued to deride him as the “sackcloth and ashes man,” the “sin-snooping” saint who was fundamentally out of touch with the Christian hope….