Paul Elie, Jean Bethke Elshtain and Robin Lovin —
Moral Man and Immoral Society: Rediscovering Reinhold Niebuhr

We explore the ideas and present-day relevance of 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, an influential, boundary-crossing voice in American public life. Niebuhr created the term "Christian realism:" a middle path between religious idealism and arrogance. Exploring his wide appeal, three distinctive voices describe Niebuhr's legacy and ask what insights he brings to the political and religious dynamics of the early 21st century.

Share Episode

Shortened URL


Paul Elie

is senior editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage.

Jean Bethke Elshtain

is an author and Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Robin Lovin

is Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and the author of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Realism.

Interactive Timeline

An Interactive Timeline of Reinhold Niebuhr's Life
Interactive Timeline
Static Timeline

Selected Voices

Five Conversations

For the production of this program, Krista spoke with five people who are intimately acquainted with Reinhold Niebuhr's thought and work about how his ideas resonate in their life and work, including his daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, and Max Stackhouse. Here, you can access all the audio and transcripts.

Selected Recordings

Sermons and Lectures

Listen to archival audio of Niebuhr speaking and preaching on topics ranging from race relations to communism and human hope.

Selected Readings

A "Mike Wallace Interview" with Reinhold Niebuhr

This is an edited transcript of one of a series of thirteen Mike Wallace Interviews, produced by the American Broadcasting Company in association with the Fund for the Republic for the purpose of stimulating public discussion of the basic issues of survival and freedom in America during the 1950s and 1960s.

Reinhold Niebuhr: Does His Legacy Have a Future?

by Robin Lovin, Southern Methodist University

Notes on a Friendship: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Reinhold Niebuhr

by Ursula M. Niebuhr, delivered at the College of St. Benedict (May 16, 1983)

Reinhold Niebuhr Centennial

remarks by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (July 08, 1992)

Selected Shows

Voices on Niebuhr

Niebuhr has been quoted and cited as an influence on this show more often than any other figure, on a wide range of topics, and by thinkers and activists on the right and left. And, whether on the right or the left, invoking Niebuhr invariably adds complexity, even struggle, to religious and political positions.

Study Guide

Advanced Learning Guide for Educators and Students

Developed for educators, college students, and advanced discussion groups, this study guide focuses on six selected topics of Niebuhr's life and thought pertinent to contemporary issues Americans face today.

About the Image

On New Year's Day 1951, Reinhold Niebuhr (center) sits with two theological heavyweights at Union Theological Seminary in New York: Paul Tillich (left) and and Henry P. Van Dusen, president of the seminary.

Photo by Gjon Mili/Time Life/Getty Images

Episode Sponsor

Funding provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

Episode Sponsor

Share a Reflection




Found this from the article:
I am so moved and thankful for Krista Tippitt. I also ordered the book Moral Man and Immoral Society. Just trying to get through these times and people like Trump and his angry supporters. Trying to understand.