Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Signs statement opposing bombing of Japan

Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Signs statement opposing bombing of Japan

Correspondence with Will Scarlett

The Courier-Herald Co. Inc.


July 25

Dear Will:

It is nice to have your letters, but I doubt whether I can be of aid to you on the moral and theological issues of international relations because my mind is in a flux in regard to this matter. We have both resisted the "pure" christian solution of pacifism. In regard to the nuclear stalemate, proposals for unilateral disarmament are in the pacifist category. If you rule that out and rely, as we must on a precarious nuclear stalemate, all the problems of a Christian social ethic are raised to the nth degree. We must become involved in the prospective guilt of a possible nuclear war in order to avoid war. As I see it there are no strictly moral but only religious principles to govern our action. On the moral plane a nuclear stalemate is the old balance of force by which all peace and justice is maintained. It is a law of justice and not of the gospel. Religiously we have more to say about the peril of self-righteousness […]

Reinhold Niebuhr Papers: Library of Congress, Manuscript Reading Room

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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.