Advanced Learning Guide for Educators and Students

Advanced Learning Guide for Educators and Students

The materials here provide a wide range of opportunities to explore and appraise the contributions of Reinhold Niebuhr to American religious and public life. To begin, we suggest listening to and reading the transcript of the On Being program devoted to Niebuhr. Then you may want to take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the other materials you can access. They include the complete transcripts of the interviews that comprised the program, sermons and lectures by Niebuhr himself, listings (and some texts) of additional resources such as manuscripts and books by Niebuhr, complete texts of articles about Niebuhr's life and thought, and many others.

The sets of study questions and guides to discussion focus on selected topics, including Niebuhr's ministry in Detroit, his role as a public intellectual, his views on war and peace, his understanding of the American nation, among others. These questions may be used as part of college and seminary courses on American religion, ethics, American intellectual history, and cultural studies to initiate discussion or stimulate reflection. They might also form the basis for reports by students. But they are also designed to be used by church or civic discussion groups interested in the issues and even by individuals who wish to have some framework to begin thinking about Niebuhr. The topics are by no means exhaustive, but are simply starting places to initiate more serious study of Niebuhr.

The questions identify only a few of the materials that you can access to expand inquiry and discussion. For teachers and students using this material in courses, these materials may open up resources for essays and term papers that go well beyond the topical areas identified. But many of those materials can be accessed on the Web site. Following each set of questions is a series of "talking points" designed to get conversation and thinking underway. Then each topic area also includes some suggestions for further reading, not all of which is accessible on the Web site.

As one of the most influential thinkers in the United States in the twentieth century, Reinhold Niebuhr left an enduring legacy. The On Being program, study guide, and variety of supporting materials accessible here are intended to provide an initial introduction to Niebuhr. Our hope is that you will find rich stimulation for reflecting on Niebuhr and the ways in which he discussed problems and issues that still engage our common life today.

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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.