Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr

More than any crisis in modern memory, the War on Terror—including the current U.S. military presence in Iraq—is being debated in religious, usually Christian, terms. We explore the nuances of that debate with a former war correspondent, a political theorist, and a renowned preacher. We ask how and whether Christian principles really make a difference at this moment in our national life—and if not, why not?

President Obama has cited Reinhold Niebuhr's teachings as significant in shaping his ideas about politics and governance. In a public conversation, we discuss the great public theologian's legacy and ideas — and what influence they may play in the future of American politics.

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.

Reinhold Niebuhr
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr teaches a class at Union Theological Seminary. (photo: Gjon Mili/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)