Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism/ Christian idealism
McKeogh, C. (2007). Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism/ Christian idealism. In W. D. Clinton (Ed.), The Realist Tradition and Contemporary International Relations (pp. 191-211). United States of America: Louisiana State University Press.
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The foregoing quip captures a realization that came to the young Reinhold Niebuhr in the 192os and that turned the liberal Christian pastor away from pacifism and toward a more realist ethic of politics. From then until his death in 1971, Niebuhr was to remain always a liberal Christian of realist bent. He was a liberal Christian in his concentration on the law of love as the only absolute and in his rejection of Christian fundamentalism, biblical literalism, and the consequent clash with science. He was a political realist, and rose to national prominence as such in the 1930S and 1940s, in his dismissal of pragmatic pacifism and his advocacy of American responsibility to use force in opposing the Nazi and Soviet threats to the world. He was famous particularly for his sharp attacks on those who failed to see the limits on morality in politics. Yet this realism was but one strand of Niebuhr's dualist approach to politics, the other being his Christian idealism.
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This chapter has been published in the book: The Realist Tradition and Contemporary International Relations. © 2007 Louisiana State University Press. Used with permission.