Posts Tagged ‘Reinhold Niebuhr’

July 23rd, 2010

Cosmic war on a global scale: An interview with Mark Juergensmeyer

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As director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Mark Juergensmeyer brings the sociology of religion to bear on the analysis of violent conflict in the contemporary world. His recent books include Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State and Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, both published by University of California Press, and he is currently working on God and War, based on his 2006 Stafford Little Lectures at Princeton University. Together with the SSRC’s Craig Calhoun and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, he is a co-editor of the forthcoming volume Rethinking Secularism. We spoke at his home office at UCSB, perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

June 4th, 2010

American Katechon

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Nicolas Guilhot on when political theology became international relations theory.

December 15th, 2009

Obama, Christian realism, and Just War theory

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A round-up of some of the recent commentary on President Obama and the ethics of war, following the invocation of Just War theory during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

June 18th, 2009

The Niebuhr connection: Obama’s deep pragmatism

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One of the most important elements of Obama’s pragmatism is the sense that “hope” can only be “realistic” if it wishes to be more than wishful thinking and whistling in the dark, just as much as “realism” without “hope” leads principally nowhere, but merely brutally affirms whatever is and only strengthens the powers that be. This may sound trivial, a platitude, but it is not. After all, the least one can say of any truism is that it has, well, truth to it. And, in matters political—but, perhaps, not only there—insight into the paradoxical, some would say aporetic, relationship between the ideal and the real holds the key to all. It all depends on what one gives prevalence, when and where and how. No political calculation can do this trick (and keep idealism from turning into “naïve idealism” or realism into “bitter realism”), nor is instinct its sound alternative. The expression “deep pragmatism” captures nicely what is at work and required here. So much for the truism.

May 26th, 2009

Niebuhrian in the White House

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Barack Obama is often described as some kind of Niebuhrian, a tag he has encouraged by describing Reinhold Niebuhr as a major influence on his thought. Niebuhr was a complex figure who prized ambiguity and paradox, changed his positions many times, and found his way by reacting pragmatically to events—all of which may turn out to be true of Obama. But the key to Niebuhr, and to Obama’s interest in him, is the idea of combining a realistic understanding of politics and human nature with a religiously inspired idealism. Had Niebuhr lacked the humility and intellectual flexibility to change his mind numerous times, he would not have become the leading American Christian public intellectual of the twentieth century. [...]

November 7th, 2008

A public theologian

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Americans have elected the most theologically astute president since Jimmy Carter.