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Should My Faith Impact My Politics?

By Peter Murphy

Reinhold Niebuhr has influenced pastors, presidents, professors, business leaders and more. In An American Conscience, Jeremy Sabella explores the life of Niebuhr, who lived and worked in America during the tumultuous times of both World Wars and well after. Throughout his life Niebuhr held many titles: pastor, theologian, ethics professor, and writer.


What does the book cover?

During his life Niebuhr published many books, as well as nearly 2600 papers and articles. These writings were generally written to challenge Christians to embody a faith filled ethic in their given context. Sabella shapes his survey of Niebuhr’s life around many of these writings, offering the reader many excerpts and summaries which provide a vivid window into Niebuhr’s thought and life. One will also become familiar with many of the things that Niebuhr is well known for, like his writing of The Serenity Prayer, a written prayer, which has been widely adapted by Alcoholics Anonymous. Sabella also does a terrific job of informing the reader about many of the things Niebuhr is less known for. A few examples being Niebuhr’s influence upon race relations in America, his advocacy for the plight of the laborer, and his fight to develop a society where ethics serve all citizens but especially the marginalized.


Something I particularly enjoyed:

One aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed was the authors exploration of the relationship that Niebuhr had with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A German pastor, who eventually went on to be an important leader in the confessing church in Germany during the Nazi regime. A man who also wrote Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship, two books which have profoundly influenced Christians the world over.


Why should you read this book?

Ask yourself these questions. What is the context of my faith? Does my faith find expression in my life, in my culture, or is it just a mental belief that has no practical expression? Should my faith only impact my personal life? Should my belief in Jesus Christ impact the way I engage with my community? This account of Niebuhr’s life will challenge you to live out the implications of the Gospel not only in your personal context but within your societal context as well.


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