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Why Niebuhr Matters (Why X Matters Series) Hardcover – November 29, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"From beginning to end this book is a wonderful read—brisk, intelligent, and relevant, filled with delicious asides, personal reflections, and unexpected turns."—Alan Wolfe, Boston College
(Alan Wolfe 2011-05-10)

“Reinhold Niebuhr's account of moral engagement in the face of both impersonal social systems and more personal forms of evil does indeed matter today. So does his example. Charles Lemert tells Neibuhr's story with feeling and analyzes his writings with intelligence. I'm both moved and grateful.”—Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council
(Craig Calhoun)

"A lifetime of academic study and theological reflection has prepared Charles Lemert to write this lucid and moving interpretation of Reinhold Niebuhr. Lemert, one of America's most distinguished sociologists, can portray the influence of thinkers as diverse as Max Weber and St. Augustine on Niebuhr's work. Gifted with a crystal clear writing style, Lemert has produced that rarest of treasures: a serious scholarly work that wears its learning lightly and that is immediately accessible to the interested lay reader."—Walter Russell Mead, Editor-at-Large of The American Interest
(Walter Russell Mead)

“Reinhold Niebuhr, as a theologian and political thinker, has never been more urgently relevant than he is today. Charles Lemert has eloquently located Niebuhr's work in its original setting while highlighting its critical importance to the international moral dilemmas we currently face. This well-crafted book is for anyone interested in the interaction of religion, politics and morality.”—Harvey Cox, Harvard University
(Harvey Cox)

"A gifted and creative expositor, Lemert provides careful analyses of Niebuhr's most important works, the develoment of his thinking in response to his own life history and concurrent world events, and his study of thinkers like Augustine and Max Weber. . . . Scholars and laypersons alike will find this volume valuable. Highly recommended."—Choice
(P. L. Urban, Jr. Choice 2012-06-01)

Book Description

Although Niebuhr died in 1971, political leaders including Barack Obama, Madeleine Albright, and John McCain acknowledge his influence on their thinking today. This concise book explains why Niebuhr remains important in our own uncertain times.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Why X Matters Series
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Printing edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300175426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300175424
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For several years, I've had Reinhold Niebuhr's "Moral Man and Immoral Society" and "The Nature and Destiny of Man," by far his two most well-known books, resting on my bookshelf, but never felt it urgent enough to read them any time soon. In some ways, Charles Lemert's book about the elder Niebuhr brother changed this. This book's main strength is Lemert's hagiographic voice, one that is almost always prepared to mount a passionate and reasoned defense of Niebuhr's views; its main weaknesses are frequent and somewhat lengthy jeremiads into political and social issues Niebuhr was never able to address himself, because they took place after Niebuhr's death, and which often come across as sanctimonious grandstanding on the part of Lemert.

Niebuhr was born in Missouri, the son of German immigrants. His father was a German Evangelical pastor (which was absorbed into the United Church of Christ in the 1950s). His origins were austere, but there must have been something truly special going on in the Niebuhr household: not only did Reinhold become a leading theologian and ethicist, his brother Richard taught the history of religion at Yale, and his sister Hulda was a vocal proponent of Christian education and professor of divinity in Chicago at a time when women were still rarely afforded the opportunity to attend university, let alone be awarded teaching positions.

After attending Yale Divinity School and taking his M.A. (but never the terminal Ph.D.), Niebuhr took became a pastor at a small church in Detroit where he quickly became enamored with the culturally and economically liberal message of the Social Gospel, and spoke out against what he thought were the abuses and greed of Henry Ford.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I got the main ideas Lemert makes about why he believes Niebuhr is still important today, and I agree with him. But I think Lemert's prose is just as hard to get through as Niebuhr's prose is to understand. I really like Niebuhr's ideas but I would like a book that's sentence structure is easier to comprehend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very pleased with both the service and the product. I'm glad to get my hands on yet another book about my intellectual inspiration, a person who broke new ground in the area of social ethics (and not just from a Christian perspective).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Clear and concise arguments and strong connection with present geo social complexities and disappointment with political leadership. He brings out Niebuhr's relevance and meaning for today and for those anxious about current global challenges. his thesis also addresses those who are idealists and skeptics. This is not a "how to book" but conveys reassuring insights about how to respond to the assumptions implicit in the doctrines of global consumerism and expanding capital as the answer to life's questions.
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