A definitive collection of the theologian and public intellectual who was the conscience of the American Century. “One of my favorite philosophers,” remarked Barack Obama about the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) in 2007. President Obama is but one of the many American political leaders—including Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King Jr.—to be influenced by Niebuhr’s writings. Throughout the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, Niebuhr was one of the most prominent public voices of his time, probing with singular style the question of how to act morally in a fallen world. This Library of America volume, prepared by Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, collects four indispensable books: Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1929), Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944), and The Irony of American History (1952), along with a selection of essays, sermons, lectures, prayers, including his world-famous Serenity Prayer, and writings on current events—Prohibition, the Allied bombing of Germany, apartheid in South Africa, the Vietnam War—many of which are collected here for the first time.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
About the author
REINHOLD NIEBUHR (1892-1971) began his career as a young pastor in Detroit. By 1928, when he moved to New York City to take a position at the Union Theological Seminary, he was a committed pacifist, and ran for Congress in 1932 as a Socialist. Breaking with his pacifist and socialist associates shortly after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he articulated a realist political philosophy that aligned with his ever-evolving theology. Niebuhr’s thinking has influenced American culture in profound ways, whether through the simple but powerful “Serenity Prayer” known to millions or via the influence of his writings on social and political figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama.
ELISABETH SIFTON, an editor and book publisher for forty years, is the author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War. She lives in New York City and in Princeton, New Jersey.
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