Niebuhr, Carter and Obama Understand History as “a larger realm of Mystery”
by James M. Wall
Reinhold Niebuhr's influence on former President Jimmy Carter has been evident throughout Carter's political career. That influence is even more pronounced in Carter's post-presidency.
Carter is a political realist who understands, and acts on, Niebuhr's concept of the irony of history.
William Dean, a retired faculty member at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, was moved recently to write about Barack Obama's potential as the second president with a working knowledge of Niebuhrian realism.
Dean describes Niebuhr this way:
Niebuhr looked long and hard at history and claimed to see what the Bible did. He saw a record of personal and group pride so appalling and unremitting that it should cause us to distrust every nation and every leader, and every politician and preacher who glorifies them. That same skepticism should also be directed at the rest of us, who regularly exaggerate our virtue and diminish our vice.
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