Further information on Fall 2019 courses


Richard Crouter: Reinhold Niebuhr on Democracy in Perilous Times


Course readings (subject to revision)

Books for the course, available at Content Bookstore and also in used editions, are Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of its Traditional Defense (1944), listed below as CLCD, and Richard Crouter, Reinhold Niebuhr: On Politics, Religion, and Christian Faith (2010), listed as RN.

Occasional handouts will supplement our two main texts.  Niebuhr’s name continues to surface in the current political situation. Students are encouraged to keep track of “Niebuhr citations” and uses of his name by pundits, op-ed writers, or bloggers and to share those discoveries with the class.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

Sept. 11    Introduction to Niebuhr, his work, and the Niebuhr revival of recent years

View the 2017 PBS documentary film made by Martin Doblmeier, An American Conscience: The Story of Reinhold Niebuhr (58 min.);
Crouter, RN, chapter 1: Why Niebuhr in a New Era?, 3-18;
(Handout, given out in class): 2-page bio and timeline

Sept. 18   His Fundamental View of Human Nature and the Vagaries of History

Crouter, RN, chapter 2: Taking the Long View of History, 19-40 and chapter 3: Recognizing Human Ambiguity, 41-58;
Give out Study Guide for CLCD with a Niebuhr glossary.

Sept. 25   Idealism v. Cynicism in Seeking a Just Society

Niebuhr, CLCD, chapter I: The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, 1-41

 Oct. 2    Classic tensions between the Individual and Community in Political Life

Niebuhr, CLCD, chapter II: The Individual and the Community, 42-85.

Oct. 9     Economic Power, Property, and the Rights of the Less Privileged

Niebuhr, CLCD, chapter III: The Community and Property, 86-118;
Crouter, RN, Chapter 4: Connecting with Wit and Words, 59-76

Oct. 16   The Difficulty and Necessity of Toleration in a Democratic Society

Niebuhr, CLCD, chapter IV: Democratic Toleration and the Groups of the Community, 119-152;
Crouter, RN, chapter 6: Debating Politics and the Christian Faith, 96-115;
(Handouts) “Niebuhr on Jews and Christians;” “Niebuhr on Race.”

Oct. 23   Justice on the World Stage: A Possibility or Utopian Illusion?

Niebuhr, CLCD, chapter V: The World Community, 153-190; Crouter, RN, Chapter 5: Revisiting America with Irony, 77-95

Oct. 30   Assessing the Relevance of Niebuhr for Today’s World

RN, Chapter 7: Living with Niebuhr’s Legacy, 116-139; (Handout) Reinhold Niebuhr, “A View of Life from the Sidelines,” (1967), originally published in The Christian Century (1984)