As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the U.S. finds itself in a mess of historic proportions. Our economic crisis was preceded by a near-universal collapse in judgment about the use of U.S. military force abroad. This mess is profoundly embarrassing because it is of our own making and therefore one that could have been avoided.
Confronting and analyzing such embarrassments was theologian Rein hold Niebuhr’s specialty. More specifically, he excelled in exploring the doctrine of original sin and its social and political ramifications. Niebuhr observed that the concept of original sin is universally rejected by “all schools of modern culture” and is “offensive to the modern mind.” That rejection, Niebuhr thought, was itself a symptom of original sin.
Andrew Finstuen is the author of Original Sin and Everyday Protestants: The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, and Paul Tillich in an Age of Anxiety. He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.