From world war to cold war, liberalism to liberationism

Building a Protestant Left: Christianity and Crisis Magazine, 1941-1993.
By Mark Hulsether. University of Tennessee Press, 416 pp.

In 1941, ten months before America entered World War II, Reinhold Niebuhr launched Christianity and Crisis magazine for the specific purpose of attacking the near-pacifist anti-interventionism of the Christian Century. Having made his reputation in the 1920s as the Century's fount of social and political opinions, Niebuhr set out to create a mainline Protestant alternative to the Century. For the next 25 years, C&C defined the politics of a dominant Christian realism in American Protestant ethics, principally through the voices of Niebuhr and John Bennett. Niebuhr and his associates made the case for a "vital center" politics that was strongly anticommunist, stoutly committed to an expanding American welfare state, and decidedly harder-edged than the social gospel liberalism it dethroned.

C&C wore its establishment credentials proudly. It identified with the northeastern mainstream of the Democratic Party. It invoked the "we" of mainline American Protestantism interchangeably with the "we" of America. Niebuhr towered over the field of Christian ethics, advised government officials, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine.