Obama embraces both the idealistic and realistic poles of Christian action. He recognizes with Niebuhr that politics is inherently tragic.
Two years before he died, Reinhold Niebuhr published one of his best-known articles. He didn't write it alone.
In the first issue of the magazine named the Christian Century, in January 1900, the editors said that their special interest was in “the application of Christian principles to character and social problems.” They also spoke of their hope to make the kingdom of God “a divine reality in human society.” This, of course, was what we know today as the “social gospel”—the attempt to move beyond individual piety to address broad social problems. What relevance does that social gospel vision have today?