Picking What We Like From Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr just won’t go away—which, for a twentieth-century liberal theologian, is saying something. Nearly a half-century after his death in 1971 he is still regularly cited in discussions of American politics (Barack Obama called him his “favorite philosopher”), many of his books are still in print, and in 2015 his major works were published by the Library of America. Now he is the subject of an impressively produced documentary—broadcasting on PBS and the World Channel this month—that will further encourage interest in America’s most popular and brilliant midcentury intellectual.

The Mother of Invention

In 1948, as Israel was heading into its first war, an IDF general sent a letter to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s new prime minister, thanking him for the offer of chief of staff, but politely declining because he had learned that the Jewish State only had six million bullets. “We will need 1 million bullets a day in a war and I am not willing to be chief of staff for just six days,” he wrote.