Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reinhold Niebuhr is smart

I'm reading Niebuhr's The Irony of American History.  The book was written in the 1950s, in the middle of the cold war, as the United States started to take on a bigger role in the world.  The book serves as both a critique of American ideas and a message of hope for the future.  Niebuhr presents so many good ideas in the book that I need to copy them down somewhere.  So, I'm going to put them here.

"Our confidence in happiness as the end of life, and in prosperity as the basis of happiness is challenged by every duty and sacrifice, every wound and anxiety which our world-wide responsibilities bring upon us."

"Television may represent a threat to our culture analogous to the threat of atomic weapons to our civilizations."

"We seek a solution for practically every problem of life in quantitative terms; and are not fully aware of the limits of this approach.  The constant multiplication of our high school and college enrollments has not had the effect of making us the most "intelligent" nation, whether we measure intelligence in terms of social wisdom, aesthetic discrimination, spiritual serenity or any other basic human achievement.  It may have made us technically the most proficient nation, thereby proving that technical efficiency is more easily achieved in purely quantitative terms than any other value of culture."

"The final wisdom of life requires, not the annulment of incongruity but the achievement of serenity within and above it."

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.  Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.  Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.  No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint.  Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."