Transcript: Obama's Favorite Theologian? A Short Course on Reinhold Niebuhr

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Speaker: Wilfred M. McClay

SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Venue: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s Faith Angle Conference


05/04/2009 - Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in May 2009 for the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life.

Ever since then-Sen. Barack Obama spoke of his admiration for Reinhold Niebuhr in a 2007 interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks, there has been speculation about the extent to which the 20th-century theologian has influenced Obama's views on faith, politics and social change. Wilfred McClay, a historian specializing in American intellectual history and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America, which won the 1995 Merle Curti Award in intellectual history, offered an overview of Niebuhr's unique form of progressive Christianity and addressed ongoing debates about the influence of Niebuhr's work on 20th-century American politics and international affairs. E.J. Dionne, columnist for The Washington Post, remarked on the recent revival of interest in Niebuhrian thought and spoke about the role Niebuhr played as a public intellectual active during the worldwide political upheavals of the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

Speaker: 
Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Respondent: 
E.J. Dionne Jr., Columnist, The Washington Post; Senior Advisor, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life

Moderator:
Michael Cromartie, Vice President, Ethics & Public Policy Center; Senior Advisor, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life

Read the full transcript Obama's Favorite Theologian? A Short Course on Reinhold Niebuhr on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Web site.

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