Claremont School of Theology invites the community to view An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story on March 29, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in Mudd Theater, exploring the life and impact of the author of the “Serenity Prayer,” Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr rose from a small Midwest church pulpit to become the nation’s moral voice — an American conscience — and his writings provided guidance and inspiration for presidents, politicians, theologians and others.
“Niebuhr was always present in my mind when I was President and facing the constant threat of nuclear war.” – Jimmy Carter
An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story is directed, written and narrated by Martin Doblmeier, the creator of dozens of provocative, award-winning films on faith including Chaplains and Bonhoeffer. Doblmeier will be available for a Q & A with audience members after the showing. Rich in archival material, the documentary features interviews with former President Jimmy Carter, Cornel West, Andrew Young, David Brooks, Susannah Heschel, and a host of internationally recognized historians and theologians.
“Reinhold Niebuhr makes me shake and tremble when I think of the depth of his courage.” – Cornel West
Although he may be best remembered today as the author of the famed “Serenity Prayer,” Niebuhr — an outspoken American-born pastor, writer, and political activist — remains one of the most influential public theologians of our time. Presidents from Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter have credited his impact on their thinking, as well as John McCain, countless historians, theologians, political thinkers, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who cited Niebuhr in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“Whenever there was a conversation about power, Niebuhr came up. Niebuhr kept us from being naive about the evil structures of society.” – Andrew Young
“Claremont School of Theology is honored that our long-time friend, Martin Doblmeier, is returning to campus to share yet another deeply inspirational film,” said The Rev. Dr. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “His works are profound and our entire community is fortunate to have access to his great insights.”
Niebuhr’s career spanned some of the most tumultuous decades in American history, from World War I through Vietnam, from the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Movement. An early pacifist and socialist, he was closely monitored by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI throughout his life, but would later serve as a consultant to the State Department during the Cold War.
Niebuhr’s books, Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), The Nature and Destiny of Man (1941–43) and The Irony of American History (1952), continue to influence theological and political thinking. An American original, his unique insights into human nature and its relationship to political movements and social justice propelled him to speak openly, and often critically, to an America consumed by moral certainty. For Niebuhr, the priority was always justice, his guiding principle was hope in a redeemer God, and his weapon was an extraordinary gift for clarity of thought that made him a leading voice of conscience for his time.
An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story is produced by Journey Films, Inc., and is a presentation of Maryland Public Television. Major funding provided by the Lilly Endowment. Additional funding provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.