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In the 1950s, Reinhold Niebuhr advanced a theology of history rooted in his theology of the Cross. From that vantage point, he challenged conventional, dualistic interpretations of the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and America’s post-Second World War economic and technological prominence. While he favoured democracy over communism, African American rights over segregation, and abundance over scarcity, he rejected what he thought of as the human pretension to simplify such complex historical phenomena by appeals to American goodness. Instead Niebuhr saw the logic of the Cross as the surest route for navigating the confusion and ironies of history while also creating the conditions for greater forms of justice in history.

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This document was originally published in pp. 59-74 of The Oxford Handbook of Reinhold Niebuhr, edited by Robin Lovin and Joshua Mauldin, 2021, and is reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. Copyright restrictions may apply.

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