An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story

An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Pictured: Reinhold Niebuhr

Credit: Photo courtesy of MPT

As the Great Depression gripped America in the 1930s, American-born theologian Reinhold Niebuhr rocked the liberal Christian community with the publication of "Moral Man and Immoral Society", which challenged the idea of inherent progress and justice in history. 

An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, airing Monday, April 17, 2017 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV, examines the career and global impact of renowned theologian, who became a voice of conscience to a country reaching the pinnacle of its economic and political power. Reinhold Niebuhr explored fundamental concepts such as human nature, power and justice in his writings.

Niebuhr's early warnings about the rise of fascism in Japan and Germany presaged the role of the U.S. in World War II. During and after the war, he helped establish the infrastructure that gave Christian churches and thinkers a voice in postwar politics and proved instrumental in the effort to form the World Council of Churches. Through archival photos, recordings and interviews with his daughter, former students, The New York Times writer David Brooks and civil rights icon Andrew Young, the documentary also explores Niebuhr's influence and impact on numerous leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., President Barack Obama, and former President Jimmy Carter. With revealing insights from academic experts who discuss his life and influence, the stories capture Niebuhr's seminal role in American life. Perhaps the clearest indication of the scope of his appeal is the popularity of his Serenity Prayer, most prominently used by Alcoholics Anonymous.