Our Geopolitical Moment
We are not perfect, and we need to understand that we are not perfect, and that others who are angry at us often have good grounds for their anger. At the same time, our critics are not perfect, and to simply say, Whatever they say about us must be right, and so we must do the opposite of what we've doneNiebuhr was a very trenchant critic of that thinking.
He helps us realize that living in an imperfect world, it's not about building utopia. Niebuhr argued very clearly that the Western liberal capitalist system wasn't a utopia. Some of the decisions that you make and things that you do will be wrong; some of the courses you have to follow are going to be necessarily imperfect courses. You're not going to be a hundred percent in the right in every war that you fight. Nevertheless, you have to fight the war.
The optimism that is so much a part of the Anglo-American tradition needs to be liberally and frequently salted with Niebuhrian skepticism. At the same time, Niebuhr reminds us that this can't be an excuse for inaction and passivity. We have to be engaged. These ideas can contribute enormously to the intellectual and social formation of a new generation of American leaders whose roots are in faith communities.
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God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World is available from Amazon.com and other retailers.
Foreign Affairs published Mead's 2006 article about evangelicals and foreign affairs.
The Winter 2006 issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs was devoted to Mead's original Foreign Affairs article, and included responses from Galli, Richard Land, Ron Sider, Jim Skillen, and others.