Religion: Irony for Americans

U.S. Protestantism's foremost theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr.*has written a thoughtful and hardheaded essay on his country's political philosophy. The Irony of American History (Scribner; $2.50) is an odd-sounding title—most native commentaries on U.S. politics stress such words as "challenge," "promise" or "hope." Niebuhr uses his word advisedly. Not so final as tragedy, not so hopeless as pathos, the ironic view is a Christian study of the "unconscious weakness" by which classic American strengths and virtues have subtly developed into shortcomings.

The ironies in the U.S. position, as Historian Niebuhr sees them, are sad...

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