John Armstrong writes an endorsement of Reinhold Niebuhr (good!) in the context of an endorsement of David Brooks (bad!). I've got a lot of quibbles with what he writes, but the passage I'd like to comment on is this:
A good dose of Niebuhr would, surprisingly to many, correct much of the present cultural silliness that passes for sound reasoning when it comes to the question of how man relates to God in public society. Both liberals and conservatives would profit from Niebuhr's engagement with these issues, which came during and after World War II. His work may be more important now than it was when he wrote it but few seem to care anymore. I am glad Brooks put him back on our map this week. I hope we will discuss Niebuhr's work with fresh interest in the coming years. His attempt to do serious public ethics would be a great help to us in this confusing and amoral time.
I certainly can't argue with the idea that reading Niebuhr is good for the spiritual and intellectual health of both liberals and conservatives, although my own Niebuhrian inclinations make me suspicious of too much reliance on one thinker as the source of wisdom. Nevertheless, I've written endorsements of Niebuhr's contemporary relevance several times (Here, here, and here, for example). Plus, as the secretary of the Niebuhr Society, I've got an incentive to draw ever more attention to Niebuhr's influence.
However, I'm actually impressed that more and more the name of Niebuhr is found to be on the minds of contemporary religious and political thinkers. Consider the Speaking of Faith story that I've cited before, as well as Arthur Schlesinger's recent article in the New York Times. On the whole, it seems like Niebuhr's influence is waxing, not waning. That, along with the renewed interested in Deitrich Bonhoefffer, is a hopeful sign for religious ethics in the next decade. I would simply council John to have hope in Reinnie's continuing influence, and to promote his thought as widely as he can. That's what I'm shooting for!