On Fri., Apr. 3, at 7:00 p.m., the 2008-2009 UFPPC Speaker Series will present Andrew Finstuen, a visiting assistant professor with a Ph.D. in History currently teaching in the Department of Religion at Pacific Lutheran, speaking about "Original Sin and the Prospects for Justice: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision for the Kingdom of God in America" at King's Books in Tacoma (218 St. Helens Ave.).  --  Reinhold Niebuhr's work had a crucial influence on Martin Luther King Jr., who read Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) in the fall of 1950.  --  As historian Taylor Branch wrote in one of President Barack Obama's favorite books, "[King] invoked Niebuhr in every one of his own major books, always with a sketch of Moral Man and Immoral Society.  He confessed that he became 'enamored' of Niebuhr . . . [King] came to describe Niebuhr as a prime influence upon his life, and Gandhian nonviolence as 'merely a Niebuhrian strategem of power.'  King devoted much of his remaining graduate school career to the study of Niebuhr, who touched him on all his tender points, from pacifism and race to sin" (Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988], p. 87).  --  More information below.[1] ...


WHAT:  "Original Sin and the Prospects for Justice: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision for the Kingdom of God in America"
WHO:  Andrew Finstuen, visiting assitant professor of American religious history, Pacific Lutheran University
WHEN:  Friday, April 3, 2009 -- 7:00 p.m.
WHERE:  King's Books, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402

In the last several years, the mid-twentieth-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr's prophetic Christian voice has been resurrected by journalists, pundits, and politicians on both the political left and the right to help make sense of the perilous twenty-first century. Indeed, both President Barrack Obama and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain have cited the influence of Niebuhr's work in shaping their views of policy. But what President Obama and Senator McCain, along with a host of other commentators, have left out -- some more than others -- in their references to the theologian is precisely the prophetic and thoroughly Christian nature of Niebuhr's thought.

When these core elements are returned to their rightful place at the center of Niebuhr's apologetic, the prophetic and pastoral dimensions of his concern for justice and the Kingdom of God are brought into sharp relief. From this perspective, Niebuhr emerges as one who deployed a specifically Christian gospel of "pessimistic optimism" that brooked no compromise with individual and national claims to perfectionism that, he argued, suffused the culture of the United States and ignored the reality of human and social sin.

Andrew S. Finstuen teaches American religious history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. He also serves as the director of PLU's International Honors Program.  In the fall of 2009, his first book, Original Sin and Everyday Protestants: The Popular Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, and Paul Tillich will be published by The University of North Carolina Press.

On Friday, April 3, 2009, at 7:00 p.m., hear Andrew Finstuen speak on "Original Sin and the Prospects for Justice: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision for the Kingdom of God in America" at King’s Books, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma. This event is free and open to the public.