Wise Words from H. Richard Niebuhr

Photo courtesy of Catholic News Service

Over the last few weeks, I've had a number of conversations and written a few blog posts about the intersection of faith, education and culture. They are themes that are always relevant and yet supremely elusive. As I've contemplated these issues my mind has frequently returned to a passage from H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture (1951) that helps make sense of so much of both the opportunities and challenges within these themes. More and more, in fact, I find it to be the implicit starting point for my own reflections. According to Niebuhr:

Christ claims no man purely as a natural being, but always as one who has become human in culture; who is not only in culture, but into whom culture has penetrated. Man not only speaks but thinks with the aid of the language of culture. Not only has the objective world about him been modified by human achievement; but the forms and attitudes of his mind which allow him to make sense out of the objective world have been given him by culture. He cannot dismiss the philosophy and science of his society as though they were external to him; they are in him--though in different forms from those in which they appear in the leaders of culture. . . . If Christians do not come to Christ with the language, the thought patterns, the moral disciplines of Judaism, they come with those of Rome; if not with those of Rome, then with those of Germany, England, Russia, America, India,or China.

Advertisement

It raises a question to which I invite reader response: what are the languages, thought patterns and moral disciplines that shape our students, and our culture, today? 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump, administration officials and members of Congress.
Altar servers lead a Palm Sunday procession March 25 in Youtong, in China's Hebei province. (CNS photo/Damir Sagolj, Reuters)
The pope appeared to be alluding to the fact that since February there has been a crackdown by the Chinese authorities on religion in the mainland.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 23, 2018
Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo in Rome, May 2. The three met Pope Francis individually at the Vatican April 27-29. The Vatican announced on May 22 that a second group of abuse victims will visit the pope in June (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
The encounters will take place from June 1-3 at Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis lives.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as they arrive for a meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican in this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 
Righteous call-outs should be patterned after Cardinal O’Malley’s rebuke of Pope Francis on sex abuse.
Simcha FisherMay 22, 2018