As the cold war gained steam, Niebuhr thundered at the Manichaeism that viewed the Soviet Union as altogether evil and the United States as altogether good. J. Edgar Hoover’s file on him eventually ran to 600 pages.
Niebuhr spent a career writing “big books on big subjects with big public stands,” as Brooks said. Sifton tells of the way her father could write fast, amidst chaos. And could he ever turn a phrase: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. “
Niebuhr is still read, and West describes Moral Man and Immoral Society as still the most important book in Christian ethics. But Niebuhr’s historical moment seems to have passed.