“The Law of Love in Politics (Criticism of Christian Liberalism)” by Reinhold Niebuhr

“Liberal Christianity has not been totally oblivious to the necessary mechanisms and techniques of social justice in economic and political life. But the total weight of its testimonies has been on the side of sentimental moralism. It has insisted that good will can establish justice, whatever the political and economic mechanisms may be…

Against this moralism it is necessary to insist that moral achievement of individual good will is not a substitute for the mechanisms of social control. It may perfect and purify, but it cannot create basic justice. Basic justice in any society depends upon the right organization of [humanity’s] common labor, the equalization of their social power, regulation of their common interests, and adequate restraint upon the inevitable conflict of competing interests.

The health of a social organism depends upon the adequacy of its social structure as does the health of the body upon the bio-chemcial processes. No degree of good will alone can cure a deficiency in glandular secretions; and no moral idealism can overcome a basic mechanical defect in the social structure.”

-From “The Law of Love in Politics (Criticism of Christian Liberalism)” in “An Interpretation of Christian Ethics” by Reinhold Niebuhr (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935), 181-182


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