“The Ethical Failure of the Divided Church” by H. Richard Niebuhr

“Christendom has often achieved apparent success by ignoring the precepts of its founder. The church, as an organization interested in self-preservation and in the gain of power, has sometimes found the counsel of the Cross quite as inexpedient as have national and economic groups.

“In dealing with such major social evils as war, slavery and social inequality, it has discovered convenient ambiguities in the letter of the Gospels which enabled it to violate their spirit and ally itself with the prestige and power those evils had gained in their corporate organization.

“In adapting itself to the conditions of a civilization which its found had bidden it to permeate with the spirit of divine love, it found that it was easier to give to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar if the examination of what might belong to God were not too closely pressed.”

-From: “The Ethical Failure of the Divided Church” (1929) by H. Richard Niebuhr, Reprinted in “‘The Responsibility of the Church for Society’ and Other Essays by H. Richard Niebuhr, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 3.

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