Harry Truman

Five Impressions on Niebuhr and Co., 1945–47

From 1945 to 1947 as the United States and Soviet Union moved toward the Cold War, Christian realists writing for Reinhold Niebuhr’s journal, Christianity and Crisis, responded to global dilemmas. Here are five impressions of those articles, along with lessons for today.

Niebuhr’s European Impressions: From Truman Doctrine to State Churches
Niebuhr’s European Impressions: From Truman Doctrine to State Churches

After traveling through Europe in 1947—including to Scotland, Amsterdam, and Switzerland—Reinhold Niebuhr wrote some reflections, including on state churches, the Truman Doctrine, Christian political parties, and more.

Christian Disagreement at the Dawn of the Cold War - Truman Doctrine - Communism
Christian Disagreement at the Dawn of the Cold War

“Unless we accept the Russian view of the nature of man, we cannot work with the USSR to a common end for human society.”

Christian Realists on the Truman Doctrine and Greek Civil War
Christian Realists on the Truman Doctrine and Greek Civil War

During an address to the US Congress on March 12, 1947, President Harry Truman called for military and economic aid to Turkey and Greece to counter communist threats. This began the Truman Doctrine, and Christian realists responded a month later.

Firmness or Conciliation for Russia: Reinhold Niebuhr in 1947
Firmness or Conciliation for Russia: Reinhold Niebuhr in 1947

We are told that a policy of firmness must inevitably lead to war, while conciliation could guarantee peace. In the Nazi days this was called appeasement.

Harry Fain, coal loader for the Inland Steel Company in Wheelwright, Floyd County, Kentucky, on September 23, 1946. By Russell Lee for US Department of the Interior, Solid Fuels Administration for War, via Wikimedia Commons.
Church Leadership during Economic Crisis

Strikes by meat packers and mine workers in 1946 prompted Henry P. Van Dusen and Liston Pope to consider the ethics of strikes and how the church should respond.

NATO Is Still Key to Keeping the Peace in Europe - Russia Ukraine
NATO Is Still Key to Keeping the Peace in Europe

With Ukraine languishing outside the safety of the NATO alliance, the consensus seems to be that there is little the alliance can do as Putin enforces his latter-day Brezhnev Doctrine. That consensus view is wrong.

Countering the Russian-Communist Drive for Power in 1946 - John C. Bennett
Countering the Russian-Communist Drive for Power in 1946

“The resistance to Russian expansion in Europe is right. The spectacle of American progressives supporting Wallace in opposing that resistance brings dismay to most European democrats.”

Reinhold Niebuhr vs. Henry Wallace

Keynoting a “Beat Dewey” rally at Madison Square Garden on September 12, 1946, Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace warned Americans against the Truman administration’s “get tough with Russia” policy. Reinhold Niebuhr responded.