James Comey and Reinhold Niebuhr


A lot has been made of James Comey’s interest in the public theology of Reinhold Niebuhr.  We have written about it here and here and here and here.

Over at The Conversation, Penn State’s Christopher Beem continues to explore Niebuhr’s influence on Comey.  Here is a taste of his piece, “What Comey learned from the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr about ethical leadership“:

Of course, many will find all this beside the point. Many Republicans and Democrats are deeply angry with Comey.

For all their disagreements, both sides believe that while Comey paints himself as a person of moral rectitude, when confronted with extremely hard choices, he handled them badly, and our nation is still reeling from the effects.

For these Americans, Comey’s book not surprisingly conveys an air of sanctimony. But even if that’s true, it serves only to bring home a very Niebuhrian point: that while we humans strive to make the world a better place, and while we must, in Jesus’s words, look first for the mote in our own eye, we will not always succeed. We cannot always escape the worst parts of ourselves.

That decidedly Niebuhrian point is worth remembering. More to the point, at this particularly contentious moment in American political history, we, as Americans, can and should take from it this equally Niebuhrian reminder: that in this regard, Comey is not one jot different from any one of us.

Read the entire piece here.