Submission Date


Document Type



Religious Studies


Christian Rice

Committee Member

Christian Rice

Committee Member

Jasmine Harris

Committee Member

Nathan Rein

Department Chair

Roger Florka

Project Description

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Nation explores the relationships between white supremacy, American nation-building, and Protestantism. The argument operates on two levels. It is firstly concerned with unpacking the development of white supremacy as a cultural theology that evolved alongside the American project from European colonization to the present day, one which infiltrates all aspects of the American project and provides its unjust racial hierarchies with divine justification. To this end, the project then turns to an analysis of the development of American nationalism and discusses the ways in which we have cultivated a heroic American mythology that undergirds both white supremacy and national sovereignty in the United States. A breakdown of the ontological significance of white supremacy for white and non-white Americans is offered, followed by discussion of some of the necessary revolutions in white American church life and social culture needed to bring about real racial justice. The study operates on a second level as a case-study exploration of the life and work of Reinhold Niebuhr, a prominent 20th century American Protestant theologian who pushed for social and economic justice initiatives but was criticized by later commentators for being too passive in the fight for racial justice. Through an examination of Niebuhr’s writings, the paper seeks to prompt progressive white Christians and social justice advocates alike to take a stronger and more active stance against all forms of racial violence.