Reinhold Niebuhr And Jose Porf Essay, Research Paper
In this paper we will examine the philosophies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Jose Porfirio Miranda of sin and the political and economic implications on justice. We will examine similarities and differences and attempt to reach a moderated view based on their representations.
Webster s definition of sin could be paraphrased as the deliberate disobedience to the known will of God, and/or the separation resulting thereof. In this section we will examine both Niebuhr and Miranda s philosophies on the nature of sin. Niebuhr summarizes sin as having two dimensions, the first of which is religious. He states that the religious dimension of sin is idolatry: The sin of man is that he seeks to make himself God (pg 84) . In additions, Niebuhr recognizes a moral dimension of sin, that is injustice an unwillingness to value the claims of the other or to see one s own claims as equal but not superior to the other s . Niebuhr s philosophy on sin is basically focused on man s inherent selfish nature. To contrast, Miranda views sin as less of a result of man s own heart but also influenced by the sin of the world. He states Latin American theology does not start with a relationship of the solitary self with another individual self but considers the structure in which the sin of the world conditions our own personal sin (pg 103) . Niebuhr sees selfishness and sin as the result of the impossibility for man to exhibit selfless love, however he stresses that we should strive to achieve this love. Miranda however sees sin as more of being impacted and influenced by the actions and policies of the world toward the underprivileged. Both Niebuhr and Miranda hold the mutual philosophy that sin attempts to gain and hold power at the expense of others.
Political and Economic Implications
Both Niebuhr and Miranda attribute politics and economics for justices and injustices in society. Both view equality, to some extent, a necessity for justice. Niebuhr states a religion which holds love to be the final law of life stultifies itself if it does not support equal justice as a political and economic approximation of the ideal of love . In addition to this statement, Niebuhr expresses that power has two centers (political and economic) for which balance is required to achieve justice. Niebuhr praises democracy and strong organization because it diffuses power from the individual and distributes it evenly to society. Miranda, viewing the political stage views political implications on justice much differently than Niebuhr. While Niebuhr is focused on the balance of power, Miranda (perhaps due to his exposure to oppression) focuses on the transfer of power. Miranda, interestingly, charges violence towards the oppressed as an injustice yet expresses violence for the purpose of liberation as a necessity. Although Niebuhr and Miranda differ in philosophy of means, they agree on the ends: equality. Niebuhr praises equality by consensus and Miranda praises equality by force. From an economic perspective, both Niebuhr and Miranda view economics as the greatest and most unevenly distributed source of power in society. Both recognize a need for the redistribution of economic power in society. They each attack capitalism and blame it for the exploitation and oppression of the poor. On this point, however, Miranda takes a more extreme point of view than Niebuhr stating that even private ownership is robbery legalized, institutionalized, civilized, canonized robbery (pg 105) . Niebuhr, in contrast, does recognize an acceptable level of economic inequality without the sacrifice of justice as he states even equality, however, can be modified. Indeed, in historical societies, differences of need and social function make inequality a necessity . This philosophy is in strong contrast to that of Miranda who believes in economic equality on a full scale.
Niebuhr represents a point of view based on an inherently democratic society with little oppression or violence, while Miranda represents one based on a society ridden with tyranny, oppression, and exploitation. Niebuhr takes an unusually strong stance that man is incapable of acting without self-interest, and focuses very much that man s selfish nature is to be attributed for all sin. While this is not without merit, for it seems that man is in fact selfish by nature, I believe that the notion that man is incapable of a selfless act is an inaccurate extreme. Miranda, on the other hand, attributes much of individual sin to sin by the world. While I would agree that the world does influence individuals, I see his message as one that rings loudly of the victim who refuses to accept blame for their actions when there is the availability of circumstances or other people to blame. In regards to politics and economics, I would have to recognize some truth in both Niebuhr s and Miranda s philosophies. Niebuhr s support of a strongly democratic political model and the balance of power in both economics and politics are logical conclusions. Miranda s notion that economic and political inequality exploit and oppress the poor is also an acceptable idea. Niebuhr s attack on capitalism is not as extreme as Miranda s and he does recognize that some economic inequalities are necessary in order to a society to function. Miranda, however, is a bit out of line with his negative position towards capitalism. There is a need to protect the poor from complete poverty through some level of social distribution of wealth, however total equality is an absurd notion. In addition the transfer of power praised by Miranda fails to take into account the ultimate result of power in the hands of people without check. To moderate, I would derive the following truths from the ideas expressed by Niebuhr and Miranda: Man is inherently selfish ultimately responsible for his own actions, however the world does have some influence on man. Extreme political and/or economic inequality will ultimately result in the exploitation and oppression of people. Some system of checks and balances must be in place in order to protect society from extreme inequalities. The most logical conclusion for assuring the greatest attainable level of justice in politics and economics is to create a situation where man can seek political and economic power and believe that they are possible to achieve, while maintaining a democratic system which will prevent them from reaching a level of power which may facilitate the oppression of others.