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September 25, 1932

“Only in the heart of Religion lie the resources by which we may try to escape the tyranny of self-devotion,” the Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr told the student body in the first Sunday Chapel of the academic year. In the first of many visits to the college, he framed the moral dilemma as a paradox of deception.“We constantly try to place the sanctity of Religion,” he said, “behind that which we do in our own personal and immediate interests; for we are immoral enough to want what is to our material advantage, but moral enough to feel the need of principle behind its acquisition.”

A writer for The Miscellany News reported that in an interview the professor of Christian ethics at Union Theological Seminary doubted the power of scholars to influence social change. “True scholars, said Dr. Neibuhr, are intellectual sophisticates, and are unable to share the dreams and hungers and illusions of the masses…. Scholars have a definite function in observing current events and recording them in historical perspective, but Dr. Neibuhr does not look to them for any drive by which the present social order may be modified, and its injustices redeemed.”

Professor Niebuhr returned to Vassar in October to lead the annual conference of the pacifist group, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), held at Alumnae House.

The Years