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Babel or Pentecost? Faith, Difference and Freedom in the Twenty-First Century: The Challenge for Public Theology

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This article emerges from many years work in diverse inner city communities. It suggests that urban Britain will be understood properly, and public theology engaged fully with contemporary society, by seriously exploring the normative and contested nature of difference. The article critiques the view that diversity poses a threat to communal life and exposes current examples of essentialist identity politics. It argues that identities premised on raciology are unsustainable, and this poses a challenge to which people of faith should respond with urgency. Thus, the article asserts that critical patterns of multiculturalism provide the basis for inclusive patterns of faith and identity, and that existing public theologies still need to engage in sufficient depth with the fluidity of identity in twenty-first century Britain. At heart, the article offers the new hermeneutical principle of liberative difference as having the capacity to reinvigorate patterns of faith and resource an inclusive liberative struggle in urban societies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Birmingham


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