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Reviewed by:
Wolfgang Huber, Christian Responsibility and Communicative Freedom: A Challenge for the Future of Pluralistic Societies—Collected Essays. Edited by Willem Fourie. Theology in the Public Square/Theologie in der Öffentlichkeit 5. Zurich and Münster: LIT Verlag, 2012. Pp. 204. €29,90, paper.

For adherents of all religious traditions—and especially Christians caught on the threshold of inertia with the endless wondering of what next, tottering between the shame of their complicity in the duplicity of a world that touts human dignity for all and reserves it for only a limited few—Huber’s proposal in these essays offers opportunity for confession, lament, and redressing the situation or, perhaps, just almost.

With prongs in historical events—the Holocaust as the prime example of what “otherizing” people in a complex, inattentive world produces (never mind [End Page 614] the eliding of slavery)—Huber asks and attempts to answer the core question of how to do ethics in a pluralistic world. Is theology, especially Christian theology, still valid in the public square, considering the much-maligned post-Christian premise that seems to be according degrees of dignity to “the different,” variously defined and described (p. 37)?

Starting with issues on responsibility and the ethical norms that frame communicative freedom in pluralistic societies, Huber makes a case for how Christianity—in spite of the fact that “religious identities play a conflict-enforcing role” (p. 33)—allows for engaging the other and fostering tolerance in our ethically pluralistic societies. Key for attaining this goal is his emphasis on holding the secular and spiritual in tension and not valorizing any one in seeking and procuring justice for all humans. At the same time, he relies on deeply christological foundations for his definition of communicative freedom, operative (p. 46) in both ecclesial (pp. 67–68) and civil spaces. Is it not possible to speak incarnationally without referencing Christology in order to include all religious traditions at the table of moral discourse in the public square? That seems to be the crucial task in our day. Hopeful as it may sound, this seems to be a project at once late and premature at the same time. Should not the more pertinent question and project in the public square today be to tackle the issue of what it means to be human, especially since that continues to be contested almost everywhere in our world with mounting atrocities against some humans?

While Huber’s work is written from the perspective not only of an academic but also one who has lived in the trenches of the world experiences he describes and decries, and while it presses the need for a public discourse in a pluralistic world, he leaves us hanging precisely at the much-needed junction of what the tenor of that discourse should be. I fear that a certain idealism attends his efforts in the final analysis. Quo Vadimus? Nevertheless, this book would be invaluable to all who care about the demise of communal responsibility in the academy, the church, and the broader interested public.

Esther E. Acolatse
Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC
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