The preceding chapters have laid out ways in which religious literacy is pressing, and how it can be, is, or should be, applied in various public settings. What is clear from the outset, are the sheer complexities referred to by the ‘religious literacy’ idea, and the challenge of pinning it down. It is a fluid notion.
This book also helps us to understand that different cultures, derived from national, institutional and specific sector identities, colour and shape the religious literacy problem, as well as the solutions. How religious literacy is defined is at the heart of the challenge, and this has been a central theme of the book as a whole. It turns out to be an idea that is specific to the contexts in which it plays out. One size will not fit all. In the US, for example, Stephen Prothero and Lauren Kerby (Chapter Four) point to a crisis of religious knowledge defined in relation to a need to understand the nuances and distinctions between Christian theologies that have informed contemporary American culture, whereas in Chapter Six, Adam Dinham makes a call for a religious literacy characterised by the religiously plural marketplace of welfare provision in the UK. And then again, at the institutional and sector level, Jeremy Clines and Sophie Gilliat-Ray (Chapter Thirteen) show how a very specific history of state-church chaplaincies in Britain has led to a peculiarly Anglican model of professional pastoral care, within a variety of faith and non-faith traditions. These examples are echoed throughout the book.
Religious literacy, then, is a stretchy, fluid concept that is variously configured and applied in terms of the context in which it happens. We argue that this is very much how it should be, and as we expected it to be from the settings in which we ourselves have worked to date. Religious literacy is necessarily a non-didactic idea that must be adapted as appropriate to the specific environment, such as those that the chapters in this book have sought to explore and define.
But even allowing for the differences in settings and definitions, there are also clear areas of overlap, where core distinctions and lessons can be drawn out as to what religious literacy is and how it might be applied.