Muzi Cindi, Boss Drummer

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria Muzi?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

When I’m with her him I’m confused
Out of focus and bemused

And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
She’s as flighty as a feather
She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!

[“Maria” from “The Sound of Music” by Oscar Hammerstein II]

Aah Muzi, you’ve done it again. You’ve broken all the rules and just come right out with it. The maverick atheist evangelical Christian has a new book.

“The second coming of Christ – The End of Dogmatic Religion and the Emergence of Global Spirituality” is a continuation of “Thinking about God, Talking about God” which I reviewed not so long ago. This review will inevitably be a continuation of that one. Many of the same problems persist – lack of structure, generous “pasting” of content and dodgy editing for example – but at the same time the encouragement gained from “Thinking about God” is immediately applicable to this one.

“Second Coming” is in essence a demythologising of the “gospel of evacuation”, an exploration of emergence culture and spirituality, and an apologetic for panentheism and the Cosmic Christ.

Current popular thinking about the return of Christ focuses on a rescue mission from an innately rotten world. Cindi firmly rejects this thinking, appealing to the recovered doctrine of Original Blessing to show how we should be applying a far more metaphorical and nuanced approach to issues of eschatology, or beliefs about the future. Instead of literalising the return of Christ in a dispensational framework (including rapture, tribulation and so on) we should rather see this coming as occurring already, this thinking being far more in line with the words of Christ “The Kingdom is within you”.

Cindi provides us in chapter 5 with a handy summarised history of the second coming, demonstrating how in every century of the Common Era, predictions concerning the literal return of Christ have abounded, and failed. However, for me, his book lacks detailed deconstruction of the scriptural basis for dispensationalism. I would like him to have systematically examined the proof texts holding evacuation theology together, for example 1 Thessalonians 4:

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of god, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

So, according to Cindi, the Second coming of Christ is

  • A global spiritual awakening
  • “the return of God – not as a God living beyond the skies, but as God who is one with us…”
  • “the new Christianity, Christianity without beliefs.” [125]

He is at pains to explain how panentheism (God in all things and all things in God) is not simple pantheism and that “All other theisms (deism, theism, polytheism, animism, pantheism, atheism) are fragmented theologies…” [136]

This appeal to a spiritual framework with a verifiable tradition is the raison d’être for Cindi’s often misunderstood zeal. If the book was a simple rejection of conventional Christian thought we’d have to label him an iconoclast and destroyer of religion who merely undermined faith and sowed confusion. But the fact that his vision lies beyond to a reconstructed faith that addresses the current crisis in western civilisation is in accord with the biblical prophetic role.

Muzi Cindi grasps western science, literature and philosophy with ambition and breadth. We must recall that he has only been consciously “postmodern” for some 3 years, in which he has written 3 books, no mean feat. But as a result of this breadth he tends to fall prey to omissions, glossing over details, cherry picking facts and losing focus. He has a tendency towards brash overstatement such as “…A reformation so total that it will put the reformation of the 16th century into the category of an afternoon tea party” [43]

One such omission is his relatively uncritical acceptance of global religion. While I am enthused as he is about the deep ecumenical nature of emergence spirituality I’d recommend as an antidote to blithe universalism a study of “particularity”, such as the thisness (haecceity) of Duns Scotus. If we uncritically accept the tendency of this age to become globalised, we will lose contact with our world; filmmaker Godfrey Reggio warns us against “Technology as the new Terra Firma – (having) replaced the Earth as the comprehensive host of our life”.

I’ve no doubt that Cindi is aware of the contradiction inherent in his posture. On the one hand he declaims American dominance:

“As a proud African I am concerned that many of my brothers and sisters in Africa will die having only known the American God as imposed by our Imperial Superpower” [45]

But at the same time it is male American thinkers who have influenced him most, and he acknowledges them: John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Matthew Fox (especially his “The coming of the Cosmic Christ”), Walter Wink, Harvey Cox and Brian McLaren. As an aside, he appears at times to be a touch too concerned with titles such as “Professor” and “Doctor”; perhaps this is a hangover from his African evangelical culture.

Nonetheless, and this is the key point for me, spiritual entrepreneur Muzi Cindi’s big prophetic heart beats in time to a genuinely new rhythm. He courageously puts himself on the line for true religious freedom and as a postmodern mystic is more concerned with generating conversation than creating the clarity of a definitive position.

And I think it appropriate to let the author have the last word:

“Every day I thank God that I am an atheist”. [35]