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Sound and Silence

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belonging

Self Portrait : David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
Or many gods.

I want to know if you belong — or feel abandoned;
If you know despair
Or can see it in others.

I want to know
If you are prepared to live in the world
With its harsh need to change you;
If you can look back with firm eyes
Saying “this is where I stand.”

I want to know if you know how to melt
Into that fierce heat of living
Falling toward the center of your longing.

I want to know if you are willing
To live day by day
With the consequence of love

And the bitter unwanted passion
Of your sure defeat.

I have been told
In that fierce embrace
Even the gods
Speak of God.

Reposted from the Emergent Village Facebook Page

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Sean Tucker does junk religion : the “Unlearning” review

And the Darwin Award for Ecclesial extinction goes to…

Any church leader in Sean Tuckers new book “Unlearning”. Well, not all of them, but Sean’s debut is a litany of insensitivity, crassness and downright toxic religion, which I am now reminded, has been alive and well over this last decade. Continue reading “Sean Tucker does junk religion : the “Unlearning” review”

Lausanne 2010 – the questions to your answer.

This week saw the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (yes folks, that’s spelled with a zee) take place in Cape Town.

I held an open posture (a “reverse pretzel”) towards the goings on, and met face to face with a few delegates. But by and large I remained fringer than the self-proclaimed “fringe”. Part of this advanced yogic manipulation involved my posting a question per day on conversation.lausanne.org.

For evangelicals, regardless of the plethora of diverse issues – globalism, truth, social action, climate- the answer is always “Jesus”. Even then, we shall have to ask again, “Which Jesus?”

So here, to summarise, are what I see as key questions to address going forward. Conversation around these on conversation.lausanne was not prolific, so let me simply repost them here:

  • Can Evangelical – Postevangelical interfaith dialog bear fruit?
  • How have liberal, postmodern and emergent values infiltrated evangelicalism?
  • Is evangelicalism inherently dualistic?
  • Is “worship” a separate idea from “evangelization”?
  • What comes first – belief, behaviour, or belonging?
  • Does the Gospel of Grace require the threat of Hell?
  • How does our salary affect our theology?

Keiskamma – a story of love

In my experience not many films manage to reach us without some level of coercion or manipulation, especially where subjects such as the Aids pandemic take centre stage. As we become immune to messages, filmmakers have to resort to more and more extreme tactics to grab our attention.

“Keiskamma – a story of love” is a film made by South African director Miki Redlinghuys in 2007. It artfully manages to avoid the need for spectacle and its interest lies in its close attention to the particularities of an Eastern Cape community. To quote the producers at Plexus Films:

In the tiny Eastern Cape hamlet of Hamburg a fully fledged war is being fought. Grandmothers, the hospice and the good doctor Carol are fighting for hope, human dignity and the will to live. The women’s faithful fight to give to keep their community fit and on ARVs has been manifest in an incredible altarpiece, painstakingly sewn by 130 members.

Redlinghuys and her team have managed to present life as it is and in so doing have allowing us to respond authentically, creating room for real transformation. I loved the respect shown to the viewer – affording space both in the atmosphere created via sublime camerawork, subtle editing and music, and the wholly uncluttered narrative, sympathetic to in the rhythms of the meandering river from which the film gets its name.

We are allowed in, never voyeuristically – to a world of dignity, joy and sadness, a rare grace-embued privilege. “Keiskamma” is an antidote to writer J.M. Coetzee’s bleak vision of the Eastern Cape in “Disgrace”. Dr. Carol Baker, whose work is at the heart of the story, acknowledges this, saying that she

“deliberately chose to take the role of his daughter who chose to stay and accept the sins of the fathers and make a life … accepting all the corruption and crime and anger as part of the long end of apartheid and the dues white south Africans must pay to stay.”

The people of Hamburg really show us how to live; perhaps it is the closeness of death that makes that possible; and Carol is a shining example of one who has “lost her life so that she may find it”. (Interestingly at the time of writing a controversial statement has been issued by a Christian preacher to the effect that  “The Church has AIDS”, based on 1 Corinthians 12:26: “When one part of the body is affected the whole body suffers”.)

Films such as Keiskamma make conventional scripting, as well as conventional preaching, even conventional religion itself, almost irrelevant. What matters is compassion, ubuntu, connectedness, generosity, authenticity, wisdom, and as a hymn in the movie stated (something like) “Let me know my place”: humility.

I was left wondering about the men – where were they? The ones which make an appearance were largely eccentrics, cross dressers, lone fishermen, or aloof artists. For sure, many will have become victims of AIDS, but those who remain also seem to display a certain apathy or inability to take up their place. Of course teachers such as Richard Rohr are seeing the crisis in Mens Spirituality and addressing it, for which I am grateful.

Keiskamma is a fabulous achievement in all departments, and one which makes me feel proud to be South African. You can follow the ongoing work of the The Keiskamma Trust online.

Karen Armstrong’s long and winding road.

God, rid me of God [Meister Eckhart]

Former nun, lapsed Catholic, unsuccessful academic, undiagnosed epileptic, fired schoolteacher, failed heterosexual, cultural ignoramus, unlucky in love, ex-Christian, post-atheist, faded TV personality, turned author, sage and freelance monotheist: these are some of the milestones on Karen Armstrong’s long, hard road.

Very rarely does an autobiography remain a gripping tale throughout, without succumbing to egoism. But Karen Armstrong manages this admirably in “The Spiral Staircase” (2005) in a litany of misadventures starting out at age 17 when she excitedly decided to enter a cloistered lifestyle in the hope of finding transcendence and happiness. Continue reading “Karen Armstrong’s long and winding road.”

Is ekke beter as Jack Parow of Die Antwoord? ‘n Soutie praat.

Ek’s original, jy’s ‘n copy, ek’s ‘n flashdrive, jy’s ‘n floppy [Jack Parow]

In English, that’s:

Am I better than Jack Parow or “Die Antwoord”? (“The Answer”)
I’m original, you’re a copy, I’m a flashdrive, you’re a floppy [Jack Parow]

WAARSKU! WARNING! De-tox in progress! If you are easily offended, let what lies in shadow lie… Continue reading “Is ekke beter as Jack Parow of Die Antwoord? ‘n Soutie praat.”

Shout SA

I normally steer clear of SA covers of English bands, but this new anti-crime campaign is an exceptionally well worked out re-recording of Tears for Fears anthemic “Shout”.

Shout for a safer S.A. is dedicated to the memory of SA reggae icon Lucky Dube, the concept is put together by Danny K and Kabelo Mabalane.

The cross genre interweavings – rock, soul, hip hop, jazz, and choral, are complimented by a truly outstanding design awareness. And the song in this context has discovered a powerful uniting theme – crime.

As sad as this is, it at very least affords a view through a genuinely nonracial cultural window, and does so with stunning style.

A South African Emergent Conversation

A group of friends met on the 4th and 5th December 2009 in Cape Town, around growing these friendships and working towards a common vision for emergence Christianity in South Africa. These included Jackson Khosa, Muzi Cindi, Marius Brand, Cobus van Wyngaard, Theresa and Andrew Hendrikse, Ann and Nic Paton, and Amahoro Africa’s Claude Nikondeha. In addition to socialising and relaxing, we shared meals, drummed, and talked.

One focus was the book by Muzi Cindi, whose unorthodox journey has sparked both indignation and amazement especially in his own African community, dividing established patterns of church authority with a host of radical questions about God and Atheism. Continue reading “A South African Emergent Conversation”

“Wild man wise man” session 6

Initiation

In almost all cultures the world over, young people undergo rites of initiation. It normally marks the passage into adulthood. However in the recent west this has become less and less a feature of our culture, such that we live in what Sergio refers to as a “partly initiated society”.

We need to rediscover and reconnect with these ancient practices. These rituals are in essence an emotional and spiritual phenomenon, meant to be felt and internalised. While women encounter this naturally through the overt changes of puberty, this has become highly problematic for the modern male. What remains of these rituals – confirmation, or boy scouts, lack the visceral power of traditional initiations. It is left to gang membership and the military, which hardly transform us in the right direction.

According to Rohr, “men must be tried, limited, challenged, punished, hazed, circumcised, isolated, starved, stripped and goaded into maturity”.  This separates him forcefully from the feminine energy, and this experience wounds him ritually and “prepares the young man to deal with life in ways other than logic, managing, controlling and problem solving.” [P 31] Without this wounding, paradoxically, we shall never heal.

In small groups, a story was shared by a participant in which at 13 years old, he was told by his wise mother to get on his bicycle, and not to return home until he had a job. He was faced with the terror of the fact that he did not know when he would sleep at home again. He went from restaurant to restaurant adding his name to long waiting lists. But eventually he was offered a kitchen job and a beginner’s wage. He went home a changed person, and for 8 months, proudly made enough money to comfortably cover his weekend dream activities.

Initiation needs to be rediscovered in our society, Rohr : “Initiation always taught the young man to die before he died … a constant truth taught by Jesus, baptism, the prophets, Mohammed, the mystics… as St Francis put it , ‘if you have once faced the great death, the second death can do you no harm.'” [P 36]

Note, I have explored in some depth the topic of “The Shamanic Shadow” which inlcudes the biblical basis for a more feral spirituality including the sort of initiation proposed by Richard Rohr.

This post is part 6 in the series Richard Rohr “From wild man to wise man” with Sergio Milandri of relating.com. The session was held on the 30th November 2009 at Sans Pareil, Hout Bay, South Africa.

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