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postmodern spirituality

Why I am “retreating” with, not from, Muslims and Jews.

In the Christian tradition I come from, the “retreat” was considered a high point of the spiritual life. To retreat was to withdraw from busyness and normality and seek God wholeheartedly, either alone or together with others, with the purpose of refocusing on what was important and redefining my identity as a Christian disciple.

A big part of this re-definition was to create a strengthened distinction between “us” and “them”. The more “Christian” I became, the less “worldly”. This move called “sanctification” is important for growth, but eventually presents it shadow side – exclusion. Words like “unbeliever”, “Gentile”, “heathen”, “heretic”, “infidel” and “kafir” testify to monotheism’s darker undersides.

And so I am rising to the challenge and joining the Open Mosque’s Interfaith Retreat for Christians, Muslims and Jews. The “retreat” is being radically revamped, and no longer retains its exalted and often excluding position. Instead, in a bold move, we are invited to a “third space”, the exact meaning of which is unknown. This, at least to me, is exciting.

And to my dear not-monotheists friends, don’t feel left out, you have a huge role to play; please bear with a bit of Abrahamic housekeeping.

The Open Mosque Inaugural Interfaith Retreat will take place between the 16th and 18th September 2016, in Greyton, Western Cape, South Africa. Still places open, especially to Christians. To take part, see the website of The Open Mosque.

retreat-final

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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?

Review: “The second coming of Christ” by Muzi Cindi

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. Continue reading “Review: “The second coming of Christ” by Muzi Cindi”

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.”

Sculpting the Narrative: McLaren’s “Greco-Roman” meets Fox’s “Fall-Redemption”

I am just about as excited as I could be. I’ve just put down Brian McLarens “Part 1: The Narrative Question” in his new tour de force “A New Kind of Christianity”. And on the table, too, is my well worn copy of Matthew Fox’s 1982 Classic “Original Blessing.”

If there are two defining works for the Christianity of the 21st Century, these two books are it. You may have seen Avatar in 3D, reading NKoC and OB together will give superb depth to any vision of the future of Christian spirituality. The very fact that McLaren is predominantly Evangelical Protestant and Fox Dominican Catholic, and that both these great contemporary thinkers consider themselves post the modern era, gives us a tremendous ecumenical advantage over narrower, more sectarian points of view.

The problem in a nutshell

Matthew Fox’s thesis is that Modern Christianity has been hijacked by a set of anti-biblical assumptions, which he calls the “Fall/Redemption” tradition. Properly understood, the Biblical narrative emerges from what he has named the much more ancient “Creation Spirituality” tradition.

The key curators of this are the “Yahwist” author of Genesis, the Wisdom writers, The Old Testament Prophets, Jesus, Paul, Francis, Mechtild, Eckhart, Teilhard and host of others, while the main proponents of Fall/Redemption include Augustine, a Kempis and Tanquerry. Fox shows how modernity built on Newton and Descartes, and siding with this latter paradigm, resulted in the crisis of spirituality we experience today, especially in the West. Continue reading “Sculpting the Narrative: McLaren’s “Greco-Roman” meets Fox’s “Fall-Redemption””

The New Age – a postevangelical view

Tierazon1 fractal (Jack Haas)

Despite my naturally pedantic approach to language, I find that there are a few words or phrases that remain stuck on my tongue and in my head. My lifelong struggle against cliché and bad habits is tainted by this clutch of problematic symbols that like Pauls thorn, seem to resist my every effort in the battle to say what I mean and mean to be as fresh, new and creative as is humanly possible. One such phrase is “New Age”.

I first became aware of it while at the start of a journey which took me to the heart of charismatic evangelicalism, almost 30 years ago. What I remember this pejorative usage implying was false, relativistic, disembodied and uncommitted spirituality.

These are a few things from popular culture which in my experience are deemed “New Age”: Continue reading “The New Age – a postevangelical view”

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”

Muzi Cindi – A postmodern nigger in the woodpile

Talking About God Thinking About GodAs epiphanies go, Muzi Cindi’s stands way out. As a preacher and churchman of some 25 years standing, God appeared to him in 2007 during a Radox moment in the shower. So far, only slightly unusual. Then, God actually spoke to him. That deserves, I suppose, a hearing, even in this day of revelation overload. But the clincher is the message, and it was this: “God does not exist”.

But instead of creating a debilitating crisis of faith for Cindi, this subversive “a-theist” anticreed has become his catharsis, motivation, and passion. The evangelical zeal which was his all along merely adjusted to a new message and is as far as one can tell, as strong as it ever has been, and certainly no less radical. The outcome of his visitation is now available as a book, “Thinking about God, Talking about God”.

Well, maybe I should say that it’s not so much a conventional book, as a documented process, largely unedited, full of spelling errors and dubious assertions, brimming with contradiction, but ultimately held together in a burning vision. Lordy Lordy Hallelujah! this is surely a testimony for the postmodern age.

As a text, and because this is a review, let it be noted that the index of howlers is unusually high, the problems ranging from simple spelling, incorrect word usage, to un-researched shortcuts, and the appropriation of whole chapters from other sources. This I am sure is due to the fact that this is an entirely self funded enterprise, and therefore wholly sidesteps normal publishing channels; but this is part of the “Thinking about God” charm. To stop at such nitpicking would be to miss the point.  

Cindi’s essential point is this: the Christianity he was brought up in, is not only unsustainable and discredited, but already defunct. “The Christian world is disintegrating, because the story on which it is based is losing its power.” He supplies abundant (though somewhat chaotic) data to support his claims. But his offering is essentially a visionary one, involving wide theological, philosophical, and scientific thought. He seeks to address the seeming incompatibility of a deep love for his evangelical tradition – and his faith in Jesus – with his philosophical embrace of the new atheists such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

And this embrace extends to just about everything that contributed to the end of the modern era, from Copernicus and Galileo’s pioneering cosmologies, Darwin’s evolutional insights, Einstein’s discovery of relativity, Paul Tillich’s theological atheism and Karen Armstrong’s religious demythologising.

DoNotBelieve“Don’t believe what I believe” is one of Muzi’s rallying cries, and I look forward to the T-Shirt. In case this gets interpreted as mere reactionary anarchy, he explains to us the apophatic (negative theology) traditions from where he draws his succour: Meister Eckhart, the 13th century mystic, Paul Tillich, and Don Cuppit. And he gives credit too to all reformers – Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, the evangelical fathers Wesley, Edwards, Moody, and the South Africans such as John G Lake and Nicholas Bhengu. And references are not just to Christianity: universal, ecumenical appeals to the wisdom of all the worlds’ faith traditions pepper the book.

One of the most curious questions I have about Cindi’s explosive energy its relatively sparse dealings with the question of African roots, and bringing in more post colonial thought to buttressing his extensive postmodernism. Where, for example, are the fathers of the African revolutions, where is his own South African literary tradition amongst the plethora of first world sources? I do not want to prescribe who he should be, but it is a little vexing that the vast majority of his thesis of a post-God God is found in European and American thinking. I’d be delighted to see him take on African traditions with the same zeal he has taken on his own Evangelical roots, and even further to see him unpack an authentic Ubuntu as part of the rebuilding of Christianity.

I find myself identifying with Cindi’s vision, including his passion for knowledge, his hermeneutic of suspicion, his honest confusion, and his pariah status. At the same time I share his love for the evangelical tradition, and the ancient way of Jesus. He affirms, “A redefined Jesus still stands at the centre of my God experience”. Furthermore, I broadly concur with his inclusivity and embrace of all wisdom traditions as a way forward in a post Christian age. “Thinking about God” is flawed and fabulous, a headily chaotic brew, diverse, divisive, and delicious.

Muzi Cindi is a self confessed heretic, and draws strength from making peace with heterodoxy. The book is prefaced with an unattributed quote, “For every orthodoxy was once a heresy, and every heresy is fated to be orthodoxy. All countries were founded by traitors. All our churches were founded by heretics. The patriotism of today glories in the treasons of yesterday.” But to accuse him of lack of accountability would be short-sighted indeed; in addition to his relational ties to his mentors, the book is remarkable for its sheer range of references.

MusiHis vision is no idiosyncratic delusion, but rather an extension of a variety of well acknowledged intellectual and spiritual traditions. And we need his energy and his attempt to reconcile the old and new views of God and the cosmos. Despite his rambling style, I do not believe that this is a “mish-mash” of thought, so much as an emerging, integral vision.

Overcoming the taboo associated with thinking outside of our boxes, especially our religious ones, is a foundational shift which requires great courage; as Seal sings, “We’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy”. Cindi is not shy of being regarded as a holy fool, and having recovered from the fear of asking questions, the potential for “error” appears to have no limit. And yet, all progress, and all evolutionary shifts, require these chaotic conditions. With startling audacity, Cindi has created them.

His life’s work, I intuit, will be to ensure that this chaos does indeed lead to a sustainable spirituality. Perhaps chief amongst the questions will be the one “Where, now, is our authority?” which emergent thinkers like Phyllis Tickle have been addressing.

If the world is to remember Muzi Cindi the author, he will have to employ a good editor. And if it is to celebrate his personal legacy, he will have to help those still ensnared in modernistic thinking, to emerge. He will need to fully develop his empathy, creating sound bridges for others to cross. And he will have to gain the trust of those who not so long ago, would have gloried in his immolation at the heretic’s stake.

Muzi’s Website.

The “Kingdom”: of God?

Part of a syncroblog on the “The Kingdom of God.” For other posts, see below.

“In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

netsMost people agree that these words are deserving of full acceptance. But I’ll guarantee that despite their elegance, determining what exactly constitutes “essentials”, always seems to prove their undoing.

However, as far as Christians go, one notion that holds a considerable place as an “essential” is that of the “Kingdom of God.” This is after all the deep uniting theme that emerges from the known words of Jesus. The Kingdom of G-d, (Gk Basileia tou Theou) is for many the overarching raison d’être – the fundamental descriptor of G-d’s purpose in history, a notion bigger than say “salvation” or “Church”. Continue reading “The “Kingdom”: of God?”

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