A new faith

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How to use this document: the document is open to critique and thoughts, so please add your pieces in a colour so that people can see which sections are new and haven’t been read or are new. Currently purple denotes new sections, and orange changes within the existing document. There are sections for Jesus, Structure, values, postmodernism, visual identity and leadership - please add new one’s that you think are relevant or change these one’s if needed.

Definition of Terms Fundamentalism: an exclusively literal view of the Bible, definitive moral codes based on the Bible as authoritative. Modernism: a period of time, generally spoken about as encompassing the rise of the scientific method, Technology, a belief in progress and ultimate success for human beings. It began with enlightenment and continues today, but is perhaps being replaced by postmodernism. Evangelical: a certain brand of the protestant church movement, relating to a certain (conservative) view of the Bible and faith. Emphasises the authority of the bible, personal conversion,etc. Liberal: This can be political and social, or theological. In theology it means relative, no ideas of personal salvation, always on the fringes of society. Politically it refers to a liberal democracy. Myth: can mean a fairy tale. Myth in this document refers to those supernatural elements of life that make life meaningful. Spiritual significance is vital here for our discussion. See page 6 for further discussion on this point.

Who we Are
We are a community of people who are interested in finding a faith that is part of and interacts with the postmodern world that is developing around us in Johannesburg, South Africa. We, as postmodern people, have each come from a different church or religious tradition and have embarked on a journey together to find a new faith or way of doing “church” in this new context. “If I begin growing very far beyond what my community allows me to know, I need to persuade my community to think with me, or else find or form a new community.” - Brian McLaren As such we are postmodern (but will learn from modernism where appropriate), post-protestant (We are not protesting Catholicism, post-evangelical (we are still considering the question of how one connects practically and spiritually with God), post-Christian (In the sense that we do not like the label and all it represents) but we are not post-Jesus or post-God. This document represents the beginning of a journey to find a new kind of faith based on Jesus of the Bible, but without the formal institutional church and its dogma. We may borrow from the church if we find this necessary or helpful to our journey. The end goal of this process is to develop a new kind of faith for a postmodern person living in Johannesburg, South Africa and perhaps we will learn something that will be able to be transplanted to other venues if the culture will allow. We welcome all who identify with the values in this document to journey with us and learn with us from the ride.
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Our Values
We have begun a list: As a group of people we are about God (God of the Bible, Jesus), Honesty (the need to be yourself and who you are, which is accepted and openly interacted with), community (a place for caring that begins with the person and who they are as important), moral ownership (each individual is held to their own system of moral values), respect for diversity (amongst individual values, personal stories and histories), interaction (that it is important to interact over who we are and how we are living out the values that we speak about. The communal is as important as the personal). Uncoerciveness (honesty and openness are important where the person’s own journey is valued). Respect and practicality - what you believe is real and this guides the way that you act. As a person you are coherent and whole, and there are not a conglomerate of multiple schizophrenic selves that are acceptable for specific situations. This is the general logic behind contemporary people - that they are honest about themselves. Spirituality is part of your self concept and is acknowledged as part of who you are as a being.

Jesus
In a way we are creating a new Jesus (a historical sign that we are placing new meaning on, and so Jesus becomes a new sign), which we need to be careful of, cos its the same Jesus, re-understood and this re-understanding is without the dogma and fundamentalism of the modern Church. The Jesus in the bible would perhaps not lead the church today because the church today has added so much dogma and prescription around who Jesus is, that it has ended up missing the person. As a group of people who are dissatisfied with the fundamentalist ideology, we are trying to re-understand within our context, a Jesus that we think (subjectively) is closer to the historical person without all the baggage. We are contemporary people, and are thus not aimed at existing only for the sake of being counter culture, but are within our culture and need to exist as conscious individuals with a spirituality that is real and interacts with the rest of our lives, and so will counter culture if need be, or will exist within the prevailing culture with the goodness it has to offer as well. Within this new understanding and new context Jesus does need to be talked about. He is the centre of our interactions (a quiet modern idea, but still an important one). Within this interaction over Jesus it is hard to not be like church… to not be seen as this group who is trying to hang onto something in the past that we just don’t want to let go of. Church is not for us inherently part of our culture and existence, which we cant let go of. Postmodern people also have access to a lot of info, and they need knowledge and reason, but also myth… and we are not sure how to do that in a way that works for the postmodern individual without just taking it back to the modern method. Postmodern people have seen how reason is limiting but is NB to us in specific ways, but are also looking for the myth that reason stole away from us. The goal is then to be open about spirituality in an honest way within our contemporary context. Its not about the perceptions that we or others have,
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cos we can’t always control those. Maybe we can get over these by building a new faith on relationships rather than trying to form a new (anti or counter) identity through marketing etc. It’s more about the atmosphere. Jesus has both historical and mythical significance. “The reason that I (Dale) am on this journey is that I believe in the spirit and person of Jesus, but in different ways than the church where I have developed most of my concepts. These concepts are obviously extremely closely tied to my worldview as effected by my experiences and knowledge. I believe that a lot of postmodern type values are reflected in Jesus’ worldview, and then there are others that probably aren’t. I believe that Jesus was firstly about people, all kinds of people. The existing religious structures at the time of Christ (the Pharisees) valued people for right thinking and right action, thus for subscribing to the ‘right’ values and way of living out these values. Jesus seemed to counter this, and valued people for who they were. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t want people to progress, but didn’t disregard the person’s current status and position in life. When Herod came to power, he instituted a class system that ended up being largely capitalistic. People were not valued for the skill that they had (as a carpenter or fisherman, but for the value of that skill within the new system of economics. Herod brought into place a system where certain skills were more valuable. Here people had to pay huge amounts of tax to the government, and were thus held into their weak societal positions. Jesus fought against this objectification of people to cash value (Ian: Careful of anachronistically inserting communist values into the theology of the bible). Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, which was in direct contrast to the literal and physical kingdom of Herod, which was driven by fear and power. Jesus’ Kingdom seems to speak of liberation from these types of control, where value is on the individual’s personal spiritual life with God. My point is that Jesus cared about the people and their struggles. These days surely we should care about the people and their diverse struggles as individuals.

Structure
One of the things that the church did in structuring itself was to define itself against culture, and in that way was defined by culture, which ends up having nothing to do with God but only with an organisation and ideology that is motivated by being a-cultural. “One of the things that I (Dale) am uncomfortable with in extremist liberal Christian movements is the focus and end point of culture as all important, and thus still in defining God. For me culture is naturally important within a postmodern context, and this culture is made up of socio-economic, socio-political, philosophical ideas that either work or don’t within my faith. Postmodern people are thoughtful and do think about their actions, there are reasons behind actions. Postmodern film is an example of media and actions that are very well thought out to affect certain responses that are internally critiquing culture and the way that culture is dealing with issues, or interacting with itself. Surely faith and the values that that faith comes to surely lead an individual to believe in values that will at times counter
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culture, and will at other times unite with cultural shifts. I believe that context is all-important in any understanding, and that Jesus is about specific things that are closely tied to the context in which he existed and is interpreted within. We want to guard against these hidden agenda’s of changing people to believe whatever we or others do. Our space needs to have values encoded into its structure which are all open values, and are not prescriptive but a result of the postmodern context: openness, respect, honesty, diversity, individualism, creativity, spirituality, connection, interaction, etc. In this way these values do not need to be stated as rules that others must adhere to, but exist naturally in the context around us and that the church acknowledges and bases itself within. I (Dale) think that people do want these values to work, especially in a democratic post-apartheid South Africa (a Context which is not postmodern only, but a very unique mix of pre-modern, modern and postmodern). One of the things that I’ve (Dale) never enjoyed about the movements that I’ve been part of is that the event is always separated from the meaning. If a poet read a poem, that poem could only be understood if you understood all the philosophy behind the poetry, like you could never just arrive and see the intentions or values that were inside of the poetry, there was always some external meaning that made sense of the event. The thing that I didn’t like about that is that the event was subverted to the philosophy and became unimportant within itself… it always felt like a weak manifestation of something underneath it…always trying to express that but never really doing it. I also didn’t like the way that there was always this structure that you needed to understand that was controlled by some other source who’s values were not evident or openly known. Any event within a postmodern society must have values and something within them that doesn’t require external justification. Values need to be open, and simple so that this doesn’t happen.” Central to the structure is the way that it grows and is lead. There is always a group of people who are running a community, and this can feel like a ‘back room’ where all the decisions are made and the way forward decided on. This document is open to anyone from the group and so the direction or thought of the group is open to anyone. Since this place is about defining our values and ideology, only certain people will be interested in it, and want to interact on that level. Below are some basic thoughts that will be discussed a little more. These are some of the focus groups that could possibly be formed if there was an interest in them as an important part of the community.

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The leadership is central not in its hierarchical position but in that it brings together the other elements and creates the space for these elements to exist as required. There is in fact no hierarchical position, and the above is not listed in order of importance at all. It is just a proposal of some elements that might be important within our context. The way that these elements are formed is up to the individuals that constitute the different groups. So there will be no arts group, or no activist group unless there are people who want those groups to exist since those elements are important to them within their journey. Some people are activists and this is as a result of their spirituality, and others are artists within their spirituality. There is however no value within arts unless there are people to create, and so there will be no arts unless these people want there to be. The structure is thus largely undefined and serves the needs and purposes of the people within the community. At the moment (March 2007) there is only a think tank because the people involved are interested in forming something new for specific reasons. These people are however also interested in other areas (such as arts, and social investment), and so will be a part of these when they exist, or will perhaps make them exist in the near future. The organisational structure is thus extremely flat, and each element is important within itself, but ties back to the entire community as the starting point for interaction and formation. Within this structure individual responsibility is central to the working of each focus group. There are no requirements until the individual engages within whatever element or group. If an individual is going to be part of a specific group, it is hopefully because they care about those elements, and so are committed to making the element work - commitment is important to this type of loose structure working. The central elements of the community are spiritual content, community and relationship, and within this the activity or arts are found. The community is thus interested in spirituality, connects over this and expresses this in some or other activity or interest. Within this structure there is the constant tension between continuity and innovation. A community exists because of shared values and interests, and thus needs an element of continuity, since these values need to remain consistent on some basic level, whilst also open to change. This openness to change is vital in our context, and for any group it is important to be moving, but at the same time have this element of continuity within that movement. The other tension is thus innovation of ideas, and a
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group is caught between these two where both are important to movement. If there isn’t a fluctuation between the two, the community falls apart and splits into micro parts that are not at all connected, or becomes static and seems to die. The focus groups need the commitment of the individuals involved in order to keep this tension in some sort of loose balance. Practically we should initially strive for one big meeting a week: Maybe a stand up comedy vibe, a facilitator or whatever. The events need to be connected through theme’s or some other unifying factor. In the space there is a social aspect (sharing food etc). There are areas for prayer, worship, meditation etc. This is informal, and then the communal event brings the collective together to focus on a point of common growth or interest. Relationship becomes the driver for the discussion and the people in the front. A key concept is spiritual input and that this is coherent with the personal journey. I (Ian) believe that we should have no more than 2 meetings a week per person will prevent burnout for individuals.

Postmodernism
Postmodern people are regarded as spiritual, but are also educated and conscious of their current position of general chaos in the world. The church is anti-liberal and anti-postmodern, but postmodern people are looking for a faith that is real but fluid and unprescribed. Those things can exist together in a bit of a tension: faith and fluidity. Faith (in the modern sense) is seen as a prescriptive system that is external to their lives. Faith (in the postmodern sense) is rather derived from an internal consciousness of God that leads to faith. Postmodern people are perhaps “spiritual not religious”, which often ends up not meaning nothing at all. “Spiritual not religious” often has no thought and meaning, and so we need to critique this cos its not thought out. Our community is about caring for people as we interact throughout our spiritual journeys. Within our specific South African context we are a ‘new’ country entering into a globalised world where the general consciousness is postmodern, and that the community exists to realise and embrace this consciousness in a real way. The discussion isn’t “what is postmodernism?”, we are postmodern and we need a faith in this postmodern culture. So who is Jesus in this context? The postmodern world-view is respectful: a plurality of opinions, where investigation of alternatives is an open question - the result is come to by reason, knowledge, information, experience. Apply knowledge, experience, practicality, myth, (both objective and subjective) to find answers to the questions at hand. Assumptions are important to forming the basis for a reasonable argument, which is made up by both experience and knowledge, which are interactive and valid. There is a mixing of the irrational and the rational, the informal and the formal where validity is formed through this interaction and is produced in the honesty of the individual living out these values. Modern culture expects the latest in technologies, ideas, science and media, and on a superficial level it finds these elements important. It tried to
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exonerate the latest in arts, whilst postmodernism tries to integrate art of all ages into a single meaning, where meaning is central rather than whether it is communicated through the latest technologies. At the same time the postmodern is only interested in the expression of some form of content, and that can be blended together into a whole bunch of different mediums, where meaning is connected in a holistic way. This is quiet hard to do, and needs a lot of work, but within meaning there is a journey and some life change. There is a need in people for more than reason, knowledge and the modern, people need myth and can only make sense of their lives in a meaningful way.

Leadership
“I’ve (Dale) been thinking a bit about some stuff that we are learning at varsity about organisations, and how in the past (closely tied to modernism), the org was seen as a container and defined, as a site where communication was to happen for specific goals and with a specific intention. Theorists are now equating communication and organisation as one and the same, where communication becomes the central driver to an org, and without communication the org does not exist. Its structures are derived from the communication that happens, and this was defined and hierarchical in modern times, however within the current context this process is a lot more open. The point is that this communication happens on multiple levels, not only the corporate or leaders voice. The leader or controlling voice is still important in certifying that the values and intention of the org is collaboratively produced, so that the intention is a product of the communication rather than the guiding factor. Since this com happens on so many levels it needs to be authentic, which our process is, but the point is that it shouldn’t only be at a nominal level: “we are an open space with an open critique”, but on other levels of communication (interpersonal, sub conscious) these values are not lived out, and so become only nominal.” We do see a role for leadership. We see leadership as facilitators or coaches rather than dictators, where responsibility of leadership is shared by all in the community. I (Ian) see 3 levels of involvement in our organization: Facilitators(leaders), Supporters and Participants. (No members).

Some Questions arising from the values: What do we mean by the term “Myth”?
Myth is generally defined as a narrative that has metaphysical and transcendent value in terms of its spiritual implications. Here the bible is story that in some way informs as well as affects our current reality. The myth therefore allows or tells of ways that physical (limited) reality can be joined to the spiritual, and thus a different way for physical reality to be viewed. This in essence gives meaning to life that is beyond our logical limitations and enters into the divine space, or tells of a divine space. “I (Dale) believe that life without myth is dull and bland, and that this myth thus gives meaning to life in a way that life perhaps does not have on its own. People however need a story to believe in, and this story for us as a spiritual community, will largely be influenced by the narrative of the Bible and its content. Modernist intellect and
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logic has stolen away this myth and its value for culture, but I think that the postmodern person largely desires this myth since it has a different value to reason”. “...whatever the status of the gods - human beings are more than their material circumstances… We try to enter this dimension by means of art, rock music, drugs or by entering the larger-than-life perspective of film. But there is something unbalanced about this adulation. Myth must lead to imitation or participation, not passive contemplation. We no longer know how to manage our mythical lives in ways that are spiritually challenging and Transformative." (Armstrong).

How should small groups operate in this FutureFaith
No Idea?

How do we re-introduce spirituality as a regular part of life?
By always speaking about it as a part of life, and letting people interact in whatever ways they want to. The idea of people taking ownership and having a spirituality that they bring into as well as develop within our community. I (Dale) don’t think that we have these prescriptive or defined ways of having a spirituality, and so as people enter they take on a journey into finding how to do this with us, rather than us selling it to them. Their existing spirituality is as important to us in answering this question…hopefully there is an existing spirituality. Do we believe that life is spiritual, or is it seeking spirituality that brings about spirituality? “I (Dale) don’t believe that life is necessarily naturally spiritual, but that a person needs to become conscious of spirituality as a (defining) part of life and that this is a non-linear journey in which a person grows in maturity, but that this growth is directly linked to the individuals life as a whole. Life and spirituality are not separate, and so the individual needs to make spirituality NB in forming their concept of self and choosing for this to be guide in their journey. So if a person has an existing spirituality, the community is about them as people and about providing a space in which spirituality is worked out specifically, but this is not a closed system in which other parts of their life are also NB.

Are we creating new rules or should faith be fluid – where are the limits?
“We are definitely creating new rules, such as our values of openness and diversity. These become the new rules by which we play. If a conservative person had to argue against us they would probably be shot down. I’ve (Dale) seen this done before, and didn’t really like the outcomes, since it wasn’t done with care or love for the person. I’ve seen it done the other way too, where the person is still NB, and it does work, but at the same time I don’t think that we are a community that will be comfortable with fundamentalist ideologies. If fundamentalism helps people who come to the group then it could be an interesting interaction! I don’t feel like we are specifically excluding any groups, although some groups will not be interested in our space. At the same time though, we are specific
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about what we are interested in, and so the aims are focused. I think that faith is fluid for each individual as they enter and exist as a part of the community, where the community becomes a place for dialogue (whatever form or way that communication happens for people). There are rules though about this dialogue: it is not prescriptive, must exist within a framework of interpersonal care, must in some way be related to the person and their faith journey, this journey is about Jesus etc. For me none of this is bad, but does define specific boundaries between which interaction happens and so creates rules for that interaction. I think that there are limits to these rules because they don’t all play nicely together, and at times will need to be specifically fluid to allow for movement. Because of this fluidity there will be different perspectives on what is spiritual, and this will at times not be appreciated by all the people involved.

How do we distinguish ourselves from Church without becoming Anti-Church
Our similarity with church is that we are interested in Jesus and the Bible. I (Dale) think that that’s about where it ends on a foundational level, and that some stuff will emerge again in our structure such as the idea of small groups (which I think is a very Christian idea, and so could feel “churchy”). I’m not sure that I even like the idea of structured small groups, although I think that the elements of interaction will be rad. I like the concept of groups forming out of necessity rather than structure, where people can form these types of groups if they want to (although they might need to be part of a structure cos of these groups being vital to the organisation). I think that we avoid becoming church through sticking to our values. We need to be open to taking what is good from church and using it to help us form our spirituality. The problem is that we are defined by church, since we are building concepts that contrast church, and mainly what is visible within church (such as structure and ideology and values and culture etc). So we build off of ideas that don’t work currently and alter them. In some ways we are a reaction to church, which can be unhelpful, and we need to begin thinking differently about that. “The aim of the community (for me Dale) is to help people journey, and interact over that journey, and so not to be anti church but to use the church as a basis for seeing how other people do it, and how it does or doesn’t work and why. Anti church sentiment is an easy option, but seems to not end up being about God or spirituality. I feel that values need to formed honestly for what is good (democratically) and if that means adopting parts of church, then so be it, although I would always be skeptical cos of my journey.”

Worship
Here we need to deal with the issue of group interaction with God. After some discussion, we have discovered that we have a range of views here. Questions that concern us are: How do we allow worship to happen without being coercive of the crowd? How do we get away from the misconception that worship is singing? How do we run a group exercise, when different people find different things helpful in connecting them with God such as a walk in the forest, lighting a candle, painting on a canvas, digging a field, helping a poor person get food on the table? The church has focused on singing, reading the
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Bible, and praying. Huge amounts of time, money and sweat are spent on vibing-up the music. Is this important to God or just to us? I (Ian) feel that we need to allow the secular and sacred to coexist in any setting that we use for worship. We must allow activities to occur without requiring everyone to participate. We must use all of the arts at our disposal and will need to develop guidelines for this to happen. Perhaps some of the following will be helpful: 1.There must be some spiritual content 2.Our group is about Jesus 3.We must not become far removed from normal life 4.Rough language is ok only if there is a clear purpose in mind. 5.Blasphemy is not ok (This spurred a huge debate as to how we arrive at this point) 6.A respect for a diversity of beliefs 7.Facilitators must aim to facilitate participant’s journey with God or to God.

Prayer
There have been a huge variety of means and methods of praying that have been practiced by followers of Jesus over two thousand years. What is the purpose of Prayer? Why does the church single out prayer and worship separate from other activities? What bias does this introduce? Leading prayer in the context of future faith will be difficult until these and other questions have been answered.

The Bible
I (Ian) believe that we should have divided the Bible into 3 Testaments or divisions and not 2: The Hebrew Bible; The Messiah; and Messianic Community. It represents in human words, the story of God’s interaction with man, written against the context of the Ancient Near East and using metaphors and language of the writer in each case. The Genre of each text is important. If it is drama, it should perhaps be acted rather than read! Some is story and should be told as such. Context must be understood as the Ancient cultural context, the context of the writer, the context in which he or she sets the scene and our modern context. Without a thorough knowledge of each of these contexts, misrepresentation will occur. The bible is also Myth in the sense of using spiritual truth to make sense of our world. Some passages are copied from other texts and even other religious traditions. It’s purpose in our community is to help people find faith in God and discover principles to develop their moral values. This must occur with thought, faith and a supportive community to encourage spiritual growth. We are on a journey to forming an alternative view of the bible, and want to have discussion around this view. On this journey we want to be cautious of jumping to extreme conclusions. A literal view of the bible is highly unsustainable within our context, but a liberal view is equally unhelpful.

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