Tearing Down & Building Up

Deconstruction.

The term oscillates between a curse word for conservatives and a buzzword for progressives. It is commonly associated with prominent Christian figures leaving the faith, leaving those who have no experience with its meaning with a bad taste in their mouth. Rightly so. At surface level, why wouldn’t you despise something that is driving people away from the Church in droves?

So, what exactly is deconstruction? Audrey Assad said in her interview on the Unbelievable podcast while explaining her deconstruction that “her reason outpaced her need to obey rules.” And I just love that. While Audrey and I have landed in different spaces after deconstruction, I found myself familiar with the language she used in this interview. A lot of times when we are born into a conservative Christian home, we never think that anything outside of our worldview should be considered. Actually, that’s true of every home, not just conservative Christian ones. When subjects such as evolution or Catholicism or environmentalism came up, all questions or doubts were shut down. Even questions about theology, such as how the Trinity worked or about the doctrine of predestination were shut down and the thought was never so much as entertained. This leaves people who have real-life concerns scrambling for answers and no one to point them in the right direction.

“This is just what we believe.”

A lot of times we are not taught how to biblically handle doubts or questions. We don’t know what to do when the God we’ve grown up believing in doesn’t feel like our friend like everyone says He is supposed to. We don’t know what to do when maybe the Bible doesn’t seem like a good source of truth anymore. Did that sentence make you uncomfortable? Good.

It made me uncomfortable too, until I started digging into how the Bible was canonized and realized that hey, this is a pretty reputable book and it was put together ethically by super smart dudes. I am now 100% sure that I can trust the words of God not because the translation is perfect (hello KJV only days) but because God is perfect and the Bible is His living word and He works in spite of man. So even if my ESV was misinterpreted somewhere down the line, I know that God will preserve His words and He will speak through Scripture. I know the original intent of the passage is still there because I know where my Bible comes from.

And I never would have arrived at that point if I hadn’t looked my doubt in the face. I had to come to the place when I wasn’t afraid of my questions and realize that God wasn’t afraid of them either. I had to quit trying to hide my doubts from God. Ultimately, that’s what my deconstruction was about. It wasn’t necessarily that I had doubts about believing in God, it was just that I had doubts about His church and what I was told I had to believe.

Lecrae did a video on deconstruction and what it meant for him, and in it he said “people often deconstruct or walk away from the faith because this capitalistic, money-grabbing, culturally exclusive, politicized version of the faith is married to Jesus and they’re saying ‘I don’t want anything to do with that’.” And he was right. It’s very difficult to try to reconcile the words of Jesus to our culture and the way we see the Church behaving in America today. Lecrae goes on to say that it is possible, as he has done, to deconstruct without “throwing the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

The truth is, there is a good deconstruction and a bad deconstruction. John Mark Comer said it this way: “good deconstruction is where you use scripture to critique the world’s corruption of the church.” Whereas he goes on to describe “bad” deconstruction as “western millennials who use the world to critique scripture’s authority over the church.”

(If anyone ever asks, me and JMC are besties and don’t believe anything else you hear.)

This is where the rub is. Most evangelicals hear the word “deconstruction”, plug their ears and start singing “Shout to the Lord” lest they hear something that makes them doubt. To them, this is threatening because a lot of times they only view deconstruction as the “bad” kind we just referenced. However, the first kind is not something we need to fear at all because at the end of the day, it is going to be grounded in Scripture.

Healthy deconstruction is also one that is open ended.

It leaves room for one to change their worldview and still remain within relationship to Christ. It’s simply saying “my worldview or the way I’m living my life is not adding up to what I see in Scripture” and moving from there. It’s taking all of your doubts and surrendering them to God and deciding if this Christianity is actually something you believe, or if you were brainwashed into thinking this way.

Healthy deconstruction is not saying “I don’t like how Christianity makes me feel” or “I don’t like how my culture fits into what God says to be true.” That’s a whole other problem and a whole other topic.

So why are so many conservative evangelicals threatened by not only unhealthy deconstruction, but often by simply asking questions? Honestly, I think it’s like John Mark Comer says while quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer;

“We are more interested in making converts than apprentices.”

That’s the long and the short of it. They want people to come to the faith but they don’t want them asking hard questions about it. They don’t want to be challenged. They champion the words “God said it, I believe it, that’s settles it,” while at the same time taking a verse out of context and implementing non-scriptural rules as a standard for living.

Maybe that’s a little bitter, but it’s been my experience and the experience of others that I’ve talked with about this subject. We can’t make a change until we identify the problem and implement a solution.

Now, with that being said, there’s a trend about deconstruction going around that looks a lot like 20 years olds in hip coffee shops, getting a new tattoo (no offense intended. I want one too), and making long Facebook posts telling seasoned Christians what they’re doing wrong and how they should be more like them. That’s not my heart here.

I wouldn’t wish deconstruction on anyone. It would be far better to just start out with a healthy relationship with God and the Word. We would be far better if we were honest with what deconstruction looks like, even the healthy kind. It’s not cute or trendy. It’s hard, messy, tearful, and it freaking hurts. It’s taking a chunk of your past that you’ve whitewashed for most of your life and bringing it out into the open. Then finding that most of those memories are now tarnished or overshadowed by something that you’ve chosen to walk away from. It’s not something that should be romanticized like social media has done. It should be treated with respect and care.

It’s not a badge of honor.

It’s not a medal for your chest.

It’s a far-reaching arm of God’s grace and if you see it as anything less you risk swinging from conservatism to progressivism like a pendulum effect. Which is not the goal.

The goal is simply found in Colossians 1:18 and I’ll leave you with it.

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.”

(all references and resources are hyperlinked in the body of the post.)

References:

Video – Audrey Assad: Why Christian Musicians Are Deconstructing (Premier Unbelievable?)

Video – I had to DECONSTRUCT my Faith and here’s why… (Lecrae)

Video – Deconstruction: The Way of Jesus & the Ideologies of the World (Bridgetown Church)


2 thoughts on “Tearing Down & Building Up

  1. Hey Caitlyn, good words here. I have a friend who went through a similar process that you did and wrote a book about it. Unfortunately, she does have a very strong reaction to the word “deconstruction” – much as you describe here. However, I can see why because she watched an unhealthy version of it happen with her pastor which rocked her world and drove her to examine the roots of her faith just as it did you.

    My journey is so, so different from many others in my American church family that I can’t really relate fully. I guess you could say I’m a deconstructed atheist! In my useless opinion, the term ‘deconstruction’ is just another human label given to a very significant spiritual process and not a word to fear.

    I believe this is just a kind of separating the wheat from the tares internally as we ask ourselves hard questions: Can we handle the command to take up our crosses daily and keep our eyes fixed on a reward that will not occur until after we shed the tents of our mortal bodies? Or do we believe the culture and the tangible proximity of what we can see, touch, taste, and hear more than we believe the words of the One who created us?

    Glad to see you’ve come to the conclusions you have! God be praised. I honestly believe He is preparing His people for some challenging times to come, and I’m eager to see it!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s