Help! I’m Deconstructing
9 June 2021 Hits:2059
When I think of this blog’s title, it reminds me of the wicked witch’s words in Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz. Remember her? She with the green face paint, pointy nose, and high-pitched voice? The scene is found towards the end of the film. The witch attempts to set fire to Scarecrow, and Dorothy gets a bucket of water to extinguish it. The water splashes over the witch at “which” point she starts to disintegrate. “You perfect brat. Look what you’ve done. I’m melting, melting.” Complete with hissing steam and shrieks, the wicked witch decomposes until she is no more. Ding dong …
I’ve felt like that, too, as some aspects of my faith have melted over the years. I’ve experienced the pain of being confronted with some long-held beliefs no longer ringing true. It took a while to realise that I’m not alone in this. Many followers of Jesus have felt the same, and I’m receiving an increasing number of emails from people telling me of their experiences.
Defining the Terms
What is deconstruction? A quick check of synonyms includes analyse, critique, review, and decompose. I love the last one, and it’s true, some of our tightly held beliefs probably do need to decompose and provide much-needed compost for healthy growth.
Blogger Mark Hackett defines deconstruction as “the systematic pulling apart of one’s belief system for examination”. Reconstruction means to rebuild, restore, and renovate. We mustn’t confuse this process with Christian Reconstructionism (an ultra-right-wing fundamentalist view of the Bible and society – like The Handmaid’s Tale).
Deconstruction is nothing new
Although this concept is seen as a current trend, we notice this process in the New Testament Scriptures. Consider how the early followers of Jesus had to deconstruct their attitude towards Gentiles (Acts 10, 11, & 15). God dragged them kicking and screaming away from pride in their nationality and religion and helped them reconstruct a healthier faith that made room for non-Jewish people.
I dare say every generation since has had to deconstruct something. Consider how the church has grappled with slavery, women’s rights, interracial marriage, and divorce and remarriage.
Today’s church needs to deconstruct a faith that excludes people who are “other than heterosexual”. LGBTI+ people have been ostracised and wronged by the church for centuries, but the Holy Spirit is now leading us to say, “enough is enough”. God loves everyone. Jesus lived, died, and rose again for all. Each person, whatever their sexual orientation, should be welcomed into Jesus’ church. It’s time for Christians to reconstruct a healthier, more inclusive faith.
Here are some tips I’ve found helpful during healthy deconstruction and reconstruction:
Don’t try to pull the whole building down in one hit.
Deconstruction is more like a renovation than a demolition. I’ve spoken to some people who’ve become disillusioned with their faith, destroyed the entire thing, and walked away from Church, God, and Jesus. That’s such an unnecessary tragedy. Consider this message I received yesterday, “Got to be honest, there’s a pervasive feeling of absolute devastation and betrayal at the loss of what I used to think and was taught to believe to be true. When I started to remove parts of the altar, started asking questions, started to get really honest and stand for myself and my family, the whole temple crumbled.”
Demolishing your faith will lead to a crisis of faith rather than a healthy process.
View the process as a healthy progression to maturity
Life begins with the simplicity of infancy. As we grow, life naturally becomes more complex. The same is true for Christians. When we first believe, we are encouraged, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). There’s something wrong if when we’re older, we still only want just milk.
Some of God’s people are like adults in high chairs (Hebrews 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). I encourage you to see the process of deconstruction and reconstruction as a healthy progression to maturity.
Hold fast to the truth that never changes
When you renovate a house, you don’t remove the foundation. It’s the same with your faith. The foundational truth of the Bible needs to remain firmly in place.
The Christian Creeds summarise the great doctrines of Christianity. The first creed was a simple statement written by St. Paul, “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). That’s a good starting point.
The Nicaean Creed** is a marvellous summary of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
And remember the things that Jesus called, “Most Important” ~ Love the Lord your God, love your neighbour as yourself, and “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders, the house that “had its foundation on the rock … did not fall” (Matt 7:24-27).
Don’t deconstruct everything before you reconstruct something
You don’t want to be left in a vacuum. I’ve found that deconstructing one thing at a time works well. My first experience of this was as a twenty-something in Bible College. I’d spent my first Christian years in a rather legalistic church. In my first year of Bible College, the Holy Spirit started hammering it out of me. It was painful and frustrating. At times I felt angry. But God is faithful.
Since then, I’ve deconstructed (and reconstructed) my view of the genocide passages in the Bible, hell as eternal conscious torment, and the futurist interpretation of Revelation, to name a few.
The process has required loads of thought and reading*, heaps of study, discussions with people who hold differing views, and wrestling through various (sometimes conflicting) Bible texts. I’m sure this process will continue for the rest of my life as my faith keeps growing.
I’ll finish with an encouraging message I received today on Facebook. It’s from a woman who, along with her husband, was a vibrant part of Bayside Church for years. They relocated to the USA a while ago, but we stay in touch, and they often watch Bayside Church Online and Tuesday Night Live (TNL).
She says of last night’s TNL, “WOW!! Just so much to dive into with this Ps Rob! You mentioned that you started your personal deconstruction a decade ago. My deconstruction started when we first came to Bayside and were under your leadership and teaching … 17+ years ago. I remember the moment sitting in church service thinking, uh-oh, hold on girl it’s about to get real! It was a true deconstruction that made my brain hurt, but, BUT, at the same time the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart, ‘It’s ok. You can trust him as your pastor and teacher’. And praise God, Ps. Rob, I have never looked back, and the Lord continues to deconstruct and reconstruct. Keep on keeping it real!”
- The Counterpoints series are very helpful
** The Nicaean Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy universal and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.