Deconstruction is a hot button term that you hear frequently these days, especially in religious circles. It means dismantling and examining ones beliefs in regards to faith and religion and deciding what one believes or does not believe regarding previously held beliefs. I have seen this in real life with people I know. Usually the story goes like this. Someone was brought up in a Christians tradition, typically one that was on the stricter side of religious, and they get into their late teens or twenties and begin to examine for themselves what they have been taught about religion and then what they themselves now believe or don’t believe. Frequently, this results in a walking away from organized religion, aka the church, or from religion all together. Increasingly young people are not identifying as having any type of religious affiliation, when in previous generations that was not the case.
I sat at the table with some friends and told them I was “deconstructing”. There was an awkward silence. I could tell I had shocked them. It’s a term that strikes fear in the heart of religious folks these days. I know they were thinking “oh my gosh, she’s lost her mind and she’s walking away from the faith”. Not the case. I would argue that deconstruction is healthy and if you haven’t done it, you should. I’ll admit it took me about 20 more years than most to get to this place. I grew up in a Christian family and went to church every Sunday and Wednesday my whole life. I went to college and immediately got involved with a parachurch organization. Then I started dating my husband and followed him to his church and we’ve been there ever since. In all that time I didn’t really question my beliefs or stop to examine them and why I believe them. If you take Jesus with you in your deconstruction it can be a healthy part of growth.
We’ve had some life shaking things the past few years with a stillbirth of our son, my mom’s illness and death, and the death of our daughter. Crisis like that will make you question things. And I have questioned the big things like Jesus and his role in all that. But I came to the conclusion that He is still God even if I don’t understand or like what happened. He is still good. He is still there. Me and Jesus are good. I believe the Bible to be true (albeit a mystery and open to interpretation) and all the basic tenants of Christianity, it’s the other stuff I’m not sure about. I heard someone use the term “bundling” to describe this other stuff. It’s like your cable bill. You get cable TV but you also get internet and phone bundled together. But what if I don’t want the phone or that many channels of TV, do I have to throw out the cable all together? Nope. Sometimes in Christianity we can bundle stuff. For example, in the past few years we have seen major division in Christian circles over in person vs virtual, mask vs. no mask, vaccine vs. no vax, republican vs. democrat and some of those things have been bundled together and adopted as a way of life. If you are republican than you must do all these other things or if you are democrat you must do all this opposite things. It’s bundled. I don’t want all the things. I don’t want to fall into one camp or the other. So I’m deconstructing.
Here are the questions I’m asking myself:
- What role should church play in politics? Do I even want to know who my church leaders voted for?Is it appropriate that I know that?
- What does the term “evangelical” mean historically and currently and do I really identify as such?
- What role do women play in the church? I grew up Baptist where there were very strict rules about women in ministry, do I believe that anymore? What is my role as a woman?
- What type of community should be in a church? How do we foster openness and community? How do we treat one another Biblically? Are we really doing that?
- How can church be integrated with psychology and emotional/mental health to provide a complete and open experience to deepen connections between people and facilitate real lasting change in a person’s life? Church has historically not been favorable to psychology or dealing with mental health issues. I am a strong believer that this is wrong and needs to be addressed. Some mental health issues need both prayer and counseling/medication to be properly dealt with and for to long we have shamed people dealing with these conditions by asserting they just aren’t “spiritual” enough.
- What role should church have in dealing with addictions in people’s lives? (Spoiler alert, we all have some form of numbing behavior that could grow into an addiction if not properly dealt with.) I think we don’t talk about this enough in church. Addiction is on the rise and people need help to deal with that.
- “We don’t talk about Bruno”. Church has been historically silent on some topics (sex and all the things that go with it, Pornography, LGBTQ matters and gender for example) and I think we need to change that. How do we address these topics in a healthy and more honest way? How do we respect people’s varying views on the these topics and provide a safe space for that?
And the list continues. These are all healthy questions and should be examined. Jesus wants us to deconstruct and examine our beliefs and get rid of unhealthy ones such as legalism and religion the leads people away from God. He challenged lots of religious people in the Bible to deconstruct their beliefs. After that deconstruction we must reconstruct what is left and move forward in a healthier way with church community. This is an uncomfortable process. It leads to examining my behavior and changing some things. Change is not comfortable for me or those around me sometimes. It challenges my relationships. But in the end I will emerge with deeper held beliefs and a deeper relationship with myself, God and others around me.