Over the weekend I posted something on Facebook refuting some very watered down and and almost villainized description of deconstruction that was done in a tweet by someone who wasn’t well known, but tagged another pastor who was. If you’re interested in the post you can read it here.
What I learned through that post is two things that have been popping up over and over again through conversations and interactions over the last few years.
- There are a lot of people out there who don’t understand what deconstruction is so it is scary and is turned into the “boogeyman” that is a threat to Christianity, so they shame those who are going through this journey or they claim it is something it isn’t – this only creates an unsafe place for those who are experiencing this to be honest and ask questions.
- There are many people out there going through the same journey, and have for a long time, but didn’t know what it was called or how to express it. I can guarantee you they are sitting next to you at church, at family dinners, and passing you on the street but don’t know how to communicate it or they are afraid to say things out loud for fear of being labeled lacking faith or even a heretic for asking certain questions or wrestling with specific beliefs.
Many in the evangelical church believe that deconstruction means someone has fallen away from their faith completely and reject everything they were every taught or believed about the Christian faith. Can that be the end result sometimes? Absolutely. However, the journey of deconstruction is just that, a journey, it’s not a destination or a belief system. For most people, including myself, it’s taking a step back and examining everything you’ve been taught to be true about God, Jesus, scripture, salvation, and different theology and comparing it to what scripture actually states and looking at historic christian belief over the last 2,000 years – not just the last 100 to 150 years. Even in the midst of this I still love Jesus, I believe that God is present with me in this journey, and I have faith that who I come out as and what I come out with on the other side is going to be stronger than what was there at the beginning of this.
So pastors, small group leaders, worship leaders, and people who have some sort of authority in a church setting – choose your words, stance, and attitude about this carefully. There are more people sitting in your spaces, more people reading your facebook posts, and more people listening to your words than you know that are in the midst of this journey. If all they ever read or hear from you and other leaders is how this is a “lack of faith” or “being influenced by the world” or “an attack of the enemy”, they are going to feel less safe to wrestle with these things within your church community you created and will find other communities that they feel safe and heard. Allow them to question, to wrestle, to work out their understanding of different theologies and doctrines they’ve been taught their entire lives – you might learn something. You also need to not listen with the intent of giving advice unless requested or with the attitude of trying to “bring them back into the fold”. You are going to have to be okay if they walk away for a season or even permanently – are you even responsible for their heart or their eternity in the end?
Take some time and evaluate the systems you have in place. Look at the community you’re creating and see if everyone is truly being seen and heard. Look at the way you have taught or are teaching certain doctrines and theology, are they being taught in a correct way with an open door to ask questions and wrestle or are they taught with a closed hand with no room for discussion? Finally take a look at what discipleship looks like in your church – is it true, deep, developing roots discipleship or is it volunteering and maybe some small groups that are based around interests? Discipleship is lacking immensely in the American church right now.
If you are going through this – you are not alone. There are many people in the desert with your right now with the same questions and wrestling with the same things. If your church isn’t a safe place right now, reach out to someone who is and start talking about this with them. Keep talking, discussing, wresting, and asking hard questions – those things are important and your voice matters.
Deconstruction isn’t a dirty word.