Beyond Deconstruction: Second Term
Many today are deconstructing their faith, the faith of their parents, the faith of their church, the faith of public evangelicalism. I have observed what I will call here three “phases” of this deconstruction. To remind ourselves of the phases of deconstruction I want to give a brief recap of the three phases of deconstruction.
First, liminality. Deconstruction for many is something like a half-way house between confining church experiences, release, preparation and eventually resocialization. No more pretending. They are dissidents of the system. At this point they know what they don’t believe more than what they do believe. With respect to the church, they are in a liminal space, a space between faith and no faith, between belief and apostasy (in its classical sense). Many in this phase are ambiguous, anxious, wounded, and wondering.
Second, elimination. What many “deconstructors” do is begin to eliminate elements of their previous church life’s beliefs. They discard things like creationism, dispensationalism, Christan nationalism, inerrancy, original sin, evangelism (as commonly practiced), etc.. They enter this phase of not only knowing what they don’t believe but they decisively chuck some things aside. They are searching for the gold of Christianity but not knowing exactly where it will be found.
Third, liberation. Many deconstructors find a new way, and their new-found confidence in their new way mirrors their former confidence. Their personality type comes to expression again: if they were feisty fundies, they become feisty again; if they were moderates before they become that again; if they were intellectual before, they remain intellectuals.
If the heart of the REconstruction is Jesus, justice will be found close to the heart. Jesus and justice liberate.
Deconstructors are aware of our world and its injustices. The internet makes these injustices palpable. Sometimes daily. Education, whether formal or informal, unmasks our responsibility and culpability. Deconstructors aren’t simply seeing a problem but they are feeling responsible for that injustice.
They think the church ought to be involved. No, a church that is not involved is not the church of Jesus. If their church doesn’t want involvement then they’ll leave the church to follow Jesus. Church or not.
The church, in fact, ought to be the vanguard of justice in all its forms, not just expounding it on Sundays but embodying it all week long amongst themselves and expanding that into neighborhoods and communities and states and nations and world. The church and the kingdom are tied at the hip and an unjust kingdom is called evil empire. The kingdom vision of Jesus demands a just society.
Justice here is defined, not as the US Constitution does it or as defined by Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man.” No, justice is here defined by God’s tov designs for the world. What God wants is what God wants for all humans, and what God wants measures justice.
Justice then is doing the right thing, doing God’s thing, but it is also doing the right thing at the right time. America’s racism has marched haltingly towards its death. Legislations may have put into ink what is right but doing the right thing is justice not recording the right thing. And it has to be done at the right time, not a century later and then only begrudgingly. We could name other injustices — sexual abuses, spiritual abuses, etc — but the point obtains: the right thing at the wrong time deprives of justice.
Deconstructors want to see good people do the right thing at the right time. Those who are doing the right thing at the right time are the worthy examples to be followed, and frankly if it’s a non-Christian doing the right that doesn’t matter to the deconstructors who are reconstructing. Jesus chose a Samaritan to expose his followers to doing the right thing at the right time.
Deconstructors have grown weary of a spiritual gospel that saves souls and leads to personal redemption and personal spirituality. They want a gospel that is holistic and that means Jesus comes first and justice stands next to Jesus. They want a redemption in Jesus that leads to a redeemed society.
A church that platforms Jesus and justice is a church worthy of those reconstructing their faith.
One of the best things I ever heard about Jesus came at the graduation ceremony for former drug addicts. After the ceremony, the director told me that you did not have to be a professing Christian to come into the program, but you had to meet daily in a small group for a discussion about Jesus from the gospels. He said the most common thing he's heard over the years is that many of these men and women are not sure whether Jesus is true, but they want Him to be!
It's interesting that in my experience, this exploration of deconstruction is missing a critical piece that I have found to be indicative of many going through this process: Many deconstructors are done with institutional church altogether, whether a church platforms Jesus and justice or not. This is important because so many people deconstructing their Evangelical and fundie faith aren't looking for a church at all, recognizing that it is deeply flawed in it's innate need for preservation, hierarchy, power, control, conformity, obligation, and performance. They're definitely interested in societal justice, and most are still interested in Jesus, but for many, even Jesus is not longer the primary focus of it all. But I digress. Seeking Jesus and justice through a church platform increasingly becomes a non-sequitur for most of us who are or have experienced deconstruction from Evangelicalism. People writing about deconstruction from outside the experience continually miss this important piece and it ends up framing the whole thing inaccurately and literally drives us further away from Christian influences.