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Beyond Deconstruction: Third Term
Many deconstructors find a new way forward and become re-constructors. They reconstruct their Christian faith from the foundations up and they slowly, carefully lay one brick on another until they form a Christian faith that they find consistent with Jesus and what the church should and can be (all over again).
I don’t know the numbers of those who move through a deconstruction phase to find reconstruction. I don’t know if it is a majority or a minority. What I’m providing in this series is a look at how some are reconstructing and what bricks are laid and can be laid to rebuild.
The first word: Jesus.
The second term: Justice.
Today a third term: Example.
Douglas Campbell, professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, said, “The answer for Christian communities is that we should have Christian leaders who are characterized by the relational qualities that we want everyone else to copy.” He gets this right. A kind of “show me” that is more important than “tell me.”
Jesus said, “Follow me.” That meant he was worthy of being an example, the example of examples. The apostle Paul said in 1 Cor 11, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul reminded Timothy of this very thing in words we may easily miss: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, italics added for emphasis).
Education is about emulation more than information.
What reconstructors do is either form themselves as a prototype to be followed or find someone worthy of a Jesus-Justice shape to life and get in the group.
Reconstructors aren’t “joining” any group on the basis of its beliefs. If they join in it is on the basis of a group’s behaviors. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in Tegel’s prison was deconstructing and looking beyond deconstruction to reconstruction, said it this way about the future of the church beyond the war: “the church’s word gains weight and power not through concepts but by example.”
What does the reconstructor look for? I suggest the following have proven worthy of being the examples and those marked by these become exemplars:
Character, not giftedness or performance skills.
Jesus-likeness, not celebrity.
Power-sharing and power-for not power-over.
The wisdom of a road traveler not one more new program.
A listening ear not a pointing finger.
Empathy not narcissism.
Grace not fear.
Honest transparency not spin and bullshit.
Trustworthiness not hype.
A life that has experienced pain not a life that appears idealistic.
Those who know who you are who do not see you as a new notch on the pole or a giving unit.
Persons pointing toward service for others not aggregation in the church.
Deconstructors want a good model, a good example. What one believes will matter less than Who one is and Who one holds up as a good example.
They read the Gospels, they see Jesus, and they say, “We need more Jesus.” And at times they say, “We need more people who live like Jesus.”
But not those who say they are like Jesus but those who look like Jesus when no one knows who they are and when no one is looking. Those who may not even know they look like Jesus.