Thursday, November 4, 2021

Deconstruction Isn't Cool

It's not a new word or idea by any means, but it sure feels like "deconstruction" is the new, trendy word in Christian circles today. Social posts on the idea are everyone, books on the subject are hot off the press, deconstruction programs are being sold, and most of what I'm seeing lately at least somewhat glamorizes the deconstruction process.

Memes like this are a good example of what I keep seeing. (Please scroll down and read it if you haven't already.) They're not completely ignoring the difficulty of deconstructing one's faith, but they're also not being completely honest about the excruciating pain that so often comes when one reevaluates everything.

And I'm not trying to say that one shouldn't partake in this long, arduous process of rethinking one's faith. I went through that journey and am glad I did. But if you're glorifying deconstruction, then I don't think you properly understand deconstruction. I love the faith that's emerged from my long pilgrimage of stripping things to the studs, but "enjoy the ride" is not a phrase I find realistic or helpful when thinking about this incredibly difficult process. That wasn't my experience at all. I rarely felt like I was the driver of my own deconstructive process. Instead, it often felt like the wheels were falling off and my world was crumbling around me.

Deconstruction is a massive risk that's almost always painful and costly. I've personally watched marriages fail, pastors quit, theists become atheists, parents disown kids, kids write off parents, seminary students never attend church again, and tons of people just stop caring about faith. Deconstruction is lonely and scary. You feel crazy and sane simultaneously. You feel like you're finally being honest with yourself, and yet everyone else thinks you've lost it. And you often have to do this important work in isolation because to share this journey publicly would be too costly.

So, in my mind, you deconstruct your faith only when you have to; when to not ask these questions would mean denying everything you feel stirring in your soul; when keeping the status quo is just no longer an option; when you're finally willing to give up the comfort and security of the old system for the tantalizing-yet-uncertain hope for a better future.

But there's no celebrating. There's no buckling up and enjoying the ride. There's no manual to work through. It's not a program with six easy steps. You read and talk and question and cry, but somewhat just have to let it happen naturally. There's no forcing this sort of work. There's no rushing this sort of growth. There's no easy way out of one way of thinking and into another.

So if you're going to rethink your faith, count the cost and prepare for pain. And then do so slowly. Do so in community. Give yourself grace. Don't do it because it's trendy, but do so with a commitment to moving all the way through the questions and doubts and uncertainties to a new place of beauty and faithfulness. There's goodness on the other side, so keep going. Don't just tear things down, critique everything, and then quit your faith. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. If you're going to go through the pain of deconstruction, make sure you keep moving through the hopeful goodness of reconstruction. Because if you press on, the new thing that emerges will be beautiful and good and liberating -- a life steeped in the grace and peace of God.

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