Skillet frontman John Cooper took a break from the Christian rock band’s Winter Jam set this week to give his audience some thoughts on “deconstruction.” Simply put: he’s not a fan.
“It is time that we declare war against this deconstruction Christian movement,” he said. “I don’t even like calling it deconstruction Christian. There is nothing Christian about it. It is a false religion.”
Cooper goes onto question why a generation that claims to love being their most “authentic selves” is also the most medicated, anxious and suicidal in our nation’s history, blaming celebrities for leading young people astray.
“And for all those formerly Christian people who have tried to tell all these young folks that they think they found a third way,” he continued. “Their third way is this: It’s OK if you’re into Jesus, just don’t be into the Bible. I’m here to tell you young folks, there is no such thing as loving Jesus but not loving his Word.”
The crowd cheered Cooper’s words, which echo similar sentiments from Christian leaders like Matt Chandler, who recently said that “you and I are in an age where deconstruction and the turning away from and leaving the faith has become some sort of sexy thing to do. I contend that if you ever experience the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ actually, that that’s really impossible to deconstruct from.”
There’s sort of a fundamental misunderstanding of what “deconstruction” is here, which is a term that’s grown in popularity to describe a process of re-examining the faith you grew up with. Sometimes, that can result in deconversion. Other times, it results in your faith looking more or less the same it always did. Most often, it’s somewhere in between — rethinking the things you’ve always believed and coming to a new, different understanding of parts of it.
It’s a very common and ancient process. Martin Luther, for example, probably wouldn’t have used the word “deconstruction” for his own theological revolution, but it fits into the paradigm of what researchers would call deconstruction today.
The word was originally coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida as a critique of Platonism, but in recent years it’s been popularized by the likes of Father Richard Rohr to refer to a spiritual journey — a cultivation of religious belief. In this framework, most of us start our spiritual journeys through a process of construction, where we build our spiritual worldview, usually with the beliefs handed down to us from authority figures.
Then, at some point, many Christians enter a process of deconstruction, where they start to re-examine those beliefs. And then you enter a time of reconstruction — rebuilding a belief system, ideally with the help of a trusted community.
Obviously, it’s not always this straightforward. Some people get stuck in a season, or find themselves revisiting old seasons they thought they’d already gone through. But in no case is it particularly helpful to accuse these people of a “false religion” or to declare war on them.
Cooper’s talk had a lot of good points in it. It is true that celebrities don’t always make for great role models, and we should be concerned about the suicide rate in the U.S. (although there’s some good news on that front). But the connection to “deconstruction” — however you define it — is tenuous at best.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.