Christians are falling right and left.
Evangelicals and protestants alike are grasping feebly to understand what is causing this wave of evolving faith popularly referred to as Deconstruction.
In short, deconstruction is a popular term that refers to the practice of revisiting and rethinking long held beliefs, specifically in the Christian faith. Richard Rohr is perhaps the most well-known Christian leader to popularize the term. Rohr often describes healthy faith development as one that undergoes three stages.
- Construction – building your belief system and worldview
- Deconstruction – challenging that worldview and subsequent beliefs
- Reconstruction – rebuilding a new, more holistic set of beliefs and worldview
A few years ago deconstruction was a new term gaining some ground in the public. Today, it is a culture-wide phenomenon with thousands of books, podcasts and social media accounts dedicated to it (including my instagram account and book, Giving Up Sunday).
Every other week, it seems, there is new buzz about the next prominent Christian influencer that is renouncing their faith and stepping into a new life.
Deconstruction is no longer a fad.
It is not simply a season.
And it is not going away anytime soon.
The Gospel Coalition’s Response
The Gospel Coalition recognized that deconstruction is more potent than many believed it would be, and decided it was time to respond by putting out a book entitled Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing in the Church.
In an article released by The Gospel Coalition regarding the book, The Gospel Coalition expressed some measure of acceptance regarding deconstruction. However, it eventually became apparent to me that they are writing a book about something they have little understanding or experience.
The main takeaways I was able to decipher from the article is that deconstruction is only beneficial if done within the context of church affiliation.
Simply put, “deconstruct all you want, but don’t leave your church.”
To that I say, “trust me, we have tried for years.”
To their credit, deconstruction is not intended to be demolition.
As Brene Brown might say, “We have to retell the stories we believe about ourselves,” as well as those stories that raised us. Through deconstruction, we are able to find the good and the helpful parts of our faith upbringing, while reshaping or throwing out the unhelpful.
The problem with The Gospel Coalition’s advice to “deconstruct within the Church” is that most people you will find in church are uncomfortable with deconstruction. Most view deconstruction as something to be corrected or argued away, rather than listening, accepting and embracing those wrestling with deeply challenging questions about their faith.
I will tell you that the more church leaders and Christians attempt to correct deconstructors rather than embrace them in their questions and doubts, the faster their church attendance numbers will dwindle.
The Future of the Church
I believe deconstruction is from God.
I believe deconstruction is the revival evangelicals have been praying for for centuries.
Deconstruction is God’s way of returning our hearts to the main point: Love.
Love of God, love toward ourselves and love for each other. Even love for our enemies.
It is still painful for me every time deconstruction leads people out of their faith completely. I do not believe that is God’s intent for this process. But really, who could blame them?
As a life coach working with deconstructing Christians, most of the people I have seen walk away from the faith did so not because of their struggles with God, but because Christian churches have become too wrapped up in the very things Jesus spoke against with the Pharisees.
Who could really blame a person for walking away from a religion when it has been so intertwined with systems of greed, oppression, manipulation and control. I get it. It often seems all of Christendom has forgotten the greatest commandment:
“Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself.”
People are not deconstructing because they want to hear “theology that tickles their ears.” They are deconstructing because most churches have forgotten the core principle of Jesus’ ministry. They have forgotten “their first love” (Rev 2:4).
This is where deconstruction comes in.
People searching for the heart of Christianiy will continue to flood out of church doors and into homes, bars, parks and office buildings. They will leave in search of others who know how to discern Godly authority from greedy power, and who know how to speak, act and live the TRUTH IN LOVE.
There will be a long line of evangelical leaders attempting to co-opt and redirect deconstruction for their own purposes. It is a desperate attempt to hold on to their people, hold on to their influence, hold on to their way of life without having to be held accountable for what their way of life has produced.
Ultimately, their efforts will fail.
Deconstruction will sweep Western Christianity into massive reform. It will remind us that our money and resources were meant to help alleviate the rampant poverty around us, not for buildings and programs.
Deconstruction will erase the divide between “ordained clergy” and lay people. It will instead remind us that God chooses all people to love, to serve and to lead in their own right, without the stringent gatekeeping of any institution.
Deconstruction will remind followers of Jesus that we are human, and as such, we are part of this world full of humans loved by God. Deconstruction will remind us that being “set apart” means we are charged with exemplifying that love in all places, rather than using it to perpetuate an idea that we are special or favored by God.
Deconstruction will blur the lines of orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right living), because theology will no longer be about having “the one right answer” to each question. It will lead us to the humility of focusing on what we do know; how to love people and trust God for the rest.
Deconstruction may be the end of churches in the West, but it will not be the end of Christianity.
Deconstruction, like many massive upheavals in the history of Christianity, is the beginning of the rebirth of the Body of Christ, a body that actually lives among the people and impacts them with his love.
Phyllis Tickle would call it The Great Emergence. Though it may decimate the size and influence of Christianity in the west, it will restore the heart of Jesus.
It will bring us back to a place of simple faith.
One that seeks only to love God and love others as we love ourselves.
For me and millions others in deconstruction, God is not stuck in the rigidity of the past, but the freedom of the present and the hope of the future.
He is a redemptive God, not a punitive one. He is a God of all people, all sexualities, all genders and all ethnicities. If He really is real, He is a god that has given us His image, and we have decided to pay attention to the glimpses of “eternity in our hearts” rather than the condemnation in our mouths and on our hands.
Deconstruction is not a plague of the Church, it is its future.
Deconstruction will put Christ-following back into the hands of the people.
It is a prophet reminding us that true religion is setting captives free, fighting for the oppressed and loving every single person – including your enemies – as if they were Jesus Himself.
Deconstruction will bring us back to the heart of God.