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Deconstruction Permits

My wife and I were having a discussion, and, if I’m honest, I was a bit of a jerk when the topic of deconstruction came up.

After I apologized, I had to ask myself why I had such strong feelings about this topic, and I think I figured it out.

I’m angry. I’m literally furious about this, but not at the deconstruction crew.

I’m furious at the leaders and scholars who have buried Christianity in so many layers of cultural garbage. I’m in the second stage of grieving for a Church who has responded to the deconstruction movement with shame upon those asking questions and expressing doubt.

Of course, I have some frustrations with the deconstructors, too, but most of those frustrations would have been mitigated at the very beginning of this movement had the Church responded better. Rather than attack people with questions, we should have humbly listened, not just so we can answer but so we can hear the heart and hurt behind the questions and validate the person and their pain they feel.

So, I’m not sure how far I’m going to take this, but maybe I need to walk you through my own deconstruction that I went through about ten years ago.

That’s right. Like a true OG hipster millennial, I deconstructed before it was cool, before it even had a name. (If you read Blue Like Jazz or Velvet Elvis, you know what I’m talking about.)

Let me repeat that louder for the folks in the back: I deconstructed, aaaaaaand I am STILL a Christian.

Because deconstruction can be a good, natural, and life-giving process. Because deconstruction doesn’t have to be about tearing up the foundation of faith that is Jesus Christ.

In most of the deconstruction stories I have heard and in my own experience, the process didn’t begin as an attack on faith but a growing discomfort with and then removal of the cultural elements many have conflated with our faith.

I wrote about this a few months ago, but it bears repeating: culture is everything.

I don’t mean that our faith is merely cultural—i.e. a social construct without transcendent value—rather, much of what we think of as our faith is actually a cultural, man-made affectation. To be fair, just because these elements are man-made doesn’t make them bad, but at the same time, just because they are attached to our faith doesn’t make them biblical. For example:

  • Going to church to hear one person speak is cultural
  • Every song we sing at church—singing songs, even!—is cultural, as is having instruments
  • Altar calls are cultural, having only been around since the 1800s, which isn’t that long for an ancient faith like Christianity
  • Reading the Bible on our own at home and in English is cultural and also recent additions to the faith

Those aren’t bad things, but we blindly accept them as biblical. There are other examples of culture that have become part of the Church that are cultural affections, such as democracy, capitalism, patriarchy, commercialism, etc. Not all of these are inherently bad, but to some degree, they have all been accepted and given near biblical adherence.

So, if all of that is cultural, man-made additions upon the foundation laid by God, what’s left?

So much!

God is and loves everyone.
God died and rose again.
God lives, and I live because He lives and loves me.

These are the universal truths of God that should be the focus of our faith.

Yet, for centuries, we have been adding to our faith with so much cultural bunk that it is no wonder people are desperate to tear down the artifice so that they can find the actual truth of God.

Church, let’s be honest: the work of men has been too long held as the work of God, while the work of God has been minimized.

This is why, when people have begun to deconstruct, they cannot find where the cultural constructions of American Christianity ends and the truth of God begins.

Thus, they tear it all up and are left with nothing.

Tragically, had the Church, at the outset, been willing to hear their complaints and answer their questions, had the Church itself gone to the altar so that God could reveal where we had all lost our way in the morass of culture, then maybe we would have seen more true deconstruction, instead of this recent wave of demolitions.

As it is, unless the leaders of the Church in America are willing to be honest about what they and their predecessors have done in building with culture instead of Christ, then we’re going to see even more Christians declare the whole building condemned.

Background of featured image by Dakota Roos on Unsplash