If you google most anything on church trends right now, you’ll find some statistic or blog post on the declining church. Pew Research regularly conducts surveys on “The Rise of the Nones”, or those that no longer claim any spiritual affiliation with a church or denomination.
Others talk about the “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon that sounds good and at the same time, meaningless. What does it really mean to be spiritual, anyways?
An increasing topic you’ll find is around the word “deconstruction”; those who were previous adherents to a faith that have decided that it was all meaningless. It’s a buzz word among church leaders and consultants and it generally is regarded as a bad phenomenon in the Christian world…but should it be?
Personally, I have never understood blind adherence to a set of beliefs without some level of critical thinking to determine if it is rooted in any real truth. This type of mindless following (or control) is generally what leads to some pretty bad stuff, especially if the leader is unhealthy and in my experience, every leader that is threatened by critical thinking is an unhealthy leader.
Thoughts of Jonestown, Waco, Tx and even Nazi Germany come to mind. Critical thinking is not only a gift for humanity, it is an expectation.
Deconstruction generally means someone is exposed to new information and it causes them to question what they assumed was true before but now aren’t sure. We see a lot of “christian” celebrities “deconstructing” but theirs is really more of a demolition. They abandon everything they once held as true about God, faith or the church. The Rhett and Link duo of “Good Mythical Morning” and Josh Harris of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame are good examples.
Sometimes those who are deconstructing are doing so after a religious figure they admired really messes up or if they have been a victim in the ever growing scandal of church abuse. Sometimes it’s not really a scandal but someone has made a test of scripture to be a strictly science or history textbook when it wasn’t ever intended to be.
Whatever the reason, some have taken deconstruction to truly unhealthy places refusing to believe that anything that was once held true could actually be…true.
I certainly wouldn’t want anyone I cared about to take any of these paths but I don’t believe all deconstruction is bad. In fact, I don’t think you can be a mature follower of Jesus without living a lifetime of deconstruction. That’s part of what critical thinking is about. Jesus even said to be as harmless as doves while being wise as serpents and we can’t do that if we don’t regularly assess what we are told is true versus what is actually true.
Jesus never used this term, deconstruction, but Jesus often introduced his teachings with “You have heard it said, BUT I tell you” as he goes on to deconstruct false teachings and beliefs about God. Or, he would end a moment of teaching with “let those who have ears to hear or eyes to see, hear and see”.
There are many things I wholeheartedly accepted as a young believer that falling deeper and deeper in love with scripture REQUIRED me to deconstruct.
You see, that’s what God does when we find the Pearl of Great Price. We know what we know until we know something different, something better, something more in line with the story God has been telling from the beginning. For me, that something is often something that was once known but has been forgotten or is so layered with corrupted interpretations that it’s begging to be rediscovered through the Holy Spirit and God’s word.
Deconstructing can be demolition but it can also be a doorway to better things. Imagine a person that hated their neighbor because of their skin color because that was the world they were born into. They will have to deconstruct these truths to be a healthier and more mature person.
Imagine a person that goes to church every Sunday and then berates their server at lunch right after because their order was wrong. A person who loves God and follows the teachings of Jesus knows that these 2 activities can’t honestly be practiced by the same person authentically but only if they have taken the time to know, correctly interpret and apply those teachings.
Deconstruction can absolutely go too far when we drop everything because of one area of conflict, but without it, I really don’t think growth is possible for anyone. Scripture invites you to go deeper. It invites you to explore and question. It reveals God’s thoughts and actions as well as the bigger story that is going on all around us. It can be applied or ignored and it can radically transform you if you choose the former rather than the latter.
What do you think? Am I wrong on this? Let me know…as you can probably tell, I’m not afraid of deconstructing some things, too.