Ditches of Religious Deconstruction

It’s still kind of hip culturally—the chronic, never-ending deconstruction. There are many reasons why this is happening on such a large scale, but suffice to say, it is significant in western Christian circles. I know this because I have been there and have several t-shirts to prove it!


I still spend time in this orbit, paying particular attention to the various voices and watching as the various subgroups/tribes take shape, each claiming a better mousetrap and many declaring Freedom and encouraging others to jump in with them - “The water’s warm” as only urine infused kiddy pools can be.


However, a closer look often reveals something else...


They are not free from the old institutional religion or bad theologies.  For in their bitterness, their pointed one-liners and their self-justified snark, it shows ever so clearly that they are stuck.

They thrash about with their scathing take-downs and begin to think because they have a little insight, a growing social media crowd who are angry just like them - that they should build their ministry - akin to a toxic spiritual version of Las Vegas in the desert. They think their vitriol is prophetic. They think they are cutting edge. They believe they are spiritually elite because they can gather a crowd to watch them throw stones and hurl zinger one-liners.


But see.  Their entire message... and being... is all about what they are against.  Their wit, snark, cleaver irreverent spins reveal in glaring terms... They are not free.  They live and breathe to react to the systems, theologies, ideologies that they so despise. The words of Jesus come to mind when he asks, “Why are you looking for the living amongst that which is dead?”


But you see, God takes us out via the desert to bring us into something new. For the love of God, don’t make your home in the spaces of transitions and aridity. Resist the urge to build your cottage industry ministry in the transitional spaces - because, truth be told; you will gather the lost, the bitter and the angry. And the only help you can be to them is being lost and angry together. All the while cheering each other on in self-righteous snark- throwing rocks as you cheer each other on.


Yes. We need voices and guides to help us navigate our deconstructions and the in-between places, but we need wise guides who understand the desert is not the destination. We need prophetic voices who understand that deconstruction is not the end goal. We need voices who are more about what they are for than what they are against. We need dreamers and explorers who have tasted the fruits of the next - of the beautiful and the truly life-giving.


Anyone can gather a crowd, likes, shares and retweets by throwing stones and tearing down something. This is too easy. It is uniquely spiritual to be FOR something, towards making something beautiful. To embody and live the change you wish to see. This takes courage. This takes genuine faith.


A few thoughts for the Deconstruction - Reconstruction Journey


1) Let go - deal with the hurts of your past religious situations. I am not suggesting that you do this to return to an unhealthy religious situation; instead, you can move forward into life with more freedom. The best revenge is living well.


2) Beware of Snarky voices that sound wise and certain in their endless critiques but have never created anything new. These voices tend to reshuffle the chairs on the Titanic rather than produce anything novel. You will find the same legalism as you have fled, just with a fresh coat of paint. Typically, you’ll find “the same shit, a different pile,” just smaller.


3) Beware of any who are invested in you being just as angry and stuck as they are.


4) Theological insights don’t always translate into deep wisdom. It is those insights that are genuinely lived into that produce deep wisdom and transformation. We can intellectually untangle the theologies of Eternal Conscious Torment, Hell, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, memetic theory, yada yada, yada and still be self-righteous fundamentalist. Show me the love. Talk is cheap. I am less impressed by what you know than how you live.


5) Passing through - the desert is the space between where we were and someplace new. The desert helps us prepare for, dream of and heal as we enter the new. Yes - there are essential things to be learned in the desert, but these are often seen in hindsight from the perspective of the new space on the other side of the desert.


6) Don’t wait for the crowd to get healthy. You may be alone or find a couple of others to share the journey. Many get stuck in the bitterness traps along the way. Keep moving.


7) On your way, growing, and then be a guide. Take the splinters out of your eye before trying to help someone with theirs. The interwebs, social media and alike are awash with wanna-be gurus, celebrities and ministers looking only to use you as a means to their “success.” The only thing they can do is make you just as cynical, stuck and snarky as they are.


8) Important Landmarks - Not so much a cloud by day or fire by night, but there are important landmarks to guide us through the desert. The most central is LOVE. I am speaking about a very specific kind of love - self-giving love. The characteristics of this kind of love make for some important points to get our bearings. The kind of love I am talking about is love that is patient, healing and restorative. Love that is forgiving and merciful. A kind of love that is cooperative and creates beauty. A kind of love that is genuinely encouraging and supportive towards wholeness and is UNCONTROLLING.


9) Love is the Way. Love is the Guide. The God who is love is not coercive despite what you may have been taught all your life. Rather God calls, coaxes and lures us forward with love. Not as a reward or punishment (withholding love) instead as an always loving companion along each step of the way, presenting us with a host of loving possibilities in each moment.


10) Discerning the way - ask yourself what invitations of the Spirit are before you in your next steps. Is it genuinely loving? Is it honest? Is it healing/restorative? Is it merciful? Is it kind? Does it make us more genuinely human? 

(Be aware of hurts and bitterness with a veneer of Christian virtue that justifies cruelty, bitterness, chronic victimhood, scapegoating / the mob.)


Dear ones, I get that folks will continue to find themselves in the deserts of faith: Keep going.  This dessert is meant only as a bridge. Deconstruction is not an end to itself. We deconstruct so we can reconstruct in more healthy life-giving ways. This is the rhythm of maturity.


For those who have set up permanent camps and are stuck in bitterness, as someone who has been where you are, I want you to know there is more - much more - that awaits you on the other side of reactionary bitterness and its self-righteousness. That which you once hoped for is there waiting to greet you. It's time to move out of the desert, and shift your energies to co-creating the Kin-dom of God.




Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay


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