It's going on 22 years now since my deconstruction began. It began with a deeply intimate encounter with God during a time of prayer in my living room on one weekday morning. I share the details of this encounter in my book Becoming Love. I look back over the years and I see this particular moment as my personal Big Bang moment.
It was profoundly impactful not only with my faith but to my entire worldview. My Big Bang was renovating my life in ways I couldn’t begin to understand or imagine. In a word, I had a deeply intimate encounter with divine love and it wrecked me. I know, Jesus 101 basics, "yeah, Jesus loves me this I know, Next!" but for me it was my Damascus Road experience, a tangible experience of knowing at the very core of who I was.
It was at this moment that my deconstruction journey began, like yeast to bread working its way through the dough, this experience of love worked (continues to) its way through my life. Like stumbling into Alice’s rabbit hole of questions and doubts - confronting well-entrenched ideas about God and wrestling with an acute sense of cognitive dissonance. Nothing was off the table as I wrestled with my inherited Janus faced, fundamentalist god, twisted justice, sacred/retributive violence, what the heck were the scriptures, end-times theories, christian nationalism, work of the spirit, the sovereignty of God, the Omni's of God, how we are saved and do we even need to be saved, the idea of original sin and the list goes on. As I pulled at one thread another appeared - luring me deeper down the rabbit hole. Again, I write about the beginning stages in Becoming Love.
I remember it was both an exhilarating and terrifying time - exhilarating because, with each question, I discovered new, exciting and intuitively confirming perspectives to things I realized didn’t make sense. It was also terrifying because, especially early on, with each question and each step away from my evangelical/fundamentalist camp, the more I thought I was losing faith, further outside of the camp and still felt the twinges of the hooks of the institutionalized religious fear. My only anchor in those early days was the sense that I was safe in love. The person of Jesus was the one thing I could hold onto. My thinking about Jesus evolved but that kiss in my living room all those years ago was a life-giving tether.
There were times I felt so angry and estranged from the christian culture of my small southern Alberta town, moreover with the overwhelming expression of western christianity. There were many moments I just wanted to say to hell with christianity because I could no longer identify with the god they seemed to worship. The often angry, vengeful tyrant they seemed to worship and live couldn’t be confused with the Abba of Jesus.
Yet, I continued to be lured by love deeper still. In this process, I realize that a new stream began to run parallel to the deconstruction - and this was reconstruction. I noticed that as I journeyed along, the deconstruction stream was drying up and the reconstruction stream was growing to river size. The long season of deconstruction was giving way to a new spring where my vibrant, dynamic faith and worldview were preparing to emerge.
And We're Back
A significant piece of my reconstruction journey (a lifelong process, make no mistake) was the discovery of Open and Relational Theology. The term Open and Relational Theology is a Big Tent term coined by Thomas Jay Oord. Big tent because it makes space for a number of perspectives that shares the big idea’s that the future is open and that God is truly relational. It is a relational way of thinking about the dynamic nature of spirituality and life itself and informs the ways we engage it and the way God engages us, moment by moment.
Open & Relational Theology
Open and Relational Theology has been a life saver for me, to be able to engage God and the world in ways that are consistent with my experience and intuitive sense of the God-who-is-love via the new eyes of good history, scripture, anthropology, philosophy, science and cosmology. It is affording me a way towards a more whole, very human life in the ongoing journey of becoming love. It is central to my reconstruction journey. Yes, I have still have my share of doubts and questions and through an Open and Relational perspective it provides a rugged schema in which to see and engage God, the world and God in the world. It reminds me that my choices matter, that the future is not decided. And I can help co-create a good future with God and others. Once again, I am also affirmed that God is relational in the most legitimate sense. That in this relationship I experience and am influenced by God, and I too can influence God, moment by moment.
In my next post, I’ll share with you an Open and Relational idea that for me is foundational to it all. This is the big idea of Essential Kenosis and for this, we’ll explore some thoughts of theologian Thomas Jay Oord. As a bit of a teaser: Essential Kenosis is the idea that God must love; that God can't do anything else but love because God is love.