I have been in church all my life. Church was home. Church was family. Church was work.
I don’t remember when, but there came a point when my faith didn’t line up with my experience. Maybe it was growing up and seeing the behind-the-scenes drama of mega churches across the country and thinking, “you shouldn’t treat people like that.” Or maybe it was when I’d see someone diagnosed with cancer and all the praying, fasting, and believing didn’t change the outcome. Or maybe it was that I prayed my own countless prayers that God would take the gay away, and I would wake up feeling the same the next day.
Obviously knowing I was gay and having to hide that part of myself because I couldn’t see how to be both a Christian and gay was hard. It got to the point where I had completely compartmentalize that part of myself. You see, acknowledging that I was gay would be to acknowledge that I was an outsider, that I was out of fellowship, that I was broken and needed to be fixed.
But there was also other things that didn’t match how I knew God to be. I never understood how a loving God would wipe out entire populations and tell His people to even kill the women and children. I always questioned why a loving God would wipe out His whole creation, which He called good, except for those that could fit onto one boat. ( btw it also never made sense to me how the animals walked up two by two ! ) It never made sense why God would do a deal with the Devil and let Job be tormented up to the point of death while He stood idly by. The list goes on and on.
After I came out I started attending a church that focused on reclaiming the gospel. Like I’ve mentioned before, the church was filled with believers, many who were also raised in the Evangelical church but left because what they were being taught, and what they were being shown, didn’t reconcile with their life experience —- and more importantly, their spirit. Their church experience was familiar, but not necessarily life giving.
For me, in order to reclaim an integrated, holistic, faith it required spending some time deconstructing things that I was taught about scripture. It required me to take time to understand the language in the context of the culture in which it was written. As such, I now am able to look at Genesis and see the creation story and see that the first thing God says is what He created was good, and then look at the Gospel from a place that God seeing me as good —- not some detestable, deplorable, abhorrent thing He can’t be in relationship with, without bloodshed. That He his Son to walk with us, suffer with us, and show us how to live. I’m able to look at science and evolution as something that God our creator has worked through, instead of something that contradicts that. I’m able to look at the world full of nuance and color instead of something that is just black and white. You see, God created day and night, but he also created dusk. He created land and sea, but also streams, estuaries, and swamps. He created land animals and sea animals, and those that dwell in between. Nothing is binary.
Deconstructing, and then reconstucting, Christianity is nothing new. It’s true of the Church in the 5th century when the Bible was being canonized, and again 500 years later during the split of the Eastern and Western Church, and then again 500 years later during the Protestant Reformation, and now again, 500 years later. (Phyllis Tickle has a great book about this.) It’s a normal part of our human journey. It’s like if we had been in the Garden with Adam and Eve. You are going to ask some questions. You are gonna reach out for things you don’t understand. It’s a normal process.
I think the reason Evangelicalism has struggled with deconstruction is out of fear about anything that might lead to doubt and questioning. But really doubts and questions are just gifts of faith because it’s really just wonder and mystery , and that’s what makes you grow. It takes faith to deconstruct. Let me repeat: it takes faith.
IT TAKES FAITH TO DECONSTRUCT.
Let me repeat: IT TAKES FAITH.
When I sat down with Corey Marquez a few weeks ago, we also talked about deconstructing faith and I asked him what he felt was at the core of Christianity, that couldn't be changed. He said “ The core of everything for me is incarnation. It’s incarnation in Jesus and its incarnation in ourselves. The reality that God is wholly and fully within us and each human being, that’s God’s image. The more that we can see that, the healthier humanity will be. If I truly see you as made in God’s image, I’m less likely to harm you. That takes a life time to learn and believe that, even about yourself, let alone your enemy. Even while deconstructing, we don’t get rid of any of those teachings of Jesus, and as Jesus would say the whole Bible is built around that. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. You’ve got to love yourself, you’ve got to love your neighbor, you’ve got to love God, and in that you love your enemies. Thats crucial to everything. I don’t want to lose that.”