I finally got myself back into the habit of getting up on Sunday mornings again, getting out the door and to my new spot in the balcony just as the first song begins. I can’t say I look forward to it. It’s not a personal thing with the music or the messages, I just don’t really want to be there. I keep coming, because I am not the church by myself, church is the gathering of the believers and I hold on to the hope of what church could be. I am always glad I went but there’s just something unsatisfying about it. I’d like to blame the pandemic, an easy scapegoat, but the truth is, I’ve had this going on for years.
It started when I was asked the questions: “What is a disciple” and “How do we make disciples?”
Those questions led to a massive deconstruction of my beliefs and my ministry as I finally began to confront the issues I’ve had since at least high school.
I remember my Sunday school teacher, the pastor’s wife, said that if my mom were to ever remarry; she would be an adulteress because she was divorced. Nope. She was wrong and if that’s what she said that the Bible said, then she must be reading it wrong.
Then there was the whole sexuality thing. Going to high school and college in San Diego in 80’s and 90’s, we were early adopters of Jerry Seinfeld’s attitude, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Unless you went to church, then there was something very wrong with “that.”
I honestly didn’t think a whole lot about it because I didn’t know anyone who was gay, until I did. When I was 19, I started a new job on the same day that one of the guys returned from a bout with pneumonia. A four-month bout with pneumonia that almost killed him. Well, in 1991, there was only thing that caused that, and Paul was not at all closeted. I discovered very quickly that Paul was a very nice man. He and his partner, also Paul, were generous and thoughtful. They would been considered “good Christians,” if only they hadn’t been told that Jesus didn’t love them for who they were. Nope.
I tried to treat Paul with the love and compassion that I thought Jesus expected, but that was never going to be enough to fix the damage created but others. He succumbed to his illness a few years later.
After I graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry and a mountain of debt, I pretty much walked from the church. The church I had worked for during college had “an incident” and while they handled it okay (for the time); he went to prison and I was never, ever, going to work in the church again.
Well, time to heal, a divorce, and desperation forced me back to the only thing I was really trained to do.
About the same time that I started contemplating this question of discipleship, a former youth returned from college and asked to meet with me before he went to his parents. He was bisexual and wanted to know if it was sin.
It was time to let go of the easy answers and finally dissect what I believed.
Are you familiar with the phrase “deconstructing faith”? That’s the name that has been given to this process we embark on when we find ourselves questioning our belief structures; when we just can’t reconcile Jesus commands to love God and love others with what we’re seeing in the church, with what we hear Christians saying, or with what we were taught.
We often feel like we need to go through this alone, almost in secret, because we don’t want to be judged for our doubts and skepticism, but we don’t have to be alone. I want to invite you into the deconstruction – and rebuilding – process with me. Yours will look different than mine and that’s okay, we can still do this together.
If your faith if your belief system, is on life support, pull the plug. Let it die and choose to begin the hard work of deconstruction. Let it die so that it can be recreated. Let it die and believe only one thing: God is the God of resurrection.
Deconstructing faith is not about demolishing it, nor is it setting faith aside; it’s carefully taking our belief structures apart, examining them, cherishing some elements, tossing, and replacing others. Be aware that there’s no quick fix, it may never look like the pretty remodel you imagine, and there will probably always be holes. It is the pursuit of God’s truth, not answers. But it will be yours.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey as we think again about some of the core elements of Christianity.
I encourage you to find a friend or two walk with on this journey; maybe start a “deconstructing faith” book club or dinner group to process together and offer encouragement to one another.
Nest week: Some encouragement from Jesus to question the authorities and teachers.
Book suggestions: When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton or Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding by Rachel Held Evans