Much has been made in Christian-circles (is that a thing?) about how people are leaving Christianity through a process that somewhere along the way picked up the name deconstruction.
I have a number of good friends I know who have undergone their own deconstruction. Most started out with fairly classical fundamentalist views and many of them are now fully out on faith completely, still-believing-but-very-much-not-fundamentalist-anymore (need a catchier title for that one), or they have just abandoned discussing faith entirely so who really knows what they are?
I was having coffee with a pastor friend of mine and we got to talking about this and he said he appreciated and really respected my approach. First of all, I felt like that was one of the highest compliments I could ever receive. (2 months later he proved it wrong and called me a great father—now THAT is a compliment that lifts one’s spirits) And secondly, what deconstruction?
As I look back over the past ~15 years, I do have to admit that my faith has changed. How I experience and think about God has changed. What I share, and what I find important has changed. But honestly, all these changes are either entirely expected, or somewhat on the periphery. I still fundamentally believe much of the same things now as I did before. And I think there’s a few key reasons for that.
First, I find Jesus endlessly appealing. Always have. He hangs out with sinners. He has incredible one-liners and comebacks when the bad guys question him. He knows how to have a good time and was accused of partying and drinking too much. He loves people no one else loves. He gives up his life for those he loves. He is exactly who I want to be. Always have. No matter what you think about all the God stuff — Jesus as a person is exactly who we all innately wish we were. Or, at least, we wish we had a best friend exactly like this. We know this because people who were nothing like Jesus loved being around him.
Second, I find Jesus endlessly challenging. I do. I don’t think Jesus was being metaphorical when he said sell everything you have and follow me. I don’t think Jesus was being metaphorical when he said that anyone who is not willing to abandon your mother and father, your wife, your kids, your siblings — is not worthy of me. I think Jesus was entirely serious when he said to take up your cross and follow me. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously. That doesn’t mean I follow them. That doesn’t even mean I understand them. But I think Jesus said what he said for a reason. And I don’t think you get attractive Jesus without challenging Jesus. You’ve got to follow the challenges, as best as you can and as best as you understand them, to be rewarded with sweet-Jesus.
Third, I find Jesus’ constant challenges to the religious quite sobering. There was a lot of “settled theology” in Jesus’ day that he upended over and over again. He fought with Biblical students who were very thoughtful, methodical, and studious. Today most Christians will sneer at the Pharisees and Sadducees like they’re dumb. They were not dumb. They had understandings about their faith that went back hundreds of years. They had Bible verses for their positions. And Jesus showed them that they were dead wrong! I find that quite sobering. Today we only know they were wrong because Jesus came on to the scene and showed us how wrong they were. What beliefs are I holding on to that Jesus will one day say is dead wrong? Conviction is a good thing. But so is the sobering humility that all of the conviction in the world won’t do a lick of good if Jesus says you’re wrong. So be open minded. Maybe something you believe with all your heart today you will need to abandon tomorrow because it’s getting in your way of following Jesus.
Fourth, God loves people more than I love people. I know so many Christian parents who are so worried about their kids because they want their kids to go to church. Or to stop smoking weed. Or to not “be gay”. They trot out that they don’t want their kids to go to hell. And I don’t either, but I can’t remember Jesus worrying about active adultery leading someone to go to hell. I can’t remember Jesus pleading with someone to go listen to his sermons else they rot in hell (literally). You aren’t going to scare people into a good relationship with God. If I’ve deconstructed anything, it might be this idea that selling anti-hell cards is what we do. (I don’t think I have ever seriously believed this to begin with)
No. Every person you love? God loved them first. And he loves them most.
Yep even your kids.
Oh. And he loves the people you hate, too.
And to be more like Jesus you gotta try to love them too.
And you know what?
That is probably the hardest thing of all to do. Which is why so few of us try.