“Deconstruction” Is Not a Dirty Word – Baptist News Global

A fateful day during my third year, my family was playing a board game and I was close to winning. I rolled the dice and landed on a square that said, “Go back 17 squares.” My whole family laughed, as did I, and I jokingly cried, “Oh shit!”

My third-grade mind had confused the curse word with its less rude sibling “dang it,” and I didn’t realize what I had done until the laughter suddenly stopped. I clearly remember the shock on my sister’s face and how my mom immediately ended the game and sent me to my room. It was the day I learned there were swear words and recorded my first as “the D-word”.

Andrea Huffman

There’s another D-word circulating in Christian circles these days, and some ministry leaders seem to be responding to it much like my mom and sister did: shock, closure, rebuke. This word is “deconstruction”, and despite the reactions to the contrary, it is do not a swear word.

In fact, deconstruction is actually what churches have always hoped for – especially with their students. In my 10 years of youth ministry, I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve heard pastors and parents express a desire for students to “own their faith.” They wanted students to examine their faith for themselves, consider it, dig into it, and make their own beliefs their own.

In a nutshell, they wanted students to deconstruct.

The presumption, of course, was that their process of deconstruction would result in a solid, reconstructed faith, preferably with stark similarities to that of their parents and pastors. This, as we know, is not what happened in our younger generations.

Lately, however, this process of deconstruction has extended beyond these younger generations. Adults of all ages and stages have found themselves questioning aspects of their faith, their churches, and their spiritual upbringing in ways they never have before. Many older adults in my own church seem to find themselves in a wasteland – a wasteland of deconstruction – and they’re not sure where to go from here. Many of them, having their eyes opened to things they had never thought of before, ask themselves, “Now what?

This is a question churches should be asking themselves too, especially since deconstruction is on the rise (and that’s not a dirty word). But for people wondering “what now?” I would like to share some lessons I have learned from my own journey.

Deconstruction is like a new world, especially for those of us who still claim Christianity but leave behind our faith as we have known it until now. Whether we’re scared of this new world or excited about it (or maybe a bit of both), the good news is that the possibilities here are endless. There’s a big open space here with plenty of room for exploration, and I think we can all wonder (and ask God) how we can live more faithfully as Christians now that we’ve found ourselves in this new place.

So here are some do’s and don’ts as you brave your new world:

Don’t be Christopher Columbus. He landed in a new world with the arrogant presumption that because he was new to him, it was new for everyone. He named it, claimed it for his monarchs and acted like he was the first to find out, when in fact around 60 million people already lived on the continent.

“You are not the first person here, nor the first person to struggle with the theological and social questions you pose.”

The same is true for deconstruction. You are not the first person here, nor the first person to struggle with the theological and social questions you pose. In fact, what you think is totally new territory is actually a well-populated expanse full of knowledge, thoughtful criticism, and profound theological truth. It just didn’t fit the precise mold and market of the evangelical Christian subculture, so you’ve probably never heard of it before.

Search and listen to new voices. People who have been here for a while have a lot to share, especially if they are people on the fringes. Read books written by people of color and women, especially black and brown women. Use your social media to start following black theologians, or female pastors, or gay clergy, or trans Christians.

You don’t have to agree with everything you read or every opinion you come across, but you can at least start listening. That’s the beauty of this new wilderness: there’s room for many voices, and we all benefit from listening to and learning from as many different voices as possible. Iron sharpens iron, doesn’t it?

Don’t cheat the process. Don’t immediately look for the right answers or the right thing to believe. It only creates a new fundamentalism at the opposite end of the spectrum. Give yourself time to listen to new voices and to pray. Reflect on what you hear from God and others, ponder, question and marvel.

“Make time to listen to new voices and to pray.”

Oh, how beautiful it is to marvel! Let yourself sit in the unknown, in the gray areas and in the “what ifs”. Fight the urge to immediately replace your old cemented beliefs with new cemented beliefs.

Practice theological hospitality. Since you are trying not to immediately replace old beliefs with new ones and cheat the process, bestow the same grace on others. When you hear a new opinion, don’t make up your mind immediately.

Let someone else hold their beliefs without you having to figure out if you think they’re right or wrong. Trust that they are on their own path and that God cares about them even more than you do. You can let them live with their thoughts, processes, and beliefs, even if they differ from yours.

Don’t let the enemies bring you down. There are many people who still treat “deconstruction” as a dirty word or who will not understand or give you thanks for the process you are going through. They may respond to you in hurtful or painful ways. When a spirit friend told her father (a pastor) that she had applied and been accepted into seminary, he frowned and said, “So tell me, when did you stop believing in the authority of the scriptures?

There will always be people who will not understand any deviation from the predetermined path, and for them “deconstruction” might always be a dirty word. Don’t let that stop you from exploring that great beyond, from finding God in that new wilderness. After all, the Israelites encountered God in the desert. Jesus too. Many of us discovered God here – and there is plenty of room for more. Between.

Andrea Huffman is currently a pastoral resident at Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo. She has served in ministry for the past 12 years, during which time she has also given birth to three children, earned two graduate degrees, and purchased a partridge for his pear tree. She currently resides in Liberty with her husband and their lovely handful of children.

Related Articles:

Jesus and deconstruction | Review by Terry Austin

The Deconstruction of American Evangelism | Opinion of David Gushee

Deconstruction is not a disease, and trying harder is not the cure | Review by Amy Hayes

The Role of Seminars in Guiding Ex-Evangelicals Like Me Through Deconstruction | Analysis by Rick Pidcock

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