What is Deconstruction?
How does Deconstruction affect faith and Christianity?
How do I start Deconstructing?
These are questions I get almost daily (these and a LOT more).
I recently wrote an article titled “The Age of Deconstruction and The Future of The Church.” It was featured on Relevant Magazine and caused quite a stir on social media (especially Relevant’s Facebook post).
Since then, I have had SEVERAL discussions with writers, podcasters, preachers, and everyday people who all seem to have very different definitions of “deconstruction.”
(If you are interested in listening to any of those podcasts, I have put a list of the episodes I have been on about deconstruction and a full page dedicated to deconstruction resources at the bottom of this article)
With hundreds of articles, books, podcasts, and social media accounts dedicated to deconstruction, there’s so much information out there it can get kind of confusing to really understand what we’re talking about. Everyone has a different definition of deconstruction in their head when they talk about it, so what does deconstruction mean…really?
So I think it would be beneficial to back up and define deconstruction for a minute.
At its most basic level,
deconstruction from a Christian lens means revisiting and reevaluating different beliefs that make up your faith.
Christian deconstruction became popularized by several sources, but perhaps the most notable leader in faith deconstruction is Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
When Rohr talks about deconstruction, he refers to it as one of three macro stages of faith development and spiritual growth.
- The building of your faith, belief system, and worldview. Typically the result of your upbringing and the culture in which you were raised.
- Revisiting and reevaluating those beliefs and paradigms. Like the demolition stage of a home renovation. You sometimes have to take things apart to see if they are still working correctly or if there has been any damage that needs to be cleaned out before rebuilding.
- The building back of your faith with new and better information and experience. Again, like a home renovation, it is still the same home, just stronger, healthier, and better to live in.
This is the root of Christian deconstruction. It is a step in a process intended for growth, development, and a stronger worldview that can hold the tension of the world’s struggles combined with commitment to Jesus of Nazareth and his revelation.
Much of the confusion on definitions has come from deconstruction’s connection with deconstructionism, which is a philosophical and literary theory popularized by Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. It is important to note that these two have similar ideas, but ultimately ARE NOT related.
According to philosophybasics.com, the premise of deconstructionism is to “question traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth.” Deconstructionism involves “discovering, recognizing, and understanding the underlying assumptions (unspoken and implicit), ideas, and frameworks that form the basis for thought and belief.”
Though deconstructionism and Christian deconstruction are not the same, I’d say they have some DEFINITE commonalities. But when it comes to how deconstruction affects LIVED LIFE, people who are “deconstructing their faith” are not talking about Deconstructionism.
Deconstructionism at its essence doesn’t have an end goal. It is not seeking to stop deconstructing and move on to the next stage. Deconstructionism is an end in and of itself.
Christian deconstruction or deconstructing faith is a natural, healthy, and VERY common season of life intended to bring us to a mature faith. A faith rooted in the person of Jesus and the mystery of God experienced in real life.
A good term I heard for it is “disentangling.”
We are disentangling our modern, western worldview from the message of Jesus which is universal and eternal. We are disentangling our systems of institutional church from the organic, global, united Body of Christ.
We are disentangling our limited view and understanding of scripture as the main authority in our life, and recalling that even Jesus said, “I am sending you a helper” (not a book), and “The Spirit will teach you all you need to know.”
Deconstruction leads us AWAY from the idea that we have to know the right answers and live them rightly in our lives, and TOWARD a faith that relies of the freedom, grace, and discipline of Jesus.
Mostly, it allows us to let go of the idol of certainty, and dwell in the paradoxes of life and death, freedom and servitude, grace and justice, love and truth.
Deconstruction is a stage of growth
It is not demolition.
Anyone approaching it as a dismantling or a demolishing of church or Christianity is not operating solely out of a response to the spirit of God. They are most likely responding to some unhealed trauma in their lives or the lives of others.
Deconstruction certainly comes with an element of anger and distrust, but it DOES NOT STAY THERE.
As a friend of mine posted recently,
“There are times to swing the hammer and you need to. But if the hammer is the only tool you know how to use, everything becomes a nail.”
For more on Christian Deconstruction, I have a full list of Deconstruction Resources including books, podcasts, guides, and more.
I am also a certified life coach working with those going through deconstruction. The worst thing to do is deconstruct in isolation. I’d love to meet you where you are and help navigate deconstruction with you if that would be of benefit to you.
Here is a list of podcast I was brought on to discuss deconstruction: