Post 500: On Deconstruction - 'Welcome to'

Well, I'm finally here: post 500.  I had thought there would be some master-plan to my lead-up, but frankly I've been distracted, and sort of stumbled to this point.  That sort of sums up the overall flow of this blog since I started it in late 2004.  There is little overarching theme, except my own cognitive and spiritual development.  Who I was in 2004 is not who I am today.  Conservative-to-Emerging-to-ex-Evangelical-to-Closet-Liberal-to-Liberal-Evangelical.  And I have no idea what's next.

I'm thankful.  I'm thankful that my faith has survived.  I'm thankful that my very Evangelical conception of a loving, personal, intimate God has survived.  I'm thankful for my friends who have been here along the way with encouragement, argument, rebuke and affirmation - all of it has made me better.  All of you have made my faith richer.

The header of my blog (currently) lists these characteristics: deconstructing, advocating, liberating, evolving, hoping, loving God.  I think they reveal a lot about the nature of a dynamic faith.  And I don't mean dynamic in some self-congratulatory term, like: "that Tony Robbins is such a dynamic speaker!"  I mean dynamic, as in "characterized by continuous change."  Dynamism also infers energy.  My faith is energetic (for better and for worse) and certainly characterized by continuous change.

Several friends have recently asked about my intentions with the word "deconstruction."  It carries certain implications, depending on one's background (art, philosophy, religion, etc...) and I'm afraid I'm not well-read enough to be aware of all those implications.  When I talk about deconstruction, I'm talking about digging through all of the de facto beliefs and assumptions of the cultural/religious landscape Evangelical Christianity has created.  Deconstruction does not necessarily require that I throw away all those things I have deconstructed.  Sometimes those things can be reconstructed in ways that are more helpful or meaningful (without the ideological baggage they started with) and sometimes they can simply be left as they were (since we're not deconstruction a physical construct, we can explore something, right down to its foundation, and then walk away, leaving it standing).  Admittedly, simply going through the steps of exploring what the thing is - at it's is-ness - changes it, because it changes our understanding of it.

A big critique of Christian deconstruction is that it's habit-forming.  Once you learn how to take something apart, it's hard to stop.  Moreover, once you learn that taking something apart won't precipitate the end of the world, it's not very scary, so "where does it end?"

I would argue that continual deconstruction is necessary, even as we reconstruct new paradigms.  In fact, as soon as we have constructed something new, the process of deconstruction is necessary, so that we don't begin to believe that the thing we've built is any different or any better than the thing we took apart.    Because, in the case of faith, the thing we've built isn't the thing.  It's about the thing.  The thing is Christ, or God, or truth, or reality (depending on your particular vantage) and the thing is perpetually elusive, no matter how hard we try to understand it.

I am reminded of something Brian McLaren has repeatedly cautioned or alluded to: that the "emerging church" needs to be wary not to become "emerged"; that the only way for emergence Christianity to remain helpful, vibrant, and true to itself, is to continue doing what Christianity has always done: evolve.  Stasis is not a part of Christianity's DNA.

My own deconstruction stops, not at God or salvation, or the person of Christ, but at relationship with Christ.  Not because I'm afraid to discover something about Jesus that I don't want to know, but because I don't treat my loved ones the way I treat a concept.  If I love my friends, or my family, or my wife, I don't subject them to the rigors of interrogation.  When I learn new things about them - things they reveal about themselves, or things that life naturally illuminates - I re-contextualize who they are.  And I choose to keep loving them.  So the only place I find deconstruction unhealthy and unhelpful is relationally.

In the next couple of days, I hope to continue exploring some of these descriptors of my blog:

But first: where has deconstruction led YOU?

Has it been scary, invigorating, discouraging, hopeful?

What would YOU (the present you) tell the YOU of yesterday (when you began your process of deconstruction) that you wish you'd known?  A word of warning?  Of encouragement?  Of comfort?

Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.  To 500 more posts!


The Journey Man said...

This is a good one man!

I agree. For me, I see deconstruction is a perpetual process that we will carry with us, and then for me reconstruction is less about my concepts and more about the verbs. how am i living a reconstructed life? how is my reconstruction helping stop poverty for example...

my deconstruction is still happening in terms of the origins of my faith. although, i have/am deconstructing jesus, and i think for me what its done is made jesus bigger than i once was taught. still important and central, but now part of a multi-center. the deconstruction has led me to some pretty interesting places, but places i don't regret going, and some new ones around the bend i know nothing about but am excited to discover...thanks for this post bro.

Al said...

Congrats on 500. That's more episodes than the Simpsons!

Deconstruction without reconstruction can definitely be scary. Destroying certain bricks will probably make the house fall down. However, if we analyze the validity of each brick, and rebuild with the good ones, we can expect to have something much sturdier than the previous building.

I agree, it needs to be a continuous process; we never arrive. Our knowledge may be more than it was a few years ago, but it will be even greater a few years from now.

I suppose I would want to tell a younger version of myself that it's good to question things, even (especially) the things that you think are set in stone. And that you will survive the process.

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