In the previous post, I said that deconstruction is about undoing something while at the same time affirming it. When you deconstruct your faith, you are pulling apart, examining, and adjusting it so that it becomes more resilient and functional in your current context. You are drilling down what is indestructible and discarding the parts that are not. There’s usually a catalyst that kickstarts the process. Something that catches you by surprise, exposes the rigidness or inconsistency of what you believe and forces you to come to terms with it.
When we look at deconstruction in that light, it seems obvious that Jesus was and is a catalyst for deconstruction. He challenged everyone’s assumptions about God. The people of Israel were longing for a Messiah to come and rescue them from their brokenness and oppression. They had a very specific view of what that would look like. When Jesus showed up, he wasn’t what they were expecting. Listen to how Isaiah described Jesus’ arrival:
"Who can believe what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” -Isaiah 53:1
John echoes the same sentiment in the opening of his gospel:
"He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” -John 1:10
Jesus surprised everyone and pushed the boundaries of how they viewed God, others, and themselves. He told Nicodemus, a religious expert, that he needed to be 'born again' if he wanted to see the kingdom of God. In other words, start over. Challenge your assumptions. View life with the innocence and curiosity of a child.
When the religious leaders were trying to make sense of Jesus and fit him inside their box, Jesus responded: "You wouldn’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If you did, the skins would burst, the wine would run out, and the wineskins would be ruined. No, you would pour new wine into new wineskins—and both the wine and the wineskins would be preserved.” In other words, don’t try to fit what I’m doing into your old construct. It's bigger.
Jesus often told people to repent. The Greek word for repent, metanoia, means to ‘change your mind.’ In other words, think about things differently. Jesus was a great Deconstructor. (Yea, I made that word up.)
When Jesus showed up on the scene, the religious system of the Jews was cumbersome, legalistic, and harmful. It actually prevented people from connecting with God and each other. (EG- John 2 and the Temple Story, John 8 and the story of the adulterous woman, etc., etc., etc.) Jesus began to expose the inconsistencies, oppression, greed, and injustice of this system. He kept paring it down to a simpler, flexible, more resilient system.
The Core Of It- “Love God and love others. The rest of the Law hinges on that.” In my opinion, most of the New Testament (and the Old, but it’s a little harder to explain) are about giving us concrete handles on what it looks like to love God and love others. Any interpretation of the text that doesn’t lead you to a greater love of God and others is a bad interpretation.
In the Church, we can be guilty of creating the same systems of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Legalism that operates out of fear and doesn’t grasp the full grace of God. Legalism that seeks to protect, control, and hold onto power. Legalism that seeks to maintain ‘unity’ at the expense of excluding the other. Legalism that preserves ‘purity’ by lacking honesty. Jesus confronted those things in his day, and I imagine he’s still confronting it in ours.
If you’ve gone through or are going through a deconstruction, there’s a good chance that the catalyst was a deep disappointment from your faith community. My encouragement would be to work through it. To keep affirming even while you are undoing. Trust that Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, is with you in the process.
The next post will be about epistemology- how do we even know anything at all?