No matter how you feel about my writing and, in general, about me; you may have wondered at one point about what the hell is going on with me. Some of you have already condemned and abandoned me, some of you have reached out to me and supported me, some of you don’t know what to do, and some of you are indifferent.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum, I want you to know that I am not alone in this thing called “spiritual deconstruction”. For those unfamiliar, “spiritual deconstruction” is the process of taking already held beliefs about faith; examining new perspectives once unconsidered; processing all options (or as many as you have exposed yourself to); and either forming new beliefs, letting go of old beliefs, or (usually) both. “Spiritual Deconstruction” is a process all people of faith SHOULD go through, but most do not.
Most are comfortable in the religion of their youth or their spiritual beginning and never consider or examine their own beliefs and look outside of that to see if what they actually believe is true. It doesn’t matter if you are intelligent or “unintelligent”, most people are satisfied with never growing or maturing in their faith. Most are never curious about their beliefs. Most are never open to other ways of viewing religion.
Well I am not like most people. I have always been a curious ponderer about all things considered. I have a voracious appetite for knowledge, learning, and growth. This has led me down paths most would say to avoid, but for me, even though this road I am on is painful at times, it has been more freeing and wonderful that where I came from. Most will not understand my journey and will dismiss me altogether and not care to understand. Well I would encourage everyone who reads this, no matter what you believe, to carefully consider what “spiritual deconstruction” is.
Below is a link to a wonderful, accurate report (video) by CBS Religion about the growing wave of people who are undergoing “spiritual deconstruction” and find themselves not alone and aligning together to speak about their faith journeys and how they are growing to become more fulfilled, more loving, more inclusive, more understanding, and more compassionate. I would take the time and check this out. It will give you a glimpse about what my journey has been like, though my journey is different and similar in ways to the others featured. One thing to remember is that every journey is unique.
Ok so if you watched the video, you might have some pre-conceived notions about what “spiritual deconstruction” is. Well, I want to talk about what “spiritual deconstruction” is NOT. Especially from conservative evangelicals, they have misconstrued and, quite frankly, just plain gotten wrong about how people have left the conservative, evangelical movement of Christianity. Let me share just a few myths I’ve heard from evangelicals about “spiritual deconstruction” and why they are wrong.
Myth 1: Deconstruction is about rebellion
Many think that those who have gone through “spiritual deconstruction” have done it purely to be in rebellion with God. I can tell you that for myself, that is anything but the case. I feel through my time of “spiritual deconstruction” that I have grown closer to God and that I have a more loving, wise understanding of God. In my understanding I have realized and embraced that God is mysterious and that there is so much I am not meant to know of God, but what I do know now is so much better that what I perceived before. God is not meant to be completely figured out, or to be put in a box, or to fit a mold. God is meant to be the Ultimate Force, Supreme Being, and Cosmic Reality.
Myth 2: Deconstruction is about abandonment
Another thing that I have heard is that my “spiritual deconstruction” was an excuse to abandon my faith of youth. I can tell you that for myself, again this is simply not true. There has been little social, cultural, economic, or popular benefit to abandoning my former conservative, evangelical faith. If anything, it has cost me dearly. Yet, I would say that what I have gained in spiritual fulfillment, personal intimacy with God, a clearing of the conscious, and decreased anxiety and depression are far better rewards that favor with the “Christian Machine” as author Jen Hatmaker has called it. “Spiritual Deconstruction” is not just about leaving former beliefs behind, but its also about embracing new, better beliefs that help you grow and mature into the Way of Love rather than the Way of Law.
Myth 3: Deconstruction is about capitulation
Similar to the previous statement, I have heard that my “spiritual deconstruction” is about “surrendering to the world” and its beliefs, values and morals. That it is about appeasing the “world” and finding favor with it. Many conservative, evangelical Christians love to quote the verse in 1 John 2 that says “in the world, but not of it…” But it is my assertion that they are misusing that Scripture to condemn those that do not think or act just like them. That Scripture is actually talking about those who reject God and God’s values from those who embrace God and God’s values. The IVP New Testament Commentary says the following:
Too often Christians live as though they were of the world, but not in it. They have adopted the good things of culture and society, but refuse to involve themselves to create positive change. They take credit for the good, but shift the blame for the bad. John does not mean that Christians are to shun involvement in secular or political affairs, or that they are not to care about and for that which we call "the world."
So, for me, my “spiritual deconstruction” has led me to a greater awareness and understanding of the values that God and Jesus Christ have exhibited in the Scriptures and, in particularly, in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit is what allows me to live out God’s values in forming our world to be more about truth, justice, righteousness and love; not about surrendering to values, morals, and beliefs devoid of God/spirituality/faith.
Now I know that this is just a “primer” of sorts about such a complex topic like “spiritual deconstruction”. There are so many excellent resources but one I would recommend that has fundamentally changed me when it came to my faith is the book Stages of Faith by James W. Fowler. I’ve included a chart that provides an overview of each stage and below is a link that is a good summary of of Fowler’s work:
So, you can see that this process is not some knee-jerk, haphazard, irrational response to some religious trauma (even though religious trauma is real and is a reason for leaving faith); but it is a lengthy, thoughtful, rational, and developmentally appropriate response to faith. I do plan to talk about religious trauma and how it has played a large affect on myself and my generation and how more of us are calling it out and finding healing from it.
Oh, and I am still going through my “spiritual deconstruction” and working through my “religious trauma”. It is a life-long journey. I am slowly reaching toward the goal of “enlightenment”. I hope to get there one day.