Ever since Donald Trump’s election as president, and especially since the pandemic, deconstruction has been a topic of conversation within Christian circles.Deconstruction, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “is the analytic examination of something (such as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy.”
Deconstruction, for the Christian, is the process of breaking down the beliefs and doctrines held by a church, denomination, or theological framework because the teachings and practices don’t seem to line up.
When done in pursuit of truth deconstruction can be an admirable work.
In fact, I went through a period of deconstruction in the years of 2007-2009 (though that wasn’t the term being used then), as I questioned many of the things I believed both religiously and politically. The one truth I held on to in this process is the resurrection of Jesus. I knew it was not possible to have answers to all my questions, but since I was confident about the resurrection, I trusted that to be my anchor point to help guide my life in pursuit of what is true.
Deconstruction, when done to reveal the inadequacies of your former belief system, is less about discovering what is true than it is creating justification for why you changed. This is why, even though I believe deconstruction can be a healthy part of our journey of faith, I am skeptical about all the deconstruction that is happening across the different faith traditions in the United States.
Take this tweet by Zach Lambert:
Because we are tribal creatures we want to be part of a group. If we feel like outsiders with our current group we are going to find a new one and we are going to adopt the practices of that new group. That is partially what is behind the deconstruction movement. People have found a new group to belong and they are joining in on this thing everyone else is doing. In this sense it is the “sexy” thing to do.
I would agree with Zack that people aren’t deconstructing to have an excuse to sin. This is a weak argument given by morality police to make it seem like deconstruction is all about emotions and feelings rather than real intellectual questions that need to be thought through.
My main problem with the tweet Zach's proclamation that people are deconstructing because the Christianity and Christians that they know are unlike Jesus. It is a subtle jab towards conservative Christians because he doesn't like their politics or their belief about Jesus.
What Zach is saying is that people are deconstructing from the Donald Trump supporting, LGBTQ+ hating, racist, and Christian nationalist Christianity of the political right, because that is not the Christianity of Jesus.
But is that true? Are people leaving conservative Christian circles to discover the real Jesus?
I pastor a church that is made up of conservative Christians who for the most part supported Donald Trump for president, hold to a traditional sexual ethic, and are very patriotic. There are certainly issues that we don't see eye to eye on, especially in areas surrounding politics and patriotism, but I don't question their love for Jesus or their sincere desire to faithfully follow Him.
The real issue isn't that conservative Christians are so unlike Christ, rather, it is a difference of opinion about who Jesus is.
We live in a culture where virtually everyone wants to claim Jesus their own. Jesus gets distorted as a result. If Zach is going to claim that people are deconstructing because the Christians they know and the Christianity that they have been handed are unlike Christ, then we need to know what he means by Christ.
From my perspective it seems that progressive politics may have influenced his understanding about Christianity and Jesus as much as conservative politics have influenced much of evangelicalism or libertarianism has influenced my perception of Jesus and his teaching.
The reason behind much of the current trend of deconstruction is the influence of progressivism into American Christian. This influence gives them a different lens to see Jesus, interpret Scripture, and evaluate the traditions of Christianity. Rather than deconstructing to a truer version of Christianity and Christ, they are adopting a Christianity that is more in line with the progressive thought they have adopted.
With the support of a new tribe they feel supported and safe to lob accusations and mischaracterizations towards those who hold their former way of thinking.
I understand the need to critique the current state of Evangelicalism, and other branches of conservative Christianity, in the United States. We need to talk about the unhealthy alliance of Christianity and politics, the lack of true discipleship, and admitting the flaws of those who came before us.
What is not helpful in that discussion is the accusation that Christians who are loving, helpful, generous, and faithful are unlike Christ because they see the world through a conservative lens rather than a progressive lens.
Deconstruction has less to do with truly finding Jesus and more to do with finding alignment between faith and a new worldview.