My wife Pam and I spend New Years Eve with our friends Bob Scott and Sharon Linnea. Bob’s hobby is gourmet cooking and this year, like previous ones, did not disappoint. One of the seven or eight (I lost count) courses of the evening was a Caesar salad deconstruction. I was unfamiliar with deconstruction in regard to food. Basically, a deconstructed dish is one that takes foods that are normally combined, changes their forms and puts them on the plate in a different way. In this case, the elements of a Caesar salad were reformed as a baked Parmesan cheese nest, a few pieces of Romaine lettuce, topped with a quail’s egg, and a large bruschetta crouton covered with an anchovy paste. All the familiar ingredients and tastes of a Caesar salad, just rearranged in different forms and portions.
It was incredible. Although, I imagine not everyone would think so. “Why mess with it? I just want to go to the Olive Garden and order a Caesar salad!” they might protest.
Deconstruction can be threatening. The emerging church is big on deconstruction, everything from texts to theology. That scares a lot of people. For some, it is synonymous with disassembly, in other words, breaking down Christianity into smaller bits so it can be discarded all together.
Might I suggest that, in order to better understand deconstruction, we look a little less to Derrida and little more to Thomas Keller. My New Years Eve meal has me thinking the deconstructive theology of the emerging church is a little like Bob’s salad. The same traditional ingredients, just rearranged in different forms and portions. A little more missional, a little less soteriological. Both are still there, but the latter is a little less prominent on the plate. Emerging theology does not feature a whole bowl full of penal substitution lettuce, just a few leaves of atonement that, when combined in the new recipe, take on a more liberational flavor. In the presentation, one’s eye is drawn more to Jesus than to the Bible. Let your imagination run wild with other examples.
As Bob explained it to me, the idea of a deconstructed recipe is to experience all the tastes of a traditional dish in a new way, so that you can appreciate why they all went together so well in the first place. Olive Garden it is not. But if you ask my wife, an Italian from New Jersey, no real Italian eats there anyway.
Our faith community, Vision, has been changing the forms of church and presenting them on the plate in a different way for ten years. Through this process, we have learned to appreciate why all those traditional flavors of faith went together so well in the first place. Of course many people, even here in the Northeast, still prefer Olive Garden church and that can be discouraging. However, we are called to the adventure of deconstructing Caesar.
What about your faith communities? In what ways have you rearranged forms of church, theology and scripture, and presented them in a new way?