“Deconstruction” is a bit of a buzzword at the moment in some Christian circles. For various reasons, many of us have found ourselves dismantling our belief systems and questioning long-held assumptions.
For some people, the deconstruction experience can be overwhelmingly positive and freeing. They are able to see things from refreshing new perspectives and discard aspects of their belief system that were oppressive or harmful.
For others, faith deconstruction can be like losing a parent: utterly devastating and disorientating.
My experience has been a bit of both. Sometimes, deconstructing feels great. It feels like I’m standing on the edge of a whole new world of possibilities. My faith is renewed and I am filled with hope, content to revel in the mystery and wonder of it all.
Other times I feel like I’m stumbling around in a dense fog, desperately grasping for something to help me find my way, something to give meaning and assurance. (I plan to address the emotional and mental health issues surrounding faith deconstruction later in this series.)
I used to find meaning and assurance in my firm beliefs, based on the solid foundation of the Bible. My belief system was the anchor of my faith, and offered a neat, static framework within which to understand the world.
As my belief system crumbled and my view of the Bible changed, I was left searching for something to anchor my faith to. I had to be sure about something, or what was the point? How could I call myself a Christian if I wasn’t sure what I believed?
Love is all you need.
I know, it’s the ultimate cliché.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this, but for me, right now, love is what it’s all about. It’s the whole point.
You see, my faith deconstruction has gradually revealed to me how little we can ever really know. Any ideas or theories we have about God and the meaning of existence are bound to be hopelessly inadequate. And you know what? That’s OK. I don’t think we are supposed to have an intellectual understanding of those sorts of things — they go beyond intellect and reason.
I still have beliefs and hopes about things like Jesus and the Holy Spirit and prayer and the Kingdom of God. But they are no longer set in stone.
I have stopped searching for an anchor, a solid, static set of beliefs I can cling to. Instead, love is my compass and my guiding light for life, here and now. That’s the foundation on which I’m reconstructing my faith.
Love is not the easy option.
The conservative evangelical voice in my head still occasionally wonders if this is wishful thinking. An attempt to soften the Truth, to make it all sound nicer and more palatable.
It sounds suspiciously like wishy-washy, fluffy, hippy nonsense doesn’t it?
Well, that depends on how you define love. The Biblical accounts of the life and death of Jesus are still, for me, the ultimate definition of love.Sacrificial. Radically inclusive. Painful. Dirty.
Real love can bring life in all its fullness, but it is far from easy.
You know what is easy? Signing a doctrinal statement to show that you’re a real Christian. Asserting an intellectual belief in a particular theory of the afterlife. Those things aren’t exactly difficult.
But reorienting your entire life towards radical, sacrificial, Earth-transforming love – now that takes some commitment.
Christ is bigger than Christianity.
Jesus demonstrated a radical way of being in the world that undermined and transcended the human need for separation, hierarchy, and systems of control.
I can choose to see Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God, while acknowledging that the power and influence of his message is not limited to those who adhere to the Christian religion.
Of course, we naturally want to create “in groups.” Of course, we think everyone would be better off if they were like us. That’s human nature. The human nature that Jesus and the New Testament writers challenged relentlessly.
Why bother with religion at all?
Some people reach a point where the healthiest and most life-giving thing to do is to disassociate themselves from religion and faith altogether, at least for a time.
Religion can be toxic. And to be honest, it seems to me that humanists are often far more on Jesus’ wavelength than many Christians.
I don’t entirely buy the atheist argument that we don’t need God to be moral. I’m sure biology, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience have a lot to say about how we have evolved to live in relationship and, in general day-to-day life, refrain from killing one another.
But I don’t believe that the kind of love demonstrated by Jesus comes naturally. It goes against our human instincts — our “worldly wisdom” — and, when truly lived out, can have life-transforming and world-changing effects. It interrupts the status quo and creates something entirely new.
Following Jesus was never supposed to be about having a static set of beliefs.
To have faith in Jesus is to embrace a new way of being in the world, a way of upside-down priorities, counter-cultural inclusion, radical forgiveness, and ultimate sacrifice.
And the best word we have for that is love.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
Photo via Pixabay.
About Emma Higgs
Emma Higgs lives with her husband and two toddlers in Plymouth, England. When she finds a minute, she blogs about progressive theology and mental health, amongst other things, at www.emmahiggs.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.