From Deconstruction To Reconstruction

From Deconstruction To Reconstruction August 15, 2019
Image: Pixabay

“In the case of fundamentalist beliefs, people expect that choosing to leave a childhood faith is like giving up Santa Claus – a little sad, but basically a matter of “growing up.”

“But religious indoctrination can be hugely damaging, and making the break from an authoritarian kind of religion can definitely be traumatic. It involves a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, the future, everything.

“People unfamiliar with it, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create and the recovery needed.” – Marlene Winell, PHD.

There are a lot of people who are deconstructing their faith today. Some are high-profile Christian theologians, authors, artists, musicians and pastors like Joshua Harris, Derek Webb, David Bazan, Bart Ehrman, Michael Gungor and several others.

But outside of those minor religious celebrities who have experienced this painful process of unraveling their faith in God and Christ, there are probably hundreds of thousands of average Christians who are quietly, but nevertheless completely undergoing a complete deconstruction of their Christianity.

I know what that’s like. I’ve been undergoing my own deconstruction process for about 11 years now. For me, it started with the realization that the Gospel I grew up with wasn’t the actual Gospel that Jesus taught. Instead of saying a prayer so I could go to heaven when I die, the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed was all about entering the actual presence of God right here and right now – not sometime after this life was over.

Once that reality sunk in, everything else started to come apart at the seams for me.

Next was evangelism, then came the modern version of what Church was supposed to look like, then came the need to focus more on serving people in need rather than grow a large mega-church and put butts in the seats.

From there I began to deconstruct my views about Hell, the Cross, Salvation, the End Times, Homosexuality and even how to think about the Bible.

I wrote blog articles about my doubts and published books about my newfound realizations. Along with that came the double-edged sword of agreement – from those who were starting to ask the same questions – and condemnation – from those who felt the need to defend the status quo from boat-rockers like me.

I was called “Heretic”, “False Teacher” and a whole lot worse.

But those attacks from strangers on the Internet were peanuts compared to the total rejection and dismissal of dear friends, fellow pastors and sometimes even my own family members who just couldn’t find it in their hearts to love me as a brother in Christ because I disagreed with them on a particular doctrine or belief.

That was the most painful part.

But, I also took comfort from knowing that I was not alone in that either. There were so many others who came to me privately and told me their stories of rejection by pastors, friends and family over differences in theology.

Over the last 3 years now, I’ve published a trio of best-selling books that have helped many people to further deconstruct the toxic entanglements of faith and politics, the worship of the Bible, and the hierarchical power structures of the Church itself.

I’ve also had the honor of co-hosting a podcast called The Heretic Happy Hour which has become sort of a voice for many people who are going thru the deconstruction process. Thanks to our little hour-long show, thousands of people are discovering they are not alone in the universe and that it’s ok to ask questions about the faith they were born into.

But here’s something I’ve just recently started to realize: With all of this focus on “Deconstruction”, there is apparently very little attention paid to the need for “Reconstruction.”

For example, some people I know personally have followed their doubts all the way outside the faith. Much like those high-profile Christian “celebrities” I mentioned earlier, they’ve questioned everything and ended up with nothing to believe in.

And I get it. I really do. There was one point in my own deconstruction process when I nearly lost my faith entirely. In fact, if it wasn’t for the kind attention and gentle counseling of my wife, Wendy, I might seriously have gone off the edge of the cliff and never returned.

For many people, there is no one in their life to do that for them. They have no one to process their doubts with and no resources for reconstructing their faith once they’ve burned it all down.

What really concerns me, honestly, is the emotional damage of deconstruction. As in the quote by Dr. Marlene Winell above, most people don’t understand just how traumatic it can be to lose your faith in God, and in the Church, and in the Bible, and for some, even in Jesus.

To make matters much, much worse, there is the added trauma of being shunned by your friends, cut off from your Church community and treated like a heretic by your own family members over differences of belief.

How does anyone survive something like this?

I know many times I would look at myself in the mirror and ask myself, “Why can’t you just stop asking so many questions?”

But, I can’t do that. And many people I know can’t either.

Because once you know something, you can’t un-know it. Once you’ve seen something, you cannot un-see it.

And so, we are left with an impossible choice: To pretend we still believe things we know are not true – for the sake of unity and continued relationships – OR, we open our mouths and share what we’ve learned and face the furnace of doubt and the rejection of those we love most of all.

Most of us can’t pretend. Not for very long.

So, eventually, our truth becomes known. Our views become spoken. And then our character gets questioned and the condemnation begins.

But, what if there was a place people could go to get help and to heal after this painful deconstruction process is through?

What if there was some way to help provide tools for reconstruction to those who have deconstructed and have no foundation left to stand on?

What if someone could take the time to map out the process for healing, and forgiveness, and letting go to both give and receive practical grace?

Those are the questions I’ve been asking the last few months now. And I think I’ve got an answer.

After a lot of prayer and soul-searching, I decided to take what I know, and compile a basic road map for reconstruction to help people survive toxic Christianity.

It won’t be easy. I know that.

It will take some time. But, if you want help moving forward I invite you to join me at Square 1.

Our journey begins September 30, 2019. I only have 12 seats available.

Details HERE.

 

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

Keith’s newest book, “Jesus Unveiled: Forsaking Church As We Know It For Ekklesia As God Intended” released on June 9, 2019 on Amazon, and features a Foreword by author Richard Jacobson.
Keith’s Podcast: Heretic Happy Hour Podcast is on iTunes and Podbean. 

Can’t get enough? Get great bonus content: 
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Peter Byl

    Thanks Keith.
    I’ve gone through that deconstruction.
    I was challenged by a catholic contemplative (a Benedictine Oblate)who said that he believed that there is room in heaven for Buddhists, Moslems etc.
    I was surprised and said “isn’t Jesus the way?”
    Anyway his answers prompted me to investigate further but initially I was afraid that if I believed that alternative view that I would go to hell.
    Having found out for myself I am no longer afraid , well sometimes the fear comes back. Another blogger explained that after believing in hell most of your life , you won’t let go of the fear over night.
    I still go to a Pentacostal Church for the sake of my wife though she knows where I stand and she respects that though I know she has been having questions about hell.
    My immediate family haven’t rejected me but my friends still don’t know.
    When the time is right it’ll come out. Looking forward to Sept 30
    Bless you Keith for your ministry.
    p.s: so were you a pastor before your deconstruction?

  • Marion Wiley

    You have some gem quotes in there, my favorite- “the toxic entanglements of faith and politics”. My personal deconstruction has been going on since 2010 when I left the last church I attended, one that was abusive. That whole experience opened my eyes to how messed up the whole system is, abusive or not, and I have no intention of going back. One of the biggest gripes I have is that toxic entanglement. Like you say, once you know something you can’t “un-know” it. That whole mindset just appalls me, but there’s no talking to any of the Christians I still have any kind of relationship with. They are all quite entangled and can’t see how toxic it is. So frustrating. Looking forward to reading your books and future posts.

  • Yes. I was a licensed and ordained pastor in the Southern Baptist Church. [Not SB anymore].

  • Peter Byl

    Wow that’s quite a change.
    Thanks for your reply.

  • Herm

    Blessings Keith! You wrote, “There has to be a way forward. This is my way of trying to help, if I can.”

    The Messiah does not write scripture depicting carnal Man’s relationship in spirit with God, never has and never will. Mankind has witnessed the word of God to another only after being filled to personally live with and in the Spirit of truth, without pause, without end. Disciples of the one Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who feel vulnerably compelled to write scripture, rely on the Holy Spirit’s heart and mind felt images to construct their words. All summing up to qualify the will of their one Father as in everything do to others as they would have others do to them.

    Church, as expressed by Jesus, pictures a structured assembly of those being called out from another church. The blog of “keithgiles”, as well as are your home assemblies, is a Church, administered by Keith Giles and Patheos, calling out to offer an assembly of refugees respite from the corporate Christian Church (Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, etc.) administered by others of Man. There is only one assembly of Christ’s siblings, children of God, perfectly administered by Jesus alone with all authority in heaven and on earth.

    Until your church removes it’s structured limit on the number of words that witnesses of God can share in comment, your authority in reconstructing from other authoritarian church structures is suspect. Other than qualifying by the “Golden Rule” of what all scripture hangs on, you will not recognize today’s written witness of the word of God.

    Your relationship with Wendy is clearly a gift from God. Your budding relationship with God is dependent upon your continuing to seek the truth found in your responsibility to your graced image of God, which is a structure of spirit, not physical. Children of God do not administer the church of God. Children of God witness to their relationship in God, more often in the comment section of blogs than in the article section.

    You are loved and surely healing! Thank you for trusting in God to so vulnerably risk your efforts for our sake.

  • Jerry Bryan

    Your views resonate with how my beliefs have evolved over a lifetime. So, I’ve used several of your columns as the basis for a discussion-based adult SS class at a progressive Baptist church. Yep. Really. And while being at that kind of church helps me avoid the pain and toxicity to which you refer, I look forward to learning more about the upward path you’re mapping.

  • Carol Thomas

    Have you come across Fr Richard Rohr the Franciscan monk?. That man has changed my life and millions like me. There is 100s of his talks on You Tube. His website is full of stuff too.

    He is a Christian mystic which is what I now know myself to be. He has been in trouble with all the popes, up until this one.

    Fr Richard deals will the inner life. He deals with what he calls the construction, deconstruction and rebuilding of faith at a mature level.

    I was at your stage and I was led to this guy. He saved my faith and helped me to express what I inwardly believed but would never dare share.

    Falling Upwards (one of his talks) deals with what he calls the 2 halves of life. Oh and look out the short talk called YHWY (Hebrew for God) That always makes me cry joyful tears everytime

    Everyone I know who is searching loves him. Go find out for yourself. Blessings

  • “What really concerns me, honestly, is the emotional damage of deconstruction.”

    This is why I love the advice of new kingdom communities starting by simply hanging out and building relationships together first in social spaces for an extended period of time (6 months minimum maybe) before any formal strategy and structure begins.

    Because of the wounds most people are coming together with, there’s got to be a strong enough relational bond before you really dive in to dealing with each other on a deeper level.

    If you jump right in, it’s likely the relationships won’t hold when the inevitable conflicts arise. It’s hard enough holding on when the relationships are strong :).

  • Joss Heywood

    Yes, Richard Rohr’s latest book “The Universal Christ” is very helpful, with a starting point that can include people from many origins.
    Also the books by Elizabeth Johnson “Ask the Beasts” and “Quest for the Living God” help to find a language for Christianity that speaks to everybody.

  • rtgmath

    This speaks to me. I have the difficulty of managing family relationships and friendships which seems (in their minds) to require faith. Coming from a Fundamentalist perspective I have serious problems investing the ancients with enough mental ability to be writing metaphor. So coming out and readjusting are hard.

    Unbelief is a necessary step before any reconstruction can begin. And new faith cannot be a repackaging of the old rot. I don’t know whether or not I will ever get to the reconstruction phase.

  • Jerry: Wow. Thanks for sharing this info. So blessed to hear this.

  • I’d love to hear more about your upcoming series. My own deconstruction started twenty years ago from a fundamental church, when I started researching biblical concepts and interpreting them through a space age 21st Century lens! Wow, does the New Testament come alive then! After all, Jesus Christ lived, died, came back to say goodbye and show us the way, and then Christ sent down SPIRIT to guide us by downloading God’s laws in our hearts. I am reconstructed now! But it was a decade authoring/writing, finding the answers in black and white, still in the Book, just overlooked. What God has really proposed for us to be, blows my mind!