Anyone who has deconstructed their faith in any way should understand what I mean by “detox.” It’s that period of time where you have to unlearn all the bad theology and screwy doctrines that you picked up in the Christian tradition you grew up in.
That means unlearning everything you thought you knew about tithing, about spiritual covering, about pastoral authority, and about what it means to “be” the church rather simply attend a meeting once a week.
It means unlearning everything you’ve been told about a God who needs to torture someone to death before he can love and forgive you, and letting go of a God who is more like Hitler than Jesus.
The process can take months, even years, to fully take effect. During that time you probably undergo a variety of emotions like anger (at yourself for not seeing how wrong you were), frustration (at your christian friends who continue to blindly accept the same assumptions you did for so long), and sadness (because so many of your brothers and sisters remain oblivious to their identity in Christ and the freedom Jesus intends for them to enjoy).
If you’ve been through that process already, you know that it can end up making you a very toxic person with a pretty bad attitude about anything that even hints at religion or theology.
I’ve been there.
This toxicity can lead us to camp out in the negative zone and cause us to see everything through a perpetually dark lens where nothing at all is good about theology and every Christian with a different view than ours is viewed with suspicion and held at arms length.
In those cases, we end up creating an even worse environment than the one we just escaped from.
I’ve seen it way too many times over the years. Most especially in the Organic Church [or House Church] setting where people have deconstructed everything they believed about “Church-as-we-know-it” and spend all their time together focused on what’s wrong with that Institutional model of Church – rather than actually enjoying their new freedom to experience Christ without religion or liturgy or pastoral hierarchy.
This can make for some overly toxic church gatherings that linger on everything that’s bad about the Church we walked away from and the result is that no one actually gets to experience the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”
In fact, I think these sorts of Organic Church gatherings where the attention is still on “how they are wrong and we are right” can be MORE damaging and ineffective than simply sitting through a sermon and a song at the church building down the street.
In my experience, there are some people in Organic Churches that need to detox from their detoxing and move on to enjoying the freedom of “being the Church” as Jesus intended. They need to stop pointing fingers at those who are doing it wrong and start simply doing it right. This means coming together with your brothers and sisters to seek the face of Jesus; to listen for His voice; to wait for His prompting, and to rest in His presence. That’s where we find life in the Body of Christ.
Now, certainly, there is a time for venting our frustrations. I get that. Sometimes we just need to remind one another why were are here and thank God for what He has taken us out of. But perhaps that time is not when the Body comes together to gather around Christ? If we feel the need to vent our frustrations, maybe we could get together for coffee during the week to detox. But I strongly suggest we keep the focus on Jesus when the Church meets as one to seek His face and experience His presence.
Even outside of the Organic Church environment, Christians who are undergoing Deconstruction are still vulnerable to this Detoxing mindset. And it can have the same negative impact on people around us, creating a noxious cloud of pessimism that makes us difficult to be around.
So, what can we do about this? How can we process our anger and our frustration about all the garbage we’ve been led to believe by people we trusted? How do we avoid becoming the “Debbie Downer” at every gathering? What can we do to detox from our detox?
Well, I think what works best is to shift from focusing on all the bad theology we hate and center our minds on all the good theology that we’ve replaced it with.
For example, instead of constantly criticizing the toxic aspects of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory, try celebrating the truth that God does not hold our sins against us or keep any record of wrongs.
Instead of complaining endlessly about how wrong it is to paint God as a monster who would torture his children for eternity, try reminding people that God is like Jesus, or the father in the Prodigal Son parable, who freely forgives and rushes to embrace us as beloved sons and daughters.
Instead of railing against those who claim the Bible is inerrant and infallible, focus on how amazing Jesus is and how wonderful it is to know Christ intimately and experience the abundant life of Jesus on a daily basis.
It’s like taking warm bread out of the oven and allowing that aroma to fill the house. Everyone who is hungry suddenly comes out of the woodwork to find the source of that smell because it is so irresistible and compelling.
So, not only can shifting from the negative to the positive impact our own ability to experience freedom and life, it can also set others free to experience something better than what they are currently focused on.
Try it. I think you’ll find the results are much better than perpetual detoxification.
NOTE: If you’re someone who has gone through this painful deconstruction process and you’d like some help walking through a process that leads to reconstruction, please consider joining me at Square 1 – new 90 Day online coaching experience designed to help people find a way forward.
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.