“Jesus is the most important human being who has ever existed. I miss Him.”-Chuck Templeton, former evangelist/atheist
I’ve been heavily deconstructing for the past couple of years. Mine wasn’t a planned deconstruction. I didn’t decide one day that I’d put myself through an orderly doctrine by doctrine rethinking of my faith. Mine was more spontaneous than that. You can read more about my overall story here, but the gist of it is this: I started walking around the indoor track at my local gym believing in Hell, eternal conscious torment, and that some of us are saved and others are not. At the end of that thirty minute walk, I could no longer believe in those things. I had an encounter with the white hot love of God that melted away that central piece of my theology and set me free from the fear that kept me imprisoned. The ramifications were endless.
As my theology shifted, the theology of the sermons I preached changed along with it. I was intentionally vague at first because I knew how traumatic it could be to have such a central doctrine fall like a spiritual Jenga tower, but people could tell a difference and began asking questions. Some of my closest friends and coworkers at the church asked some specific questions about sin, hell, and the spiritual state of our LGBTQ+ friends. My friends didn’t care for my answers and left the church. Not long after that, my views on the inerrancy of scripture also evolved and many of my spiritual dominoes began to fall in very short order.
I realized early in my deconstruction that I had to at least be willing to reexamine everything I believed without holding back any sacred cows: even Jesus. It was hard for me to even think of maintaining a faith at all apart from Jesus. He was the one constant about my faith. When I originally prayed a “sinner’s prayer” as a seven year old and asked Him into my heart hoping to avoid an eternity in Hell, Jesus was there. During my near death experience at age twelve, I encountered Him in a deeply personal way. I had seen glimpses of Him several times in the years since as well. Still though, I knew I had to at least be willing to set my beliefs about Jesus aside to engage in an honest deconstruction of faith.
A surprising thing happened. Jesus wouldn’t leave. When church members walked away, He was there. As I worked with the few congregants who remained to stop having church services and start a free grocery market for our low income neighbors in our old sanctuary, I saw Jesus at work even more frequently. And when the church eventually ran out of money and had to shut down, He made it clear that no matter how much my theology evolved, He wasn’t going anywhere.
That’s not to say that my beliefs about Jesus never changed. They did. I no longer see Jesus as a mediator between a sinful world and an angry God whose holiness demanded blood. Today, I see Jesus as the best representation of what the love of God looks like in human flesh. I also see Him as offering us a new way to be human by inviting us to follow His way. While I know that my faith will continue to evolve for the rest of my life, I’m starting to think that my one constant–Jesus–isn’t going anywhere.
I know that many of you who are deconstructing are doing so because of horrific abuse and trauma that you have endured in settings that proudly proclaimed themselves to be “Christian”. The most natural reaction in the world would be to throw baby Jesus out with the toxic bathwater. I certainly couldn’t blame you for doing that. But while there are many wounded and toxic people out there calling themselves Christians who are causing great pain, there are also many some Christians who love and accept you as you are and have no agenda for your life other than for you to know how loved you are.
I’m one of them. And there are many, many more.
Honest deconstruction requires us to at least be willing to give up absolutely every theological construct. But don’t be surprised if Jesus just sits down in the shadows of your life waiting for a time when you can be comforted by Him again.