I came across a blog today that I really must commend to you: Listen Carefully. The piece that caught my eye is called “The Six Stages of Deconstruction” and it really hit home for me. You should read the piece for yourself. Basically, though, Mike says that we go through deconstructing a belief system when we see that life isn’t black and white or binary any longer. If we are in a system that teaches us to think in an “either/or” manner but we start to see that the world has nuance to it, we may need to deconstruct that system and move into new ways of thinking. That has happened with me and Evangelicalism and I can see how I’ve gone through some (but not all) of these stages.
1. Disillusionment. This is when we notice that the binary isn’t working any longer and we become uncomfortable in the system. We might stay here for a long time. In my case, I was uncomfortable with a lot of things about Evangelicalism for years. I have been a feminist since college, which didn’t always mesh with the patriarchy of Evangelicalism, especially as it has hardened in the last several years. In the last five years, though, I’ve become more sure that God does call women to preach the Gospel though few in Evangelicalism agree with this view. Over the last 10 years, I’ve become less and less comfortable with the “God and country” talk from the Evangelical world. In the last three years, I’ve been downright appalled by the marriage of the Evangelical world with the Republican party (even though I was a Republican at the time!). And, of course, there is the fact that the Evangelical church has a completely incoherent view of LGBTQ issues. I was disillusioned about a lot of things.
Yes, it was a confusing time. I didn’t want to contemplate leaving our church. Church was our social life as well as our spiritual tether. And, what if I was wrong? But, Patrick and I both prayed about it. And finally made our choice.
2. Separation. This was the tough one. We left our Evangelical church. It wasn’t overtly traumatic; we explained our reasoning to the senior pastor and it was on good terms. But it was still hard. God was gracious to us and we found a local PCUSA church in which to land softly. Separation has its costs, though. We don’t see our friends from our previous church often, if at all. We have fewer social activities (although not by much since my illness curtails our social life already). We’re happy in our new church, though. We like the liturgy, and the pastor and congregants are awesome!
3. Grief. “Since grief is the process of letting go of something valuable, no one can Deconstruct successfully without considering there was some value in what they were letting go.” Yes, there is grief. I spent my entire 51 years of my life as an Evangelical. Did I waste all that time? I don’t think so, but I do grieve that I spent so much time not loving my gay friends and acquaintances as well as I should have because of poor theology. I regret not teaching my kids a better approach to the Bible. Yes, I’m grieving.
4. Resting. I don’t think I’ve gotten here yet, but Mike points out that the first three stages of deconstruction require lots of energy and at some point, the brain just requires a chance to take a break. I’m looking forward to this.
5. Justice. This is the phase where a person wants to right wrongs that were done. They start looking outward. For people who have been abused, they want to make things right. In my case, I’m using my writing to try to tell other people about the dangers of patriarchy, misogyny, and other bad theology in Evangelicalism.
6. Advocacy. A very few people will progress to the advocacy stage where they spend their life’s energy. They will work to help others going through the same process of deconstruction that they have gone through. William Tyndale and Martin Luther would be examples of those who got to stage 6.
I found this paradigm of deconstruction very helpful as I look at my own journey through the Christian life. It’s not changing my path any, but gives me a glimpse of where I might be going next, although the stages aren’t always sequential. For another good look at spiritual journey stages in general, check out The Critical Journey.
What do you think? Do you find this helpful? Check out Listen Carefully; he’s got other good stuff on his blog.