Welcome to one of the 2 religious holidays even people who aren’t religious tend to get guilted into setting foot into a church for. I’ve been “outside the fold” for nearly a decade now and I’ve got some things to say to those still inside buzzing about “deconstruction”.
1. If you were told by a Christian what deconstruction is, they were probably wrong.
2. If you “know” why ppl are leaving the church today, but haven’t asked ppl that left the church why they left, you’re probably wrong.
3. If you were thinking about someone you haven’t seen in church in a while and you ask their friends or family where they are, but you don’t ever reach out to them personally, you’re probably doing this wrong.
4. If your first instinct, when hearing why someone left the church is to counter that reason, you’re probably doing this whole Christianity thing wrong.
5. If you do not curb that first instinct to counter someone’s reason for leaving the church, you are definitely doing this whole Christianity thing wrong.
Those who have “deconstructed” actually do have a community, one I happen to live in via the internet since my closest deconstructed friends are too far away to visit. And it is wildly consistent the handful of reasons ppl leave, and the incorrect reasons the church tells ppl they left. It is disturbingly consistent how common it is that the only reason ppl from their former churches reach out is to try to “win them back to Jesus”. There’s no actual concern for the human that left. They are a means to the end of adding a “Star” in the Christian’s “eternal crown”. There’s no, “wow, I hate that happened to you and you’re completely right- it’s messed up”. There’s no, “can I help you by providing food, transportation, or a quiet place of safety where you can think as you grieve and rebuild” but there’s a whole lot of “I’ll pray for you”. Which from the outside looking in is careless at best and a self righteous passive aggressive response that allows Christians to claim they “offered help but were rejected” when in reality they offered no help at all at middling. At worst it’s a thinly veiled threat to “sick God on ’em” and deliver them into any number of uncomfortable and destructive judgments the Christian believes are called for, regardless of what their Jesus actually believes on the subject. And the “lost sheep” notice. And their hearts are broken. They thought they were loved. They thought they had friends, family, people who genuinely cared about more than their intangible eternal destiny. It’s devastating to realize you were nothing but a resource to be used for your money, your talent, your time. You were nothing but a number in a spreadsheet.
At the end of the day, I haven’t met anyone who left the church so that they could “live in sin” or “escape accountability”. I’ve not met anyone who deconstructed whose very life was not torn apart by the betrayal of the church, the loss of the only guiding foundation they were ever presented with, and the sheer devastation of the realization that they were going to have to question everything and then completely rebuild themselves. The process of deconstruction is regularly painted by the church as a human succumbing to temptation and rebelling in some glorious self exaltation and debauched revelry, but this illustration is more Dante than Realite. I’ve read several accounts of ppl that realized early in life that they didn’t truly believe, then waited until much later to actually walk away, but they’re not nearly as common as the stories I’ve read of more phoenix-like fiery crashes resulting in the death and rebirth of a personhood. And it isn’t fast. Some individuals are 30 or 40 years into their deconstruction and still asking questions or for suggestions on how to relieve themselves of some toxic core memory or belief imparted to them by “the faith”.
So listen up, ye Christian heathens: look good and deep into what you’ve done to the world and to your fellow man. Look good and deep into where your text came from, how many times it’s been translated, how many differences in the translations there are, how canonization occurred and how insidiously related Christianity has become to imperialism and nationalism. Ask yourself, “did God put me in this world to be an asshole?” And then practice active listening. Practice active support and active love. Practice knowing where you end and someone else begins. Practice the application of common sense that tells us that offering to pray for a situation means nothing to someone who believes there is no god. Practice having conversations where you never once mention Jesus, church or your religion.
And, most of all, practice the art of inexperience. Realize that there are situations out there that you cannot comprehend due to your personal lack of experience in them, and stop pretending that you know all the answers.
Perhaps, this Easter, as you attempt to shock and awe each other with gory depictions of a literally fatal torture, you take an extended moment to contemplate the religion Christianity overwrote in order to celebrate the “Easter Holiday”, the very real humans that practiced that religion and were literally murdered for daring to believe in a different spirituality. Then look at the way the church is teaching you to behave and contemplate if you’re also destroying people’s lives “in the name of God”.
Are you voting in favor of legislation that will result in the death of the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised, the “other”? Are you advising your friend to enact cruelty to their family member in an effort to force said family member to relinquish their sense of self to be overwritten by the self your friend would have them be? Are you offering prayer instead of assistance? Are you hushing the voice of a victim because it’s easier to call the truth slander than it is to pursue justice? Do you recognize the difference between pardon and forgiveness?
I look around at the state the Christian church is in today and I’m horrified. I’m grief stricken. And honestly? I’m probably not going to return.
It’s safer out here in the wilderness with the jackals.