My Road to Deconstruction: Part 4 The Freedom
My Story About Unraveling
I quit the missions organization in the summer of 2020, mid-first wave Covid. So we weren’t going to church. Which meant for the first time in my entire life I was totally and completely free from outside influences about my beliefs. My entire life had been molded by Christianity and the beliefs that those around me held and that I was expected to also hold. From my parents' house to bible college to a missions organization to being involved in our church. I had never been truly free, as in without fear of consequences or backlash, to really explore what I believed and to be completely open about it. No more hiding my beliefs or making occasional vague statements. I was going all in.
And it was amazing.
I always considered myself as someone who would go against the grain for their beliefs. And I did that a good bit even before this (which is what caused so many issues at the missions org). But I didn’t realize how much I was still holding back in my own heart and mind because I knew I couldn’t go too far without fear of unraveling my life.
But everything had already unraveled. So I started really looking into what I think is true about God, about Jesus, about the church, about Christians. I read books. I stopped reading my Bible because I didn’t trust my own interpretations anymore. I studied. I read more books. I learned about deconstruction and dove in head first. I deconstructed the crap out of my theology.
Around this same time a lot of other things were happening in the world. Covid was showing me that many Christians were much more concerned about their own rights and beliefs than about being loving and sacrificial. The racial injustice I saw showed me that Christians were more concerned with keeping power, ignoring the plights of others, and making sure they didn’t feel culpable or responsible for racial issues. We found out about so much abuse in the church and it showed me that the church is often more concerned with optics, protecting those in power, and their finances rather than those who are hurt and abused. A number of people I knew came out as queer, and through all their respective experiences it showed me that the church is more worried about forcing others to believe the same as they do, exerting their power, and how they are perceived rather than coming alongside someone who is vulnerable and needs community.
During these times I also saw Christian people exhibit other worldly amounts of love, humble strength, sacrifice, courage and gentleness.
My Story About Big Goods
It’s these things that keep me from abandoning my faith altogether. There is so much bad in the church. Really, really Big Bads. But there is also a lot of good. What I’m finally noticing is that the Big Goods don’t come from large organizations or churches or non-profits. The Big Goods come from individuals. From people. From friends and family. From quiet strangers or really loud friends. And all those Big Goods show me so much of Jesus.
I’ve said many times that if it weren’t for my parents, I don’t think I’d still be a Christian. Because I may see a lot of bad in the church, but it doesn’t come close to the amount of good I’ve seen as my parents lived out their faith in kind, loving, gentle, sacrificial, generous ways. When Christianity is done right, when someone truly loves and emulates Christ, it is magical. It’s inspiring and encouraging and fills you with a light that could only come from the Divine. My parents aren’t perfect, but I have always seen Jesus in them. And that is undeniable.
The same goes for my sisters, my husband, my kids, and my friends who have journeyed this with me. I know what Big Good Christianity looks like. I know what it’s supposed to look like. That’s why it has been so hard for me to realize that the church I’ve been a part of my whole life isn’t it. A whole lot of Christianity today looks absolutely nothing like the Jesus-centered Christianity I saw and experienced in my young life.
A lot of people seem to be afraid of deconstruction. They think it means giving up on Jesus. But that’s not it at all. Deconstruction is digging through the remnants of cultural Christianity, false beliefs, and bad theology, in order to FIND Jesus. And I feel like that’s what I did. I found him.
And because I feel like I truly found Jesus, here is what I now believe:
Jesus is the son of God, he died for the sins of ALL and resurrected 3 days later.
Hell does not exist, at least not in the way we’ve always been taught. Jesus’ sacrifice covered everyone, even nonbelievers.
Since people who don’t know Jesus aren’t going to hell, missions should not exist in its current form.
LGBTQ+ people are wholly and fully loved by God, exactly as they are, with no need to change or be celibate or be ashamed or hide their true selves. They deserve every right, privilege, and blessing that everyone else gets. They deserve to serve in churches, lead churches, and worship publicly the same way others do.
The patriarchy is oppression and pure evil. If you teach that women should submit to men in any way then you are participating in that evil. If you teach that women are not qualified for any position a man could hold, you’re participating in evil.
Purity culture is evil and another form of oppression. Having sex before you get married will not send you to hell or make God mad at you.
God is not a man. God never gendered God’s self and we shouldn’t either.
The Bible is not inerrant and is not a god. We’ve made it into an idol, equal to God. It’s not. It’s a series of stories that help us see who God is, what God’s nature is, who Jesus was and what he did. It’s not a science book or a history book, it doesn’t have to be 100% historical or free from errors for it to be true and good and worthy and important.
The American church is super messed up and needs a total and complete overhaul from the top down.
Jesus wants us to love people above all else. Above theology, above politics, above what we perceive our “rights” to be, above our fear (for ourselves and others). And we don’t get to determine what makes other people feel loved. If you’re trying to love someone and they say it doesn’t feel like love, then it’s not. Love is not a one way street.
And you know what the best part is? I no longer have any fear. No fear of repercussions, no fear of judgment or reprimands or losing income or friends or my job.
My Story About The Future
I am fully and totally confident in my view on Jesus, the love he has for me and for everyone else.
And I no longer have fear of letting go, changing, or growing in my beliefs. I trust God, I trust in Jesus, and I know that if I am confronted with new information or a better interpretation I will be willing to pivot if and when I need to. Because my theology and my love of God are not the same thing. I can love God and know I’m probably wrong about my theology in some parts. I can change my beliefs and not be embarrassed, but grateful that I am not as devoted to my theology as I am to God.
So what’s next?
Making people feel loved and accepted and worthy as they are. No asterisks. No qualifiers. No need to change anything.
Serving people the way Jesus did. Being there for people when they need someone. Searching out ways to help others.
Making sure my kids and husband and family and friends feel an insane, unimaginable, selfless love from me.
Reading more books. Because you’ll never know when you’ll realize you’re wrong about something.
Finding more Big Goods. And being the Big Good for other people while continually trying to root out the Big Bad, because Jesus’ Church is worth fighting for.