Deconstruction and demolition are different.
Deconstruction is intentional, and it’s ultimately constructive. Demolition is often destruction with the intention of leaving a pile of rubble behind.
The word is loosely used as it has become more popular. It has firm roots and applications in architecture, language, and philosophy, yet it has more recently been applied to institutional organization, cultural assumptions, and personal or community beliefs. More often than not, I hear people use the term with a haughty air, “I’m in a process of deconstructing my beliefs, because I’ve been taught a lot of wrong things, and I’m tired of simply accepting them.”
There is a wave of deconstruction among Christians. And it’s not all bad. We need to deconstruct—with God. I think God is for deconstruction; he typically calls it pruning, discipline, or refinement. He gets rid of the never-or-no-longer-productive so that we can grow more healthy. The goal is health, not the tossing aside. The tossing aside is simply part of the process and the by-product.
But for many, the tossing aside has become the core of deconstruction. The process is less about God and more about picking and choosing what we define as truth and what we want to believe he can and cannot prove. If we’re honest, there is very little we can truly prove. Our standards for proof have oddly become extremely high when we don’t want to believe something and horrifically low when we do. We test by convenience.
If the goal is to disprove God, then I understand why someone wouldn’t want to involve him, but in many cases among people of faith, it’s not so much disproving the entirety of God as the goal: it’s more about disproving what seems confusing or inconvenient. If we can’t understand something, we think it can’t be valid. We especially won’t accept someone else’s explanation.
Consider the process of learning a new job, language, or skill. We have little context at first. We grasp at the most basic structure. Then we begin to put together a few more pieces. We still don’t understand some of the pieces we’ve tucked somewhere, but they continue to wait. We encounter new information that reveals an earlier piece, and the way we used it isn’t helpful at all. We move it to where it fits better, or we toss it aside. Even then, it served a purpose for a season. We continue to acquire new information while also acquiring familiarity with the pieces. We reorganize, relearn, and shift our perspective. We heavily rely on some basics, but at some point, we don’t have to refer to them any longer. As much time passes, we might get into some lazy habits and benefit from revisiting those basics. Because of our new experiences, we’ll find we actually misunderstood some of those basics earlier in life. We can’t understand it all at ones. We are constantly deconstructing as we are constructing. That’s what healthy growth and healthy faith looks like.
In order to lean into a healthy spiritual journey, we have to be honest with ourselves and God. Otherwise, we’ll get disoriented. I realize we live in a world that wants to trust our own preferences, perspective, and plans, but how is that actually going for us? Is our life (and faith) on a trajectory toward destruction or construction?