Deconstruction and Dogma

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

This is an older piece by Jeff Turner, from eight years ago but which is nevertheless still just as relevant today as it ever was.

More nowadays than ever before, ‘deconstruction’ has become a well-known term in Christian circles, and is of course a polarising term because it has been pirated, twisted and misinterpreted so much as to be meaningless[1]. For me, deconstruction means the stripping away of superfluous beliefs, attitudes and/or practices, which may or may not return the deconstructing person to a place of simpler faith or indeed no faith at all. It’s a product of the honest criticism of one’s tenets of faith which, if those tenets were man-made or man-inflicted, are actually better to be rid of despite the cost in terms of the faith life. The faith life will regrow, and it will most likely not look anything like the old life in a similar way to how a butterfly does not look like a caterpillar[2].

Anyway, over to Jeff:

If you ever manage to construct a faith that is not deconstructable, firstly, you’ve not actually constructed anything, as anything constructed must, by necessity, be deconstructable. But if you do manage to piece something together that is so immovable and rigid that it, well, can’t be moved, you’ve eliminated the possibility of future reform and are essentially claiming to have arrived.

Systems like this are not reformable, since they’ve been constructed in a shoddy, house of cards-like manner, and will crumble as a whole in the presence of even the smallest of questions or when faced with even gentle dissent. I think that’s one reason why so many people lose faith altogether once they begin a process of deconstruction, as modern, Western approaches to Christianity are founded on dogmatic claims to certainty, which, by their very nature are non-deconstructable. They are, in fact, *only* destructible. They’re incapable of changing or being reformed, and can only be destroyed or violently reinforced when challenged.

What we are seeing today is the toppling of a system that was built on a dangerously dogmatic foundation.

In the future, whatever Christianity comes to look like, we must construct something that is inherently deconstructable, or when future reforms come, and come they will, we will only once more experience destruction.

Build a life of faith that is pliable, supple and open to change! Live a life that is founded on the premise of “I could be wrong,” because if you do not, you aren’t actually constructing anything. You are creating an illusory world that is destined for destruction.

But then again, I could be wrong.

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1 I used to think that this pirating and twisting phenomenon was the preserve only of religious people. But I have since realised that, actually, people from all walks of life do it, in religious and non-religious groups, taking others’ terminology and adopting/usurping it for their own use.
2 See my series, ‘The Stages of Spiritual Growth’  for an in-depth treatment of the idea of ‘deconstruction’ and how it works; also this post about deconstruction from another perspective.

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