Want to be a beta reader?
The final round has started (introduction and outline are below). But there’s still time to apply to receive your advance copy of the full book in exchange for your feedback – please fill out the non-disclosure agreement here.
INTRODUCTION – A Letter To My Evangelical Friends:
Whatever you think of us “Deconstructionists”, please consider that many of us who are using that label are just not knowledgeable enough to mean it as anything official, so perhaps we don’t believe the things that you are sure a proper Deconstructionist believes.
For all the Deconstructionists I know, we just mean it allegorically: we were given a complete, ornamented fortress of religion, and were sternly warned, for years or decades, that the whole thing – furniture, decorations, and all – was “absolutely foundational”. And, as good Christians, with respect for our spiritual authorities, we spent those years believing what we were told, and acting in accordance with it, defending and preserving the foundation against our enemies.
But at the point that we watched the gutters or railings fall off the fortress, and our spiritual authorities just doubled down on their claims that it was all foundational, we were forced to finally commit the sin of asking questions, as we wondered how much of this structure was actually the foundation?
Is any part of this fortress foundational?
And why a fortress, anyway?
Are the enemies of this place even real?
And if they are, am I so sure that I am on the Right side?
By default, we still want to believe the answer is, “Yes”, but after a lifetime of being told we could be certain about all the “foundational” parts, it’s devastating to suddenly realize we don’t know which things we don’t know. To make matters worse, the one thing we do know is that the people who were supposed to do the knowing for us, are unaware that they don’t know.
This is not our fault. This is not a matter of rebellion. All we did was stumble upon information we didn’t want, and then endured the criticism of the authorities who blamed us for the discovery, claiming we were now the enemy.
Betrayed and bewildered, we now test the fortress, a tiny piece at a time, like a depressing game of Jenga, wondering if – as we were promised – the whole thing will fall when that one piece is missing, and almost hoping it will, so we can at least know we were not lied to. But with each experiment; each exposed exaggeration, we can’t help but earn permission to keep wondering about the elusive foundation.
In my life, people with these experiences are not rare. They tell me they have the same questions I do, but they are neither careless nor stupid, so they try not to think because they don’t want to lose their salvation, and they try not to speak because they don’t want to lose their friends.
I am not their pastor, nor do I feel qualified to give them answers, but they revere sincere buffoons like me as their church relegates our kind to the fringe and minimizes our experience, which is the exact opposite of what I see Jesus doing in the gospels. So we desperately need you to stop mocking us, and start helping us. Don’t retreat into the claim that you’ll pray for us instead of addressing our concerns.
In fact, for the sake of Christianity, I would pray that you indulge the doubters, because I am quite sure that, as dire as you consider the condition of the American church, the situation is exponentially worse, because I know exactly zero people outside your church who are secretly Christian, but I know scores of church-goers in your congregations with secret, growing doubts.
Worse yet, for each one of us who is brave enough to express our concerns, despite the ridicule and threats and disconnection, there are many more with the same concerns who stay silent…for now, until they join the thousands each week who slink out your back door, never to return, and never telling you why.
Like you, I wish I were wrong, but I think you know I’m right. So I beg you: listen patiently. Empathize and address the concerns, and stop the flood of exiters from your church. Don’t allow them to find more authentic interactions and more honest answers outside your walls than inside.
I beg you to sympathize with the truth that a deconstructionist is forced to analyze each of the countless…well, what were they now? Misrepresentations? Deceptions? Lies? – and that process of realizing bears the high costs of stability and self-respect, which is probably why many of my fellow deconstructionists understandably just walked away from the structure or attempted to dynamite the whole thing.
Complicating our situation further, we are also forced to come to terms with the fact that, in our fervent church participation, we have been complicit in misleading and damaging others, in the name of…well, now…Who?! That certainly wasn’t God. Even though we were told we were developing a personal relationship with God, we now see that we were told how and where and when to find Him; what He would feel like and what He thinks, so when we inevitably found it, we called it “God”, and we were praised for our discovery, and for the wisdom to hear and follow His voice.
Now we don’t know who the hell was talking to us, but if we somehow weather this disorientation, we know we can’t afford to ever make that mistake again. How can we ever again operate in so-called “ministry”, without the nagging terror that we will once again owe apologies for new actions, declarations, or invitations? So we mistakenly think,
“No. My friends would have been safer and better off if I had shut up, and never once replanted the lies I allowed to be sown in me. Truth is unverifiable, and sincerity is no proof of veracity.”
It’s not merely an intellectual or philosophical journey, and contrary to the frequently dismissive insults, our deconstruction has little to do with an infantile demand to be “free from an objective moral truth.” On the contrary, we were comfortable with the Truth our religious leaders gave us. We wished it to be true.
So this feels less like Adam hiding in the garden, hoping to avoid the punishment he knows he’s earned, and more like a post-Damascus Saul, who suddenly realized:
“I have been a naïve accomplice for the wrong side, calling all my atrocities, ‘character’. I must change my identity and rewrite the rules, since that’s the only way I can continue honestly, and still preserve any part of my beloved religion.”
Many have experienced the soul-shredding, church-sponsored physical and sexual abuse, life-altering spiritual trauma, and crippling disempowerment. But even the un-traumatized deconstructionists I know are desperately trying to cling to the remnants of a Jesus they want to love, even in the face of spiritual dissonance. I think they should be applauded. They’re not de-constructing their religion, they’re trying to re-construct it. The “de-” happened to them, not because of them.
To be fair, your reactive defensiveness is understandable. You see us fiddling with a religious culture you hold dear, and that has served you so well, and you think it should serve us the same way. I have no doubt you are sincere-ly doing your best. And I know I’m making mistakes as I attempt to add my own -ly’s, passing along my worldview, more
“Certain-ly” just isn’t on my list at the moment. Thank you for extending many of the most honorable -ly’s through my process. I wish you well, and I am rooting for success in all your Highest aspirations.
Loving-ly and appreciative-ly yours,
Introduction: A Letter To My Evangelical Friends 6
Part 1: The Deconstructionist 10
Disclaimers & Motivation 11
Biases and Background 14
Part 2: The Church 22
Final Warning 23
Personal Experience 24
Church Authority 53
Part 3: The Spirit Realm 79
Sin and Hell 80
Faith and Heaven 96
Part 4: The Bible 129
Biblical Necessity 130
Biblical Usability 137
Biblical Reliability (Old Testament) 154
Biblical Reliability (New Testament) 171
Part 5: The Son of God 192
Jesus – The Myth 193
Jesus – The Man 209
Jesus – The Manifestation 226
Jesus – The Mission 243
Jesus – The Miracle 266
Jesus – The Makeover 295
Part 6: The Aftershocks 313
Fall of the “Fundamentals” 315
Confronting the Void 347
Death and Pain 357
Embracing The Enemy 365
Returning to the Word 374
Part 7: Living Honestly 389
Defending the Faith 390
Post-Christianity Christianity 404
Giving Up & Adapting to Change 421
Author’s Intent 422