What This Class Will NOT Do
- Tell you what to believe
- Answer every question you have
- Do your de/reconstructing for you
- Make de/reconstructing any easier
- Make conversations with those who disagree with you less awkward/tense/painful
What This Class WILL Do
- Offer some vocabulary for what you're experiencing
- Offer a framework for how to move through the different stations in the wilderness of De/Reconstructing
- Provide an group of like-minded pilgrims to discuss these things with
- Provide a guide (me!) to offer responses to questions, resources for further study, and answers to where I currently am on the journey
Group Norms and Values
- Curiosity over Judgment
- Balance talking and listening; share the air
- Take care of yourself & each other
- Be accountable to your impact
- Make space for joy & ease
- Use “I” statements, speak from your own experiences
- What’s said here stays here, what’s learned here leaves
- Honor typically marginalized people’s narratives
- Accept non-closure, and let this work carry on beyond this experience
Philosophical Assumption: Critical Realism
This is a way of describing the process of "knowing" that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence "realism"), while fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiraling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence "critical"). —N. T. Wright
- None of has perfect access to Truth/Reality
- Each of us has perspectives with Truth/Reality that worthy of respect and being heard
- Each of us has room to grow in our ability to grasp Truth/Reality
Typical Class Structure
- 20-30 minutes of lecture style teaching
- 15 minutes of large or small group discussion
- 15 minutes of large group Question and Response
- A reading, video, or podcast to read/watch/listen to between sessions.
What is Deconstruction
"In short, faith deconstruction is the systematic pulling apart of one’s belief system for examination.
"For Christians, that can mean a wide array of questions ranging from the theological to the practical. It can mean questioning the supposed inerrancy of the Bible, the culture and traditions of their church, the practical application — or misapplication — of the Gospel, and much more. Faith deconstruction can begin at many different points for many different reasons.
"If this just sounds like a fun intellectual exercise, it definitely is not. Faith deconstruction is confronting hard questions and grievous experiences that a believer has suppressed for years, forcing them to finally deal with the doubts and concerns that have always been there, lurking in the shadows.
"Doubt is what drives faith deconstruction. The question underneath all the other questions is relatively straightforward: Can I trust my beliefs and the way I operate in them anymore?
"Many faith deconstructions today center around reclaiming faith from nationalist and fundamentalist ideologies that are antithetical to the teachings and life of Jesus. Renewed faith is the ultimate goal. It’s not an event, but a journey." Mark C. Hackett 1
Why Is Deconstruction So Difficult
No one wakes up and excitedly tells themselves, "Today is the day I want to start unraveling my faith, throwing myself into the throes of social rejection, despair, and one of the most painful seasons of my life." Mark Karris 2
- Our values and beliefs create strong social bonds. When those are threatened, our social group is trained to respond as if we are the threat.
- We also might begin to question the legitimacy of those we were so tightly bonded with. Are they trustworthy? Were the last years all built on lies?
- Our brains love certainty. When we allow our doubts to become the prominent voice over certainty, our brain feels betrayed and can go into fight/flight/freeze.
- Our beliefs can literally effect the size and shape of different parts of our brains. Religious ideas based on
- All of the above can lead one to feel crazy, irrational, and alone. The unraveling of beliefs can lead to being gaslighted, verbally or emotionally abused, the withdrawal of affection, provision, or relationship. This can lead to anger, withdrawing, lashing out, sadness, depression; all while feeling an inexplicable sense of freedom and vindication; and also a certain "call of the void."
- Questioning beliefs in a religious environment can create deep angst and fear when—
- God is said to be wrathful, angry, disappointed
- Hell is threatened for non-believers
- Doubt is seen as a work of Satan/demons
- Therefore deconstructing doesn't just bring about the ire of friends, family, social networks, safety nets and your own brain—but you also "Tempt the wrath of the Whatever from high atop the thing." 3
The Stations of Deconstruction
We're using the word stations, over stages, because "stage" implies sequence and progression, as if one stage is better and higher than the other. Stations are more like gathering places in a wilderness. We may move between stations as we like; and we're likely to meet others there as well.
These stations come from Mark Karris's book Religious Reufgees.
Station One: Home
- You're currently in a place of comfort and security. You feel a sense of belonging. A creates a buffer against the stressors of life.
- Doubts are solely for strengthening what you already know.
- Little guesswork is required.
Station Two: Splinterhood
- Conscious and unconscious thoughts (splinters) result in cognitive dissonance.
- Cognitive Dissonance: holding to two ideas that appear to be contradictory.
- "God is love." "Those who don't accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will spend eternity in the fires of hell."
- Kathy Escobar calls this "the stage of shifting...the transition phase between the clearn boundaries of where we've been and where we might go spiritually.
- We don't usually ask to be in Splinterhood; it just happens. It's usually not a choice.
- "You are kind of fighting it at least half the time, because you desparately want to hold on to what you nelieve, what's giving you purpose and meaning up to this point and it's just slipping through your fingers and you can't hold on to it no matter how hard to try."
Station Three: Crossroads (U-Turn or Offroading)
- There comes a point in Splinterhood where we wake up to our cognitive dissonances and we start to make choices.
- Repression: subconscious defense mechanism
- Suppression: conscious defense mechanism
Station Four: Returning Home Different
- Some folks return home. This can be done out of the need for security, predictability, social networks, etc.
- It can be done of fear, financial pressure.
- People already have complicated lives and prefer to not make them messier than necessary.
- Some either don't want to accept or don't want others to know that they've changed their beliefs.
- Inside, things aren't the same. Externally, you try to keep equilibrium.
Station Five: Disorientation
- Splinters can no longer be ignored. The internal is allowed to come out to the external—like a beach ball, forced beneath the water, it will eventually burst out.
- Many experience this differently.
- Minor distress
- Mental anguish
- Trauma and PTSD-like symptoms
- It's a place of loss and grief.
Station Six: Angstville
- Predominately a place of experiencing anger, doubt, and cynicism—and experiencing everything through those filers.
- Anger is necessary. Anger-loops are damaging.
- Doubt is necessary and normal. Doubt-as-faith is restricting.
- "Doubt becomes cool, hip, habitual—a part of our identity." 4
- In this stage, "Uncertainty is the only thing you feel certain about. Doubt is the only thing you believe in. Questions are the only answer...The freedom that comes from not giving a crap anymore is intoxicating. We feel ourselves on the outside looking in and—even if it's a little bit painful—it starts to feel like home." 5
- There's a difference between between being a victim and choosing an identity as "one who is victimized."
- Therapist Mark Karris notes the dilemma of anyone in therapy pursuing growth:
We should be accepted for who we are, and where we are on our path toward healing from spiritual trauma. We were drawn into a vast array of systemic issues that robbed all of us our divine humanity. The result is a group of people who are traumatized and terrorized. AND—not BUT—we are not responsible to do something about what happened to us. It's our choice: remain bitter or fight and claw our way to something better. We are paradoxically accepted AND invited to change at the same time.
- Most people don't want to stay in Angstville. They just don't know how to get out.
Station Seven: Farewell and Goodbye
- Looking for a new home
- Not defining yourself by what your opposed to
- Acting, not reacting
- Actively putting the pieces back together
Station Eight: New Home
Healing can occur. You can work through your pain and allow your inner strengths to emrge. In the rebuilding phase, people re-discover their self-worth. They rejoin life on a different basis. Marlene Winell
We think we know who God is and who we are in relation to God, our understandings are shattered through some experience, God comes along and eventually gives us a new and greater understanding of God, and just when we think we've got it figured out, the cycle repeats. Beth Allen Slevcove
Small/Large Group Discussion
Please also add your entries here. https://app.sli.do/event/zof9wxsv
- 15-second introduction. Name, where you're from, your connection to The Table Church.
- One thing I hope to gain from this class is ________
- I'm currently at this Station in the De/Reconstruction Journey
- I really hope we spend some time talking about...
- Question and Response
Velvet Elvis, Chapter 1 (PDF)
Religious Refugees ↩︎
Toby Ziegler, The West Wing ↩︎
Religious Refugees, p. 66 ↩︎
Keith Giles ↩︎