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  • D is for Deconstruction

    Deconstructionislove.Thisiswhatmakesitdifferentthandestructionordemolition.Deconstructionislove.Ifitwerenotlovethenonewouldsimplywalkaway,abandon,orneglecttheproject,idea,orinstitution.Ifthewaythingsareweregoodenough,onewouldtakeuppreservationorconservation.Deconstructionisanadmissionthatthestatusquoisinsufficientorunsatisfyingatsomelevel.Deconstructionisnotdestruction–butforthoseintopreservationitfeelslikeitis.Itmightbebettertothinkofde-constructionin‘forestfire’terms.Imagineitasacontrolledburn(orpurifyingfire)thatclearsouttheoldbrushandundergrowthtomakespacefornewgrowth.Deconstructionislovingsomethingenoughtopullitapartandseewhatmightbesalvaged–orfreed–fromthesuffocatingstagnationandbound-up-ness.Whenatopicorinstitutionhasbecomeassumedorpresumed,itisinneedofthiskindoflove.

  • Likeaplantthathasbeeninapottoolong–orhasgottentoobigforthecontainer–therootscanactuallybegintogrowbackonthemselves.Thisisaconditionknownasrootbound(orpot-bound)andlovingthatplantmeanstotakeitoutofthepotandtopull(orevencut)attherootsinordertoseparateandloosenthem.Institutionscanbetheirownworstenemy.Christianorganizationsseemparticularlypronetobecomepotbound.Tolovethechurch–orthechristiantraditionforthatmatter–inthe21stcenturyrequiressometoughlove.Ifyoudidn’tloveyoucouldjustwalkaway.Ifitwere‘goodenough’asitis,thenyoucouldsettleinandsettledownforthelonghaul.Deconstructionislovingthetraditionenoughtopullat(orevenpruneit)inthehopesoflifeandhealthandnewgrowth.Oneofmyfavoriteprogramstolistentois‘Ideas’bytheCanadianBroadcasting(CBC).Theyrecentlyhadaserieson‘AfterAtheism’aboutnewdevelopmentsregardingbeliefinGod.ThefirstepisodewaswithRichardKearneyon‘Anatheism:GodafterGod’.ThesecondepisodewaswithJackCaputo(hisbookonthesubjectisgreat).Iwouldhighlyrecommendgivingthemalisten.Whatthosetwoepisodeshavegotmethinkingaboutisthepassionittakestostickwiththetopicoffaithandtheconvictionisrequirestobelievethatthereissomethingworthallthelaborandcare.Iknowlotsofpeoplewhowereraisedwithsomekindofbeliefbuthaveeitherlostinterestorhaveintentionallywalkedaway.Ialsoknowlotsofpeoplewhoarefinewiththingsthewaytheyarewhoarehappytokeeppluggingaway.Someofinthelattergroupactuallytakeoffenseatanattempttoupdate,modify,revisit,revamp,orcontextualizeforourtimeandplace.Ifindmyselfinneitherofthosecamps.IlovethechurchtoomuchtowalkawayfromitbutIcarewaytoomuchtoleaveitintheconditionthatitcurrentlyrestsin.Deconstructionisn’tforeveryone.Infact,oneofthemostchallengingaspectsofitissimplytryingtoconvincethepreservationistsandconservationiststhatyourintentionsaregoodandthatyou’renottryingtokillthething!Tothosewhoassumeandpresumethatthingsshouldremainastheyare,pullingandclearingcanfeelorseemlikedestruction.IhavewrittenbeforeaboutTheWorldComeofAge(Bonhoeffer)orwhatotherscallTheWorldTransformed(Hunt)orwhatKaufmancallsTheNuclearAge.Thesimplefactisthatthe20thCentury–betweentechnologyandwar–changedtheworldandradicallyalteredwhatwecallsociety.Therealityoflivinginthe21stcenturyareverydifferentthantheywereinthe12th–letalonethe2nd.Thequestionsofthe21stcenturyarenotansweredbyrepeatinginheritedanswersorbyparrotingancientthought.Farming,hygiene,reading,telephones,banks,travel(airplanes)….therearethousandsofexamplesofhowdifferentourexistenceisfromthoseinpreviouscenturies.Eventhewaywasimagineourself(identity)andcommunity(belonging)haschanged.Deconstructionislovingthequestionenoughtodareadifferentanswer.Thenturningaround

  • andexaminingtheinitialquestionsitself.Weliveinworldcomeofage–anuclearage–thataskssomethingdifferentofus.Theologycannotjustcontinuetorepeatthesameoldanswersoverandover–orlouderandlouder–andwonderwhyitisn’tsatisfyingthedemandsbeingputonitbythoseinsideandoutsidetheinstitution.Fromthelinguisticturninphilosophytoglobalizedmarkets,fromHiroshimatoAuschwitz,fromtwittertothepill….weliveinadifferentworldthantheancients.Ourreligiousbeliefsdeservetobere-examinedandlonginglypulledat(orevencutat)inordertoprune(orbleed)inthehopesoflifeandhealth.Deconstructionisnowanecessarypartoftheology.Deconstruction.Atermusedprimarilyin*hermeneutics(theartandscienceofinterpretingwrittentextsorspokenlanguage)todescribetheprocessofanalyzingaparticularrepresentationofrealitysoastoofferacritiqueofhowatext“constructs”apictureofreality.Althoughdeconstructionistsarenotalwaysexplicitlynegativeinpractice,theyoftenusedeconstructionasatechniquetodiscreditatexttowhichtheyarephilosophicallyorideologicallyopposed.Deconstruction,whichissometimesknownaspoststructuralism,aroseoutof,andinresponseto,atheoryofliteraturecalled*structuralism,whichsoughttoanalyzethecommonstructuresthatcharacterizevarioustextsorliteraryworks.PocketDictionaryofTheologicalTerms(KindleLocations361-364).KindleEdition.Sowhatisthestickingpoint?Whatseemstobethehesitation?OnecentralproblemmightbetheChristianfascinationwiththepast.ModernChristianity,inalmostallofitsforms,hasdevelopedaviewthatsomeperiodinourhistorywas‘better’.ThisisanorientationthatskewstheworkofGodinthepresentmomentandlimitsthevisionforGod’sworkinthefuture.WhetheritisEdenanditsfallfromsupposedperfectionorromanticizedearlynotionsof‘the’earlychurchofthe1stcentury,themedievalnotionsofThomasAquinasortheheady(butcontentious)daysoftheProtestantReformation,someperiodofthepastisseemasthepinnacle…andpossiblythegoalofwhatweshouldreturnto.Thisrealityisbafflingonthreecounts:

    1. Christianityisareligionbasedonthe‘incarnation’ofthedivinepresenceembodiedhereandnow–inaplace,inatime,andinflesh(John1:14).

    2. ThegiftofPentecostisthatthespiritofChristcametoallflesh,thatwomenandmenofeverytribeandtonguewerenotjusttheworkofGodbut,now,thebodyofChrist.

    3. TheChristianNewTestamentisprimarilyafutureorientedseriesofdocumentsthatlookforwardtoatimewhentheworldwillnotworkthewaythatitcurrentlydoesbutwhenGod’swillandwaywillbetheorderoftheday.

  • SowhyaresomanyChristianprojects,programs,andtheologiesframedaspast-orientedendeavors?

    Whatfollowsisanexperimentinwritingforthehereandnow

    Perhapsthisiswhysomany(re)ligiousorganizationsandpeople(re)sortto

    (re)clamationprojectsin(re)actiontotheperceivedproblemsthat(re)sultfromourdenialor

    failureto(re)cognizethatwehaveindeedenteredintoanewanddifferentera–aplacethat

    wehaveneverbeenbefore.

    Theimpulseto(re)achbackintotheimaginedpastandattempttosalvagesome

    measureoforderorto(re)orientourselvestothisnewlandscapeinunderstandable.The

    danger,however,is(re)soundingasweendeavortobecome(whatthefantasticbooktitle

    labels)‘TheWayWeNeverWere’.1

    Itisnotablehowmanycontemporaryreligious/spiritualprojectsemployamotivethat

    beginswiththeprefix‘Re’.Admittedly,theresomeimportantwordsinscripturethatbegin

    with‘Re’.Wordslikeredemption,reconciliation,andrestorationareindispensableexamples.

    Twootherpowerfulwordsthatwouldcompletethatconstellationwouldberepentanceand

    reparations.2

    Unfortunately,thesefive‘Re-’wordsarenottheonesthatshowupthemostin

    1StephanieCoontz,TheWayWeNeverWere:AmericanFamiliesandtheNostalgiaTrap(BasicBooks,1992).

    2MorecouldbesaidonexploringthosefiveBiblicalconceptsforthe21stcentury.Theprimaryproblemwiththepastmaybethatitistooeasytoromanticizesomenotionorconceptinisolationwithoutaddressingthelargerstructuresofinjusticeandexclusionthatitwasembeddedinorbirthedoutof.

  • Christiancirclesorarefoundthemostinspiritualliterature.While‘revelation’and‘religion’

    maybethemostprominentofferings,theyarenottheonlyones.Manyreligiousprojectsare

    framedwithwordssuchas:

    • Revisit• Reclaim• Restore• Return• Renew• Reform• Renovate• Reframe• Redefine• Remember• Recall• Re-imagine• Re-present• Reinforce• Revive• Reexamine• Redeem• React• Respond• Retreat

    Theabovegroupof‘Re-’wordsmayhaveacomfortingandcomfortableringtothem,

    buttheyareinsufficientforthechallengesthatweareupagainst.Oneofthemajorchallenges

    ofthispast-orientedthinkingisthatitplacesthevitalenergyinthepast–likeasortofbigbang

    orapoolcuestrikingthecueballandsendingitcrashingintothegroup–theinitialenergyis

    dissipatedandweareslowinglosingsteam(andpower)toatrophy.

    IwouldarguethatthenatureofChristianityisincarnational–sothepastisnotthesole

    determiningfactorforourpresentorfutureexpression.Wehaveaccesstoanuntapped

    reservoirofpowerforthepresent.Wearebeingcompelledorcalled(lured)bythepossibilities

    ofthefuture.Wecanneverre-turntothepast.Thenatureoftimeandrealitydonotallowus

  • torevisitbutonlytoremember.

    Deconstructionislovingthepastenoughnottosimplyconserveorpreserveit.