A few weeks ago, a Gallup research poll announced that for the first time in US history, ‘church attendance’ had dropped below 50% of the population. The details were even more shocking for a lot of church folks because the 47% of Americans who attend houses of worship include synagogues and mosques – the 47% is even smaller than it looked like at first.
And as you might imagine, the split is generational, with more people leaving (or never entering) the church the younger they are. And I’m willing to bet you’ve heard a particular term that’s gotten a lot of traction lately:
The word has its origins in the philosophy of French philosopher Derrida. But when we use it in church circles these days, we mean a person who is taking apart the faith they’ve received – maybe growing up in church or that simple faith we experience when we first meet Jesus.
Somewhere along the way, something happens. It could be a trauma we suffer. Maybe it’s a prayer for healing that goes unanswered. Or coming face to face with the hypocrisy of a spiritual leader. I know folks for whom it was really engaging justice issues and finding the faith they had inadequate to speak to the massive inequalities we see in our culture. Sometimes there’s not a great reason for it.
Whatever triggers our journey into deconstruction, it’s a scary time. We’re questioning things we thought were fundamental truths, confessions and commitments we’ve built our lives on. And now everything feels shaky and unpredictable.
Maybe the worst part of deconstruction is that it feels so lonely. There’s no rhyme or reason to when deconstruction happens – it could be when you’re a teen, or when you’re in your seventies. And our church communities often shy away from these kinds of hard questions. In fact, plenty of us have been demonized or vilified for deconstruction questions.
But what we’ll see this morning – in the story of the Apostle Paul, no less! – is that deconstruction is a good and necessary aspect of our faith journey.
God welcomes us into spaces of deconstruction. Yes, welcomes us, because God is already in those spaces.
Some of us are right in the middle of that deconstruction space. I want you to hear me: that’s good. You’re welcome here, questions, doubts and all. Bring them with you today.
Some of us have made it through the wilderness of deconstruction. More than anyone, you know that deconstruction isn’t a phase or a season. It’s a new way of being faithful.
Some of us aren’t deconstructing. If we’re being honest, the questions and issues raised in those spaces we find threatening and dangerous. I want to assure you as well that those who are deconstructing are not dangerous. They are not unfaithful. They are your siblings and you both need each other.