Friday, September 11, 2015

Deconstructing My Religion - A Look At What's Left When It All Falls Apart

What do you do when a puzzle crumbles? Of course, you pick up the pieces and try to reassemble it. But, what happens when you discover that you're missing some sections? Where did they go?

I'm looking for pieces. Trying to put back together what fell apart.

I'm not sure what I'll find. 

Maybe the journey is the answer...

We were the typical suburban "Easter/Christmas" church family, and we looked the part. All dressed up with shiny shoes and navy blazers, we were the picture of normalcy and godliness. Only problem was we weren't...normal or godly. Oh, that's not to say we were any worse than other families visiting church on Easter morning. I now know that none of us measure up. 

Normal is merely a word in a dictionary that has no real bearing on how people function in a fallen world. 

Fast forward thirty years. I've written about how God saved me while I was minding my own business in the pew of our local Methodist church. I was quickly immersed into Christian culture, Bible studies, and homeschooling. I studied how to become a Proverbs 31 woman and felt responsible for all things godly in our home - including making sure my husband came to know God (the truth was, our marriage was falling apart). Several years later we moved to another church and it was there where I learned that grace alone through faith alone, saves. The Bible became the means by which I was set free as opposed to merely being an instruction manual on how to live a Christian life. However, the left-overs of my religious rule-keeping had left its mark on me and on my marriage. A few crash and burns came knocking at my door. The most recent explosion was not necessarily the worst one, however, it was one that affected my entire family, and we are still experiencing the aftershocks. I'm not even sure I can properly articulate it.

Having left behind a fundamentalist approach to my faith, I welcomed the good news of the gospel. Jesus came to set me free. He forgave all my sin. As a result, my striving to be anything other than forgiven was now over. Liberty was all in all. I sat under the teaching of law/gospel theology, and it was soothing to my soul. I needed those years to strip away the lies that had whispered to me, "Do this and God will love you."

A little over a year ago, it all changed, again. I say again, because I'd been down that road before. The road where all the sign posts that once read, "This is the way, walk in it", were now blurry and difficult to make out.

Once upon a time you had it all beautifully sorted out. Then you didn't. 
- Sarah Bessey

My pastor told me my theology was wrong. I was fired from my church. I lost my bearings and started questioning everything. All that I left behind from fundamentalism and all I knew about the freedom of the gospel - neither one had the power to steady my wobbliness. Everything familiar was stripped away. My church, pastor, community, and friends. My entire faith world was shattered into a million pieces. Where do you turn? How do you go on? What is true? What was real? Was it all just a joke? It's been over a year since we've been to church. I have not spoken with a pastor since that time. I reached out to a couple of pastors I knew from social media, but it's social media. Local care is what I really needed. Where do you go? Who can you trust? My husband and I listened to church on-line for a while but we eventually walked away from all things "churchy." The beach has become a sanctuary of sorts for us.

It's good to contemplate life sitting at the edge of vastness.

It's comforting to see that the sun rose once again.

It's reassuring to know that Someone is in control of the story.

Now what? Well, I'm adjusting to ongoing places of change. Change in priorities. Change in routines. Change in income. Change in my family. Change with friends. 

There's another thing I'm getting comfortable with too. 

Calling a thing what it is. 

The reality of getting older. The betrayal of friends. The difficulty of relationships. The awareness of doubts and questions. The harshness of life.

In all of this rearranging, I feel like it's time for some deconstructing. Here, definitions are helpful.


reduce (something) to its constituent parts in order to reinterpret it.

How do I reduce my religion to its constituent parts? How do I go about reinterpreting it? It all sounds very technical. So, I think I'll start at the beginning. What is religion? In other words, what components make up this thing called religion?

 re·li·gion \ri-ˈli-jən\

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used   to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

According to the definition provided via Merriam Webster, religion is made up of a couple of things:
  1. Religion is belief. 
  2. Region is a system (of belief that enables worship including activities and/or ceremonies I take part in.)
The first part is easy for me. I believe in the God of the Bible, three in one. I still believe that I believe. 

The second part seems pretty simple too. Because I am not currently involved in any organized ceremony or activity that enables worship, my religion is, at its basic form, belief. That's why it's such a relief to me when I read about the crowds who came to Jesus and asked, "What must we do to be doing the works of God?" Jesus replied, "Believe in him whom he has sent."

Jesus boiled down his expectation of what it means to be a Christian to one word - believe.

Whatever else people try to get me to believe, I'm realizing more and more that it's not about my ability to rightly divide the word of God. It's not about my diagnosing and appropriately applying law or gospel. It's not about getting theology wrong or being let in or kept out of any one's Christian club. It's not about labels or arguments or popularity or platform.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying this deconstruction process. I thought it would be more complicated to get at. Truth is, it's not all that complicated. Churches, denominations, Bible versions and Bible studies, books, ministries, missions, and all things Christian, boil down to one word. Jesus said, believe.


Check out a few resources I've found helpful along the way:
Jon Hollingsworth - Author of Runaway Radical
searching for sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

Coming up next, What about faith?