How Would Jesus Deconstruct My Faith?
We 21st-century inhabitants of post-modernity are so predictable. When something doesn’t go our way or we have a negative experience (The Horror!) we automatically begin questioning every authority in reach. What injustice that the police officer pulled me over for posting that beautiful sunset to Instagram? What do you mean I can’t bring my emotional support pig into Starbucks? How dare you make me cover up my Bieber tattoo!
If we came from an evangelical background, when something negative happens relative to Christian faith, we double down on the outrage. Another pastor cheated on his wife? Figures, they’re all addicted to porn. A church used funds to support a right-wing candidate for Congress? We know they’re all Trump supporters anyways. A popular worship leader wears $3000 Gucci shoes? Hypocrite! That money could have gone to starving children in, well, somewhere.
It’s easy to think that we are the first believers to have hard questions about our faith. Everything seems so disjointed and chaotic. There are so many opinions and so-called authorities. Often we’ve had to face genuine abuses, terrible theology, and just plain bad leadership. We start asking if this is all there is to this faith thing? Go to a church service in a dark warehouse, sing a bunch of cheesy songs, and listen to a narcissist preach for an hour? Maybe it’s easier to chuck the whole thing and drink mimosas for brunch on Sunday morning.
Thus, we enter the uncharted waters of deconstruction. This is the post-modern water in which we swim. Challenge everything, especially authority. Don’t just believe something because your mother did or it’s what your youth leader told you. Search the depths. Be willing to be wrong. Risk your faith.
Once the first few layers are stripped away of the evangelical veneer, there doesn’t appear to be much left. Soon we are left with a decision to keep following this path to see where it leads, or abandon it altogether. The religious experts have led us to believe we can trust them, but now the emperor has no clothes.
And then, we discover the Jesus who said things like this:
“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned. — Matthew 7:15–20, The Message
We often think of Jesus as a gentle, peace-loving carpenter who told stories about agrarian culture and healed people. He was those things, but he also was a spiritual wrecking ball. The religious experts of his time were constantly at odds with his teaching. Instead of ignoring their baited questions, he returned the favor by constantly calling into question their motives.
At stake was the definition of what it meant to be an authentic God-follower. This was not a question of citizenship, but rather, faithfulness. The first century Jewish expectation was that the Messiah would soon return to establish the Kingdom of God. When he did, the Romans would get kicked out, the glory of God would return to the temple, and those who had remained faithful would be rewarded. But what defined faithfulness? To Jesus, it wasn’t the teaching of the Pharisees:
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” — Matthew 23:13–14, The Message
There are many examples in the Gospels where Jesus directly confronts the religious elite for their hypocrisy and lack of love. He is so direct at one point, that his disciples call him out, afraid he is causing too much offense. His response?
“Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.” — Matthew 15:14, The Message
Not your Sunday school felt board Jesus, is he?
If we claim to follow Jesus in today’s confusing and challenging world, what would he say to us? If we take him at his word, that he is “with you always,” even when our questions are many, and answers seem so far away. How would Jesus deconstruct our faith?
He might begin here:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28–30, The Message
Instead of deconstructing the veneer of faith — the bad experiences, the poor theology, the Gucci shoes — Jesus starts with us. He shows us where we have relied on false foundations. How we acted like consumers of religious goods and services. When we were afraid to trust him. How we took advantage of his sacrifice, but were unwilling to take up our own daily crosses and die to the god of self.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Sounds beautiful, but it means taking up a new way of life. Deconstruction turns into renovation. It involves healing, deliverance, freedom, and lasting peace. We learn how to follow Jesus in our real lives, not as a religious exercise or spiritual experience. Most importantly, we learn that not all questions we ask about our faith are created equal. A wise man once said, “I’m a fool for Christ. Whose fool are you?”