I know that sounds strange to many of you when you hear it coming from the perspective of a Christian Pastor. However, I think in some ways it’s true. I actually could’ve written, “My Conversion, Thanks to Deconstructionism”. I’ve been playing around with an article on this topic, but just haven’t gotten to really writing it, yet. However, I’ve gotten a little start. So, I thought I’d drop a little of it here. Let me just begin by saying that in the evangelical church in general, deconstructionism is pretty much a bad word. It smacks of relativism, the loss of truth, and a philosophy that pushes against the God of the Bible. That may be descriptively true of some versions of deconstruction and of the potential of some forms, but it certainly was not true in my case. In fact, this is why this post is written with this particular title. A couple things are important in relationship to this issue for me:
- Deconstructionism (and some other philosophy that could be considered related or prefiguring deconstructionism) really did help create a faith crisis for me back in about 1991. In fact, it helped me to walk away from the faith I learned as a child.
- Deconstructionism helped me to see the world in a whole different light. It “stripped the emperor,” if you will, on so many “faiths” that people put their trust and hope in – including my own. This combined with the push on diversity in college campuses in the early 90’s was palpable. My introduction to postmodern philosophy at this time opened my eyes to the many “framing stories” that people were living from, and caused me to seriously question the possibility of a grand narrative tying them all together. At that point, I seriously questioned any viability of “one God” or “one reality.”
- Deconstruction for me was followed by an encounter with the living Christ. This encounter was, of course, on a personal level, within my own cultural setting, and in the language I could understand. Christ also spoke very directly to me in that conversion experience about the issue of diversity and pluralism, and spoke through it in a way that I found deeply troubling and beautiful all at the same time.
- My conversion through deconstruction, my immersion in postmodern philosophy, and my reintroduction to Christ created in me a deep passion that was deeply evangelical and yet still, interestingly, postmodern.
Ok, for many of you that sounds like a serious contradiction. And here’s the trouble. Since 1993 when I both came to know Christ and inhaled much postmodern philosophy, I began to develop an understanding of faith in Jesus Christ that I felt was still evangelical, still deeply committed to One God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), still committed to issues of truth, and yet I still considered myself both postmodern and in some ways, a deconstructionist. And yet, I sensed no necessary contradiction. In fact, in my own mind, I was able to work out an understanding of my Christian faith that was still biblical, faithful, evangelical, and still in many ways postmodern. But what I heard from so many Christians was that this wasn’t possible, that postmodernity inevitably lead to relativism and the loss of truth, and that deconstructionists were truth haters undermining the faith. I just didn’t see it that way. But I felt quite alone. It's one of the reasons that I've often felt like I didn't "fit".
Times have changed. I’m 35 now (still not very old, or wise for that matter), and I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin. I have had some unbelievable breakthroughs in understanding more clearly how and why I was not so uncomfortable with postmodern philosophy or deconstruction even as a deeply committed evangelical Christian. I’m not afraid of the labels anymore… partly because many of the people who like to put labels on a) don’t understand what we’re talking about and are only derivatively dismissive out of fear or some other external driving force or b) won’t take the time to listen what I (and/ or others) really think. So, if you’re tempted after this post to label me, be slow to label until you listen a bit more.
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