Deconstruction Part 4: Revisiting Definition (Are You Scratching Your Head Yet?)
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
In this short post, I want to revisit my initial two posts on deconstruction. I don’t want to call the whole thing into question. I actually think I did some good work in the first two articles in bringing some clarity to the word “deconstruction” itself. However, after listening to a podcast with Brian Zahnd, an excellent Christian thinker especially on a topic like deconstruction, I questioned whether it’s actually the best term we could use. I’ll give the link to this podcast here:
Zahnd isn’t a huge fan of the word deconstruction, but only because he thinks better terms could be used for thinking about letting go of unhelpful or harmful beliefs in order to form a more substantive faith.
Remodeling is one word he mentioned. This made a lot of sense to me. Deconstruction and Reconstruction combined sure do sound a lot like remodeling.
Deconstruction by itself without any mention of reconstruction does honestly have the ring of destruction to it. It sounds negative.
So we might be able to save some time and simply say, “I’m going through a time of remodeling my faith?” Restructuring could be a good word as well, rather than the mouthful: “I’m deconstructing and reconstructing my faith.”
When some use the word deconstruction, which has a pretty negative ring to it, their experience is actually more positive, like when Jesus comes into the party and turns water into wine, or how about getting a new wineskin (Luke 5:36-39).
If you don’t like the word deconstruction, but are still experiencing the removal of some past beliefs—If the building of your faith is being reconstructed, which, by the way, doesn’t always mean going from right to left theologically (maybe your deconstruction might involve questioning some theologically left or progressive positions?)—then maybe consider using other words.
There are other options. Let’s not be dogmatic about the need to use the word deconstruction, but if you wanna keep using it and you like it, I think there is a constructive and helpful way to do so. Using another word can remove the need for a “Deconstruction Scale” or the fact that deconstruction is subjective and means different things to different people. While I realize I'm at risk of making moot all my points so far I must say that all this doesn’t fit that well into quick and casual conversation and I’m sure some people will be scratching their heads in the end.
On the other hand, I think it was well worth the effort to clarify the term and make it more helpful. The word deconstruction has spread throughout Christian culture and it's not coming back. Part of my purpose in those articles was to add a helpful word into the conversation rather than just complaining about a cultural reality that's not going to change any time soon. Don't get me wrong. People have been restructuring and/or letting go of aspects of their faith since the beginning of the church. But calling this phenomenon "deconstruction" specifically is new, and it's usually much more effective to engage cultural realities than to complain about them.
If you have other ideas of words that describe the process of remodeling your faith, send me a message and let me know.
In my next post, which will be much longer than this one, I’m going to get into another tricky word: Apologetics. Whether you like or hate apologetics I think this article will be thought-provoking, and hopefully helpful. Stay tuned.