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Archive for the ‘deconstruction’ Category

by Jordan Hathcock

Ritual is simply a set of practices in a period of chaos so we can experience the chaos safely.  –Jason Coker

In a time of unrest and chaos, the tool that seems to work most effectively is the practice of rites and rituals. Now, this can be (and most likely is) triggering for most of us who have experienced unhealthy spiritual practices. Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is something more and more people are dealing with and I know its something that is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to the Christian tradition, the “church” has not always been a place that produces healthy rites and rituals to assist us in getting through the ambiguous times in our lives. Instead, church practices often get the process ass backwards: We develop rites and rituals to control and manipulate people to believe and act a certain way instead of creating spaces available for us to grow in these times of pandemonium. Cognitive dissonance is viewed as an issue of faith instead of a step needed to be taken within the spiritual journey.

Deconstruction has been the “new” practice within the religious sphere in the last twenty years or so due to many factors. With the new internet age and the huge amount of access to resources, its been more and more difficult for the “powers that be” to keep a more discrete way of posturing when it comes to past, present and future church practices. Postmodernism has brought a lot of problems to be answered when it comes to religious institutions. When people have these crises of faith, the church is not equipped with the space (rites and rituals) to help heal and liberate those who need it. Deconstruction is a step that should be perceived as a healthy process that helps us mature in our faith. It shouldn’t be perceived as a problem to be solved but as a ritual to be practiced. We must learn to let go of corrosive practices of rules due to fear and embrace a more playful experimental practice of understanding.

How does that look like? Well, there are many ways we can experience spiritual practices that help us through the journey of life. It doesn’t have to be practices in a “brick and mortar” church setting. It can be a nature walk, surfing (my favorite), exercising, playing music, painting a picture, or crafting some good beer (my other favorite). There are various of ways to experience divine guidance. The Christian traditions rites and rituals that have been with us for 2,000 plus years can be practiced in a new light as well. We can always find new ways to interpret and repurpose a practice within a church setting to help us better connect and move to more liberating heights. Traditions are good if used in a healthy and freeing way. We can let go of the damaging aspects of a rite and ritual and still actually practice the act itself. I understand some are unable to ever practice certain rites and rituals within Christianity due to RTS and that is OK! Along as you find some time of ritual to practice to better center you as a human being, I think the world can benefit from it. With that being said, there are still some beautiful practices with this Christian religion that I still find beneficial. An example that I have come to experience when it comes to repurposing a certain spiritual practice is Communion/Eucharist/Lords Table (whatever name floats your boat).

The tradition that I grew up in (L.D.S.) named this practice The Sacrament. It has elements of truth (like all spiritual practices do in a sense) but also some pretty damaging aspects as well. In my opinion and experience (along with many others) the concept of purity codes comes to mind. In order to partake of the sacrament, you had to be “worthy” and “believe” in the church’s teachings. The point of this ritual is to renew the covenant you made at baptism. Unfortunately, this interpretation of the purpose of the Lords Table misses some really important factors to help oneself to become part of the gospel message. Instead of bringing us together with Christ and participating in the way of love, it becomes a rule one must follow in order to remain a “member of a church”. We are not part of some corporation that keeps track of its members “loyalty”. This also brings out zealot faith and judgment on others who do not partake of Communion. This should not be the point of why we partake of the bread and wine of Christ.

Fortunately, I found a Church (Oceanside Sanctuary ) that has taken the practice of Communion to a level of healing and liberation one needs when it comes to healthy rites and rituals (yes, a bold claim I know). We think it is important to take Communion weekly, so we can come to the table of love and mercy despite our differences. Let’s face it, we all have our own views on anything from sex, politics, sports, education and of course on our theological views regarding the Christian tradition itself. But, guess what? Unity is possible within diversity. That is what Jesus came to bring. The commonwealth of God is the reality where love can guide us to true freedom even through our messy differences. If we cannot practice healthy rite & rituals in a church setting, how the hell will we ever expect to see needed results outside the sanctuary walls?…

For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always *guests*—that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is perhaps the most simple thing that we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company. -Rowan Williams

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by Jim Gordon

Do you find yourself questioning things more than you used too? I know I do.

As Christians, we have always been taught that we need to have the answers. Study to show thyself approved meant you must have an answer for every question people asked so you can prove your beliefs are right.

I remember having questions in the past, but I basically blew them off and buried them thinking I was wrong to even think such things. As time went on, the questions kept popping up and I began to realize that questioning was not wrong.

I believe God accepts us, questions and all. I am hoping that one day I will have more answers, mostly for my own sake and not necessarily to defend my beliefs.

I think the modern-day church and religion in general do not like questions, at least not hard questions. Especially questions that make us wonder about the basic beliefs they teach. They like to have all the answers, and answers that fit into their particular belief and doctrine.

In his book ‘Dying to Religion and Empire: Giving up Our Religious Rites and Legal Rights’,  Jeremy Myers makes a statement that is so true: “And as is the nature with questions, asking hard questions rarely leads to answers, but only to more questions”

I think God is much bigger than what the church makes him out to be. They try to fit everything into a box and do not like people asking questions that require out-of-the-box thinking.

It seems to me the spirit within, the spirit of truth brings up questions about what the religious system taught us and what we always just accepted. Now, rather than suppressing these questions I have allowed them to surface and truly seek the guidance of the Spirit.

Mick Mooney once posted an article on Facebook, part of which says: “But who has the faith to ask questions with the intention of seeking the answers to them? Who can let their foundation be not a doctrine or dogma that must be defended, but Christ himself who needs no defense? For it is those who have their foundation solely upon Christ, who can walk in their faith without fear of questions, but rather they walk in their faith knowing that God is lighting their path with questions, and it is these very questions that are paving the path that the Spirit of God is guiding them upon”.

If you are feeling guilty for having questions, I have found it best to stop feeling that way and keep asking the questions. That is the best way to continue growing and learning in our walk with God. Even when we do not get the answers, we should continue to be asking and seeking the truth from the Spirit who is within us. God is big enough and loving enough to accept us even with our questioning.

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by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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by Rocky Glenn

As I shared in You Are Not Alone, since my recovery from being a churchboy began, I have encountered countless others that are walking a similar path.  I’ve since learned this path has been given the term “deconstructing.”  I heard it said just a couple of days ago that deconstructing your faith has now become the fashionable or “in” thing to do.  Although I can look back over the past four to six years and say I have definitely been deconstructing my faith, in my four decades of life I have never been one to do something just because it’s considered fashionable, popular, cool, or the latest trend.  (That’s not because I refuse to follow the crowd, part of being a churchboy is being so opposite and opposed to popular culture that you aren’t accepted as part of that crowd!!)

On several occasions in the gospels, Jesus tells us that if one seeks to save or keep his life he will lose it but if he loses his life he shall save it.  Although I did not realize it at the time this journey began, losing my life is exactly what has been going on with me.  It’s been a journey of questioning what I’ve known since a child and seeking answers for why as Christians we act certain ways and do (or more specifically don’t do) certain things, at least in public where others will see!  The ironic and upside down part of all this is I thought that by living the churchboy life, I had chosen to lose my life.  After all, I played by all the rules, said all the right things, and played the part as well as any human could.  In fact, in losing my life being a churchboy, I had lost so much life if it weren’t for the fact that I was conscious and breathing, I don’t even know if you could say I was living!  Life was a constant pressure cooker of looking the right way, saying the right thing, not giving the appearance of evil, not judging that person, not saying what you think, and definitely not letting anyone know you were human!  After all, we must be perfect because our Father in heaven is perfect (Perfect Imperfection). The sad part about this is I thought that was the best life anyone could ever live.

It all changed when I learned God loved me.  Oh yeah, the churchboy knew that Jesus had died for me and I was going to heaven when I died because I had my “fire insurance” and had asked Him to forgive my sins, and He lived in my heart, but there was no way he actually loved me.  I mean, sure, He would love me if I became what He wanted me to be, but there was no way He loved me as I was.  I had more scriptures to memorize.  I had a ministry to build.  I had souls to save.  There was work for the kingdom that must be done and I was the one who must do it!  What a load of garbage!  I have lost that life, if that’s what you can really call it.

Losing that life means life now looks a lot different for me than before.  Life is now about losing those rules and lists of do’s and don’ts that religion forces upon you and tells you must stay within in order to be accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try to become acceptable because I know I’m already accepted.  Losing my life means I’ve lost the need to try and change to be loved because I’m already loved.  (For more on this, see He Still Loves Me.)

Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  By living the churchboy life and trying to do it on my own, I was trying to hang on to my life and didn’t even realize it.  So, when I realized how much He truly loved me, there was nothing I could do to ever change that, and He loved me as I am and not for who He wanted me to be, I gave up my life.

How has this saved my life?  Life is now about living in His love and sharing that love with others.  At home, at work, in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dealing with the server at the restaurant who has clearly had a rough day, every situation is an opportunity to share that love.  It doesn’t require a sermon.  No scripture verses or references have to be mentioned.  In fact, you don’t even have to mention God or Jesus at all.  It can be as simple as a smile, as kind as looking someone in the eye and asking how they are doing, as pleasant as a gentle answer.  Love looks a lot like generosity and kindness.  Love gives without seeking anything in return.  Love is for the benefit of others.  Saving your life in this manner produces peace, joy, and freedom that can only be described when you experience it yourself.

To tell you that I have truly mastered this and express love in every interaction and live constantly in that peace, joy, and freedom would be just another futile attempt of the churchboy in saving my life and making myself appear as something I am not, but I will strive daily to continue losing my life and finding it in His love.

Rocky

(This post originally written January 28, 2018.)

 

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